Winery Focus – Claiborne & Churchill

Starting out my blog with a special winery focus – Claiborne & Churchill! Claiborne & Churchill is a family owned and operated winery, founded in 1983 by Claiborne (Clay) Thompson and Fredericka Churchill  in the heart of Edna valley. They specialize in classic varietals from Alsace way back when people from the area didn’t even know those grapes existed! The winemaking techniques are traditional European in style with very minimal manipulation of the wine. This results in an amazingly high quality and pure expression across the board. Trust me, it’s not often that you find a winery with nothing but excellent wines in the lineup.

2014 Claiborne & Churchill Central Coast Gewurztraminer

Classic Gewurztraminer with lychee, lychee pit, notes of light peanut shell, cheese rind, and leesy competents, not over the top with intensity or perfume. Good, smooth mouthfeel with exotic spices, medium plus acid ( yes, I did say “MEDIUM PLUS;” very rarely do I find good acidity structure in a Gewurztraminer, so it was a welcome surprise) and a weighty, oily finish with touch of bitterness.


2013 Claiborne & Churchill Central Coast Riesling

Lively combination of white peach, rocky minerals, and jasmine blossom. On the palate, it is just off dry and similar to German Riesling Halbtrocken in style. Racy acid, crisp and clean, this wine is precise and to the point. Trace of crushed seashell on the finish brought me right to the beach, with a Miyagi oyster in one hand and a glass of this in the other. This simply wonderful wine makes me forget it’s close to 95 degree out in the Bay Area today!


2013 Claiborne & Churchill Central Coast Pinot gris

Someone please bring me a cheese plate before I continue! Lush blooming primrose with cheesy leesy aromas and roasted hazelnut. Obvious use of lees stirring, complex finish, and quick refreshing!


2013 Claiborne & Churchill Central Coast Dry Muscat

Wow, the explosion of exotic fruit with rose petal perfume, BIG mouthfeel, and long finish accompanied by more spices at the end of the palate. This is the Broadway diva of the lineup: flashy, showy, and upfront. However, you can taste the feel and solid quality, which can only be achieved from many years of experience, learning, and tweaking.


2014 Claiborne & Churchill “Cuvee Elizabeth” Edna Valley Pinot Noir Rose

Elizabeth is the name of Clay and Fredericka’s daughter. She wears a lovely bright smile all the time and is extremely polite and a bit shy, the perfect description for this bottle of rose. Using the  saignée method, the wine has a deeper hue of pink and more expressive nose., It is also weightier on the palate compared to other Pinot Noir Rose on the market. The dense red cherry fruit lingered after each sip, seducing me to go back for more. Oh, and in case you are wondering, the label was from a piece of artwork Elizabeth created as a kid. She’s too shy to share that out loud, so this will have to be a secret between us.


2013 Claiborne & Churchill Edna Valley Pinot Noir

Pretty, elegant, and lively, with just the right touch of soft baking spices.  I simply love this Pinot; it is darn close to perfection! I look for balance in wine, especially when it comes to Pinot Noir, a delicate grape that should never be abused by heavy-handed winemaking. This wine hits the spot for sure; in fact, there are many similarities between this beauty and some of the best Burgundy I’ve tasted (dare I say, DRC?), showcasing restrained  yet assertive fruit, hints of oak  well-integrated throughout, and smooth and silky finish. I will have another please!


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