Clif Family Velo Vino Tasting Room 709 Main St., (707) 968-0625. Tasting daily 10am-6pm; pairings by appt.
This small tasting room presents casual wine tasting combined with a knowledgeable, friendly, and welcoming tasting-room staff, plus the opportunity to enjoy a tasting paired thoughtfully with tasty nibbles. The tasting room is part of the Clif Bar empire, whose headquarters is in Emeryville but whose owners are now locals and owner of the Clif Family Winery here (the winery is not open for visits but does sometimes hold special events, and it is where many of the bruschetta ingredients are grown).
I was greeted with my name on a star in front of a tasting set-up at a dining table.
My hunny and I had the Bruschetteria Trio pairing ($30/person), which includes samplings of the best from the Bruschetteria food truck that operates outside on the street.
First up was a blush-colored NV Sonoma Coast Sparkling Brut—described so nicely by Samantha as having “a kiss of sweetness on the finish”--paired with some coconut-cashew snack mix. Next was a 2014 Oak Knoll Chardonnay with a creamy finish, paired with a Porchetta Bruschetta (pork). Then came a 2011 Gary’s Improv Napa Valley Zin paired with Funghi Bruschetta (mushrooms). And finally a 2011 Kit’s Killer Howell Mountain Cab with rice arrancini balls. (That’s actually four pairings, but who’s counting?)
This was adequate as a small lunch, but if you are still hungry you can order additional food from the truck. I recommend the spectacular caramelized Brussels sprouts and the over-the-top delicious cured salmon-avocado-pickled lemon bruschetta described by Executive Chef John Mc Connell as “California on toast.” Indeed.
You can also add on a sweet ending, which we did with a TCHO chocolate budino topped with Cabernet Sauvignon salt and paired with a big and bold but not sweet Petit Sirah Port.
All this is available and non-alcoholic drinks, too! Wines are available for purchase only online or at the tasting room. Should you want to combine your tasting with a bike trip, check with the Calistoga Bike Shop about tasting-biking packages. A Valentine’s Day hint—if you can’t make it in for a tasting on February 14, give your sweetie a gift certificate and visit later at your convenience.
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images ©2016 Carole Terwilliger Meyers