Gary and Kit could have rested on their laurels. Twenty-three years after founding multimillion-dollar energy bar company Clif Bar, Gary gave up the CEO role and the husband-and-wife co-owners became "co-Chief Visionary Officers." Visionary Officer is a great job for the second phase of life, given that it allows much more time for the bike treks through Northern Italy that the duo are known to love.
However, they weren't content to ride off into the sunset. While Clif continues to thrive under CEO Kevin Cleary, with 20 percent of ownership in the company shared by employees through an ESOP, and the five aspirations model to guide them, Kit and Gary were ready for a new challenge: food and wine.
While the Clif Family Winery and Farm was founded in 2004, it has flourished in recent years, in line with Gary and Kit's departure from the day-to-day at Clif Bar. The three-acre farm grows a variety of heirloom veggies including tomatoes, corn and peppers that are used to stock their popular Bruschetteria food truck, which is often found stationed outside their tasting room, Velo Vino. The farm's operations are overseen by Brad Crawford, Kit's brother, who happily experiments with different varietals and growing styles to see what will prove fruitful (pun intended -- they have a pack of fruit trees, too).
In addition to three acres of vegetables, the farm grows 10 acres of grapes: eight of cabernet sauvignon (known to grow well in the region) and two of Zinfandel, Gary's favorite. These and other grapes go into the bottles served at Velo Vino. Wine tasting rooms in Napa county can be somewhat stuffy, with every patron sniffing different and stranger notes in each passing varietal. Velo Vino aims for the opposite: a friendly tasting room where cyclists are at home even if they've just come off a 30-mile ride and have enough street dust to prove it. While the wine itself has mixed reviews, the atmosphere of the tasting room can't be beat.
The whole Clif Family Winery and Farm employs approximately 35 people on a variety of farm-, food- and wine- related projects. The whole thing is operated with the same triple-bottom-line principals that helped make Clif Bar a leader in social and environmental business practices. This company isn't trying to be some kind of Silicon Valley industry disrupter, and it doesn't need to be. While some might pooh-pooh this hobby business, it sure as heck beats golf and the early bird special!
Images credit Jen Boynton
Jen Boynton is the former Editor-in-Chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and has helped organizations including SAP, PwC and Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. She is based in San Diego, California.
When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.