First Impressions: 2011 Clif Rte. Blanc

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By Stephanie Nitsch

Sports hydration has ridden the wave of dietary fads for decades, but nothing can beat the centuries-old longevity of reliable wine.

With roots in the cycling industry, Clif Bar recently debuted a few new items to commemorate its 20th anniversary, including a new vintage of celebratory wine from the Clif Family Winery in Napa Valley.

The 2011 Clif Rte. Blanc is a versatile accessory designed to take your riding to new heights (or new lows). There’s a good chance it’ll make your bike geometry feel slacker and more playful, but one inherent design flaw is staggeringly noticeable: consume three glasses (give or take) and you’ll be dealing with an unbalanced center of gravity that delivers noticeably sloppy handling on climbs and descents.

Just don’t expect any performance-boosting changes or upgrades in the near future. True to classic style, this 2011 vintage relies on a basic recipe and a few stainless steel barrels for a smooth quaffing wine. Clif’s winemakers harvested grapes from sustainable and organic vineyards in Pope Valley and Yountville, Calif., both of which saw unseasonably good growing conditions in 2011 (wet conditions and cooler-than-normal temperatures), which resulted in 350 cases of a thoughtfully balanced Rte. Blanc.

Clif describes the 2011 variety as having notes of grapefruit, apricot, green apple, peach and pineapple – flavors that, for this particular wino, tend to blend into a singular, yet tasty, super fruit after a few glasses. Its soft, dry finish squelches any overly sweet characteristics that may normally sway you from stepping into the realm of whites over your go-to reds. It might not necessarily replace a post-ride quiver of lagers and pale ales in the fridge, but its crisp, citrusy flavors are light enough to work its way into the lineup of refreshing libations when there’s, say, a barbecue involved.

Not digging the idea of toting around a giant, glass vessel on your next ride? Understood. Clif's clever 'Climber' Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines come in a pouch that fits right into your hydration pack, paper bag or briefcase..

The tool-less screw top is easily adjustable for top-of-the-summit swigs, but the fragile glass construction is better suited for basecamp antics or DIY home drinking rather than functioning as an actual on-trail bike accessory. (Which perhaps makes Clif’s Climber Pouch wines more portable for a mid-ride celebration. Stuff it. Fold it. Swap out your pack’s existing bladder for it: when inserted in your pack, the Climber Pouch’s all-terrain construction contours to the shape of your riding position for an ultra-customized fit. And considering the art of sipping wine, its 1.5 liters of fortified juice should, in theory, last longer than 1.5 liters of bland water, thus shaving weight from your overall pack load).

At $20 a bottle, the 2011 Rte. Blanc sits on the higher end of dirtbag libations, but its all-mountain drinkability welcomes winos of all abilities. Pairs agreeably with a stale Clif bar and a few strawberry Shot Blocks that may or may not have been tucked in your pack for “emergency supply.” For more info, visit cliffamilywinery.com

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