Clif Climber hits a home run… again

I’ve been saving my 2009 Clif Climber Sauvignon Blanc for a special occasion. With two kids and a full-time job, special occasions are hard to come by. So when my husband brought home some fresh Ahi tuna that a custpomer gave him, I decided that was special enough. (Hey, fresh sushi-grade tuna IS a  big deal!) He took care of the cooking and I took care of chilling the wine.

Clif Climber Sauvignon Blanc with seared Ahi

Clif (yes, as in the health bars) has become one of my favorite wineries for its green practices (read about that here, in last year’s review) and reasonable price tag. The sauvignon blanc retails for about $14 and is worth every penny.

The wine is nearly clear, which is a good hint at the taste. It’s fresh and light and a little tart in a palate-cleansing way (as opposed to the lemon-sucking way). There’s a nice presence of pear, but what makes this wine great is that no single flavor jumps forward; it’s just mellow and tasty. Not overly intrusive with any fruit. And that’s why it was perfect with tonight’s “special occasion” meal.

Tonight my husband marinated the Ahi in soy sauce, wasabi, green onion, cilantro, lime juice and sesame oil, then lightly crusted in sesame seeds. He seared it perfectly and paired it with stir-fried veggies (sauteed with a little Hoisin sauce) and teriyaki Rice-a-Roni (hey, we had to make something our kids would eat!). The tuna was so light and fresh, the veggies were so light and fresh, so it made sense that the wine be light and fresh too. The meal would have been destroyed with a heavy, dominant wine; it needed something to brighten up the sesame but not be so tart and fruity that it overpowered the tuna.

Clif Climber Sauvignon Blanc is one of those wines that will be your best friend at dinner time because it will complement just about anything. However, it’s also drinkable on its own (as I’m finding out at this very second!) because it won’t make you pucker after two sips. I’m admittedly not a huge fan of white wines, so I have a bias against sauvignon blancs. This one makes me look forward to my next bottle (and next Ahi filet!), and that’s big in my book.

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2009 Climber Red

I saved my 2009 Clif Climber Red and Climber Sauvignon Blanc for Thanksgiving to go with my quasi-sustainable meal. I won’t repeat all my reasons for why the Climbers were a great fit for the meal, all the reasons like how the winery sources its grapes from local, organic growers, and how the winery is activly reducing its carbon footprint. You can read all about that on the Clif website, but now let’s get to the to fun part — tasting the wine!

I know that white wines go best with turkey, but I’m such a sucker for reds. So I gave hearty thanks for the folks at Clif Winery, and I twisted open the Climber Red. The aroma is fruity and slightly peppery. The blend is primarily zinfandel, then cabernet, rounded out with syrah, merlot and petite sirah. The flavor is a nice, round berry — not jammy or sweet, but perfectly tart, fresh and mild — with a smoky finish. The smoke isn’t quite as prominent as in the 2008 blend; rather than making a strong statement, it is now a barely-there nuance in a very complex wine.

Clif hasn’t let me down yet, so I will surely continue to seek their every release with excitement. At $14.99, it’s a wine I’ll proudly serve to guests — guests who know their wine and guests who just want something that tastes good. It’s a sure-bet wine, and this busy mom can’t afford to waste time on anything less.

Almost-organic Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving I’m staying home and cooking dinner just for my husband and kids. No relatives, no friends… more leftovers!

I’m trying to keep it organic and/or local, but bearing in mind that I have limited time and limited budget. As much as I would have loved to sign up for a fresh, free-range turkey from the local co-op, a $50 bird just isn’t in my financial forecast.

Raley’s has natural, fresh, no-additives turkeys for $.89/pound, so I picked a 14-pounder for under $15. Tomorrow I will go to the co-op to stock up on all the veggies and other ingredients for the rest of the meal: potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, mushrooms, onions, celery, eggs, butter and bread, as well as dry and canned goods.

As much as I love the idea of being totally organic, free-range, sustainable, etc., it’s not realistic for a busy working mom on a budget in a small town, or not for this busy, working mom at least. But I think everyone can do their part, so this Thanksgiving meal is my way of doing my part.

Oh, and the wine! I’ll be pouring Clif 2009 The Climber Red and The Climber Sauvignon Blanc. Clif has earned my respect for doing its part too. Producing entirely organic wines isn’t realistic for the family-run winery yet, but the farm (they raise chickens, olives, fruits and veggies too!) became CCOF certifed organic in 2009. The grapes are sourced locally and from sustainable vineyards — 30 percent of the grapes are from CCOF certified farms — and the farm and winery have a carbon-offset program to put their money where their mouth is. They don’t just admire organic and sustainable farming, but they actively strive to achieve it.

It’s appropriate, then, for me to pour Clif wines as part of my semi-organic/sustainable dinner. I know my efforts are meager, but it’s a manageable start for me. And we all have to start somewhere.

(I’ve tasted and reviewed the Clif 2008 Climber White in March and the Climber Red in April. I already know I like the wine, I can’t wait to try the 2009!)

Clif Climber Red … we meet at last!

Have you ever had one of those awkward near-meetings that never seems to actually happen? A friend tells you about the most wonderful man you just have to meet — you have so much in common! — and you chat or e-mail about getting together for coffee. The big day comes and you look forward to meeting the mystery man who is apparently your perfect match. You even shave your legs.

Then he calls, desperately apologizing that he has to fly off to Chicago for a meeting, and please don’t hate him, but he has to reschedule. You’re disappointed but understanding that these things happen. The date is reset for next week, and that morning you wake up with a fever, hacking cough and bloodshot eyes. Noooo!!! You can’t possibly dazzle him with your wit and beauty from your deathbed! Reschedule again. He’s understanding too, but now it’s starting to get awkward.

You plan to meet this weekend. You both know you can’t cancel, and you’re hyper-sensitive to anything that could get in your way. Is that a tickle in your throat? Don’t order anything for lunch that might upset your stomach later! If your mom calls begging you to dog-sit again, you will absolutely go through the roof! Miraculously though, no obstacles leap into your path, and the big date approaches.

The moment of truth is here. He will walk through the door, and you’ll find out if all this build-up was worth it. Was your friend right? Are you perfect together, or will you end up wishing you’d spent the evening with your mom’s dog after all?

That’s been my relationship with Clif lately. The winery owners sent me copious information on their wines and farm, and I have decided that this is, indeed, the perfect match for me. They sent me two bottles of wine — the Climber white and red — and the white was a wonderful introduction to the family, like meeting the younger brother of your long-awaited date. But I still haven’t met my match. After several broken dates, it seems that every force of nature (and believe me, sick kids ARE a force to be feared!) is working against us.

But tonight’s our night, dear Clif. The laundry is folded and put away. The dishes are washed. The kids are in bed and the husband isn’t watching. Shhhh, it’s just you and me tonight. The awkward moment has arrived when we find out if our expectations were too great. Will this bold red rock my world, or will it fall flat? The time has come to find out.

Mr. Good Lookin’ makes a nice first impression. That red label, simple yet distinctive logo, you dressed up for me didn’t you? Let’s pop that cork and see what you’re all about.

Clif smells like a mix of coffee and cigars. Hmmm, a professor, perhaps? Berries make a strong appearance in the supporting role and keep it fresh and lively. I do believe this is wine is more complex than meets the eye… or nose.

The first taste is true to the smell — coffee, cigars and dark berries. But what’s that? Licorice? And did you bring me chocolate too? This first-meeting is off to a great start! We watch a little TV together, get to know each other, and it turns out Clif is just my cup of tea, so to speak. It was worth the wait.

Clif may be a little out of my league — professors usually are — but that doesn’t have stop us. At $17 a bottle, it’s more than my budget for an everyday wine, but this was a special occasion. This was no $10 date. I brought out the nice wine glasses, I dimmed the lights. I even shaved my legs.

Got the ick

I have a cold, and no amount of Airborne, green tea or extra vitamins seems to be helping. I blame it on my kids who pick up germs at daycare like a cat picks up fleas. (lovely picture, isn’t it?) So my wine-tasting is on hold for a few days. I’d hate to taste a wonderful cab with  my nose so plugged up I can’t tell if I’m drinking wine, juice or diesel fuel.

I have two bottles from Clif Family Winery that I’m dying to try, which is great incentive to take care of myself and kick this cold quickly! Now where’s that Airborne?