Friday, August 8, 2008

Scott's Pick Of The Week: The Climber

Clif_bar_winery_logo_4If you regularly follow my blog, you know that two of my passions are running and wine--and depending on the time of year and my training schedule, one is ever-so-slightly more important than the other.

Right now, I'm in the middle of training for the Chicago Marathon this October (check out my Team World Vision page), so I've had to temporarily cut back on my enological field study in lieu of more electrolyte-rich beverages, but I still like to relax with a glass or two of wine on the weekend.

That said, I never imagined -- from a product standpoint, that is -- the two passions would ever intersect.  So you can imagine my surprise when I found out the same folks who make my favorite energy bars and gels (Clif Bar), also produce terrific wines at Clif Bar Family Winery.  Who knew?

Now I have to be honest and say I was a tad skeptical at first -- thinking it all sounded a little too good and a bit gimmicky.  I was wrong.  (I prefer to eat my crow warm.)

It all started a few weeks back when I got three bottles of their wine (Climber Red, Climber White, and Kit's Killer Cab), which sat unopened on the kitchen counter waiting for the weekend.  Before I could break 'em open, my wife and I were invited to a party.  Instead of grabbing the Clif wines, I reached for a couple of reds from Washington and a New Zealand white.

Here's where it gets weird.  When the hostess showed me to the wine bar, there sat a bottle of Climber Red (along with several empty Climber Red and White bottles).  At that point, I felt like the ghost of Allen Funt and his Candid Camera film crew were going to appear at any moment.

My wife, Deanna, is a true red wine lover, so I immediately poured her a glass of the red without telling her anything about it.  I didn't want to stare and raise a flag, but I was dying to see her reaction after the first sip -- I did my best to nonchalantly look across the room, but I caught her every move out of the corner of my eye.  Guess what?  The first thing she did was turn to me and say, "Honey, what wine is this?  I love it."  There was nothing I could do, I had to jump in.  She was right, the red was tasty.  In fact, as we began to mingle, I quickly realized that everyone at the party was talking about the Clif wines.

So here's a little more info:
- The Climber Red: Zinfandel dominates this blend, but there's also a good punch of Syrah.  May turn out to be my new favorite barbecue wine -- especially with pulled pork (a mix of inside and outside meat, thank you) and sweet and spicy baby back ribs.  Retails for around $17.
- The Climber White: I can sip this all day long -- especially on a hot afternoon.  It's perfect for hanging out by the grill; pairs really well with grilled oysters and shrimp.  I also love it with spicy Tex-Mex (grilled chicken topped with a little diced avocado, jicama, jalapeno mixed with grilled corn with a squirt of fresh lime juice..oh my!).  This blend is around 80% Sauvignon Blanc, so it has this refreshing acidity with an underlying richness from a touch of Pinot Blanc and Muscat.  Retails for around $14.
- Kit's Killer Cab: This guy is just right for a grilled rib-eye with a little compound butter and garlic mashed potatoes -- it's that kind of wine.  Good balance. Dark berry aromas with a touch of smokiness.  Great finish.  It'll be even better when the weather cools down.  Worth the splurge at around $35.