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Rifugio Pairing

Rifugio Pairing Menu

To me, Clif is a brand that speaks to anyone that wants to live a healthy lifestyle.  When you visit Clif Family Winery at Velo Vino this really comes to life.  As soon as I arrived I felt at home in the tasting room’s laid back, friendly, and unpretentious atmosphere.

The tasting room design is inspired by a “Rifugio”, a little chalet in the Italian Alps that is a refuge for weary travelers. Clif Bar founders Kit Crawford and Gary Erickson, started making wine about ten years ago.  When they designed the tasting room they wanted to create something reminiscent of what they found on their many cycling trips in Europe. The name, Velo Vino is also inspired by France and Italy, as the words translate to bike in French and wine in Italian.  Turning up in your cycling gear and spiky cycle shoes is absolutely welcomed here. You can even catch Tour de France races on the many TV screens.  What you’ll find is a cozy place to hang out, friendly smiling faces, great coffee, Clif snacks and some excellent wines.

Today’s visit was all about experiencing “The Rifugio”,  Clif’s signature pairing experience.  When I arrived at the tasting room Caroline, one of the friendly tasting room team, had my pairing ready to go. The Rifugio Pairing is a plate of local artisan cheeses, nuts, olive oil, marmalade, mustards, dukkah and chocolates paired with five wines.  It was plenty for one, or enough to share.

Caroline chatted away about these products and shared recipes with me while I tried all the wines with each of the pairing suggestions. The mustards, olive oil and dukkah can be used in recipes for salad dressings, spiced dishes and turn every day meals into something special.

With plenty of bread on hand I tried the 2012 Rte. Blanc Sauvignon Blanc paired with the lemon marmalade, added the St. Andre Triple Cream Cheese and it turned out to be one of my favorite pairings.  Other favorite pairings I discovered were the 2011 Gewürztraminer with bread dipped in olive oil and toasted coconut and cashew dukkah.  I have to say, the 2010 Grenache is phenomenal and topped my list of their wines.  This was paired with smoked paprika almonds, Dijon with tarragon and prima donna cheese.  Clif also makes an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, which again paired well with bites of bread with coarse Dijon mustard and Sapore del Piave.

The pairing is a great way to try everything Clif sells before purchasing.  Of course everything is available for purchase at the tasting room. For the cyclists, there is also a ton of great gear to buy.  I have to say I’ll be back for more olive oil and marmalade.  I would definitely bring friends here for a casual experience, that is made fun by the their friendly staff and is one of the most non-intimidating places in the valley. After experiencing their food and wine pairing I left feeling rejuvenated and inspired to incorporate many of their products into my lifestyle too.

Expert tips:

  • Clif Family Winery at Velo Vino is a great place to bring friends that don’t know a lot about wine.  It is casual, super friendly, non-intimidating and a great place to start.
  • Want to plan a ride?  The Velo Vino team is ready to act as your concierge and can show you maps of the best cycling routes in Napa.
  • On a sunny day buy a little picnic food, perhaps from Dean and Deluca down the street and enjoy a bottle of Clif wine outside on their spacious patio.
  • If you are traveling with a group make sure you book a day in advance.

WineryCritic Ratings

8/10 Overall visitor experience

8/10 Location

7/10 Architecture and design, landscaping

8/10 Other experiences: Cycling experience, organic farm tour, tastings

9/10 Knowledge of tasting room staff

10/10 Friendliness of staff

9/10 Signage & ease of access

8/10 Quality of the wines poured

Appointment required:  No appointments required for the tasting room.  Reserve 24 hours in advance for the Rifugio Pairing, Farm tours and groups over 12 people.


709 Main Street, Saint Helena, CA 94574

Tasting room hours: 

10:00am to 6:00pm daily

Tasting fees & experiences:

  • The Passo Gavia: $15 per person for 4 wines ($10 is refunded with the purchase of 2 or more bottles of wine)
  • Le Maillot Jaune (The Yellow Jersey): $25 per person – Four wines paired with Gary & Kit’s Napa Valley specialty foods .
  • Rifugio Food & Wine Pairing: $40 per person – Five wines paired with Gary & Kit’s Napa Valley specialty food products and a selection of three cheeses.
  • VIP Tasting with Farm & Vineyard Tour: $80 per person – Includes guided tours of the vineyard and organic farm, followed by the Le Maillot Jaune tasting paired with our Gary & Kit’s Napa Valley specialty foods.
 At 10am daily.  Allow 3 hours.

Good for:  Small groups, cycling enthusiasts, adventurers and outdoors fans, health nuts and foodies

Wines produced:  Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Viognier, Zinfandel, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux Blend.

What’s nearby:  Long Meadow Ranch & Farmstead Restaurant, Gotts Roadside, Merryvale Vineyards, Flora Springs Winery, Hall Winery.

District/Appellation: St. Helena, Napa Valley

Contact for appointments: Book through CellarPass, or call 707.968.0625

Date of visit: October 23, 2013


Mindy Joyce