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So why is the 2012 Ladera Cabernet—made from almost entirely from Howell Mountain fruit, from an incredible vintage—sitting pretty at $34.99? I honestly can't tell you. Maybe it's because no one knows how good the Ladera holdings in Howell Mountain are. Or maybe it's the pride that winemaker Jade Barrett takes in making a serious wine for a reasonable price. Or maybe it's because Ladera is an overlooked gem in a sea of Napa alternatives. For whatever the reason, I'm not going to complain. We tasted the 2012 vintage at our staff training yesterday and I was just floored by the quality of this wine. Dark, fleshy fruit cloaked in fine tannins, bits of earth, and in total balance, with enough gusto to go the long haul in your cellar. It's a whole lotta wine for $34.99, and it's made primarily from Howell Mountain grapes, harvested during a great vintage. 

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Entries in Claiborne & Churchill (1)

Monday
Jun032013

Behind the Wine: Claiborne & Churchill

Claiborne & Churchill is a small, family owned and operated winery in the heart of the Edna Valley that specializes in Alsatian-style Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris, as well as handcrafted Pinot Noir from several nearby vineyards. Small lots of other wines, including a Dry Muscat, Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sparkling Brut Rose, and dessert-style wines are also produced.

By: Sarah Covey | K&L Staff Member

Claiborne & Churchill

Founded in 1983 by Claiborne (Clay) Thompson and Fredericka Churchill, former teachers at the University of Michigan (Clay specialized in Old Norse Languages and Literatures and Fredericka taught German), the winery focuses on Alsatian varietals in the first straw bale winery in California. Grapes are purchased from premium growers around the cool Edna Valley, with 2/3 of the production being dry Riesling and dry Gewürztraminer.

At Claiborne & Churchill, traditional European winemaking techniques prevail, including extensive use of barrel-fermentation and barrel-aging (even with Riesling and Gewürztraminer), minimal manipulation of juice and wine, "natural" or spontaneous fermentation using indigenous yeast, and limited use of SO2, all in the belief that the winemaker's task is to bring out the flavor and character that is latent in the grape.

San Luis Obispo native Colby Parker- Garcia came on board in 2004 as Claiborne & Churchill’s winemaker, learning from Clay all of the techniques required for the success of the unique varietals which are the winery’s signature.

2011 Claiborne & Churchill Central Coast Dry Muscat ($24.99)

A lovely expression of Dry Muscat! All the pretty varietal characteristics- orange blossom, citrus, spice, cardamom, apricot- with perfectly balanced medium plus acidity and a clean, bright finish. No flab or syrupy fattiness here. Just 13.5% alcohol- perfect for warm spring & summer evenings on the terrace, with perhaps a little grilled shrimp or chicken satay! Delicious! 

2010 Claiborne & Churchill Edna Valley Pinot Noir ($24.99)

The Pinot Noir referred to as "The Classic", a perfect expression of Pinot Noir varietal correctness. Red cherry, red currant, strawberry, spice with medium plus acidity & medium tannin. So easy to drink, you may just want to get this wine in large quantity for spring and summer entertaining. Grilled salmon or pork tenderloin, anyone? FABULOUS!

2010 Claiborne & Churchill "Runestone Barrel Select" Edna Valley Pinot Noir ($39.99)

If the Claiborne & Churchill Edna Valley Pinot Noir is "The Classic", then Runestone is definitely the sexy older sister! A barrel selection from the 2010 vintage blended by winemaker Coby Parker-Garcia, this wine gorgeous. Red cherry, sandalwood, red roses, spice, with medium plus acidity & medium plus tannin. Drink now with decanting and food (hello Salmon or Pork!) or tuck away to be delighted even more in 5 years! As mysterious & complex as the ancient Norse runes afterwhich it was named! 

New releases of additional Claiborne & Churchill wines will be coming soon to our shelves. Stay tuned...

We hope you enjoy these wines are much as we do!

Cheers,

Sarah

 Claiborne & Churchill's winery is a "new structure, a noteworthy example of environmental architecture, is a "straw bale building," the first of its kind in California. With sixteen-inch thick walls made of bales of rice straw, the winery is so well insulated that it maintains a constant cellar temperature, without the need for mechanical cooling or heating." (from the winery)

Want to learn more about Claiborne & Churchill? Click here.