On a recent side trip to Napa before heading to a wedding last month we visited a few wonderful vineyards and dined at a couple of great restaurants but our favorite discovery wasn't a winery or an eatery it was a cool tasting room in downtown St. Helena named Velo Vino. You might be familiar with Clif Bar, the energy bars created by a former baker and mountain guide that rode a wave to success during the natural food movement in the early 1990s, but maybe you didn't know that same visionary is now also making wine. The company's creator, Gary Ericskon and his wife, Kit Crawford, owners and co-chief visionary officer's of Clif Bar & Company, started Clif Family Winery and Farm in 2004 on 130 acres in Napa Valley and opened Velo Vino in 2011. Velo Vino is the tasting room for Clif Family Wines but it's also an espresso bar, specialty food store and an excellent hangout for cycling enthusiasts. Former professional cyclist, Levi Leipheimer is a frequent visitor who lives in nearby Santa Rosa. Everyone is welcomed here like a local and the vibe is spontaneous and personal, a refreshing change from so many other structured and scripted wine tasting experiences. Parked just off the Velo Vino patio, is the Clif Family Bruschetteria Food Truck which serves Northern Italian-inspired menu items using the bounty from the Clif Family Farm and ingredients from local purveyors.
Midway through our wine tasting we were asked if we'd like to try a "Tire Patch" which the barista explained was a double-shot of espresso served alongside a tasting of Clif Family 2014 Gewuztraminer, a dry Mendocino wine. It sounded like a strange pairing but it was really quite good and gave us the picker-upper we needed to continue our Napa Valley adventure.