Back in early November I received a box of media samples that immediately had me excited. Three beautiful California wines with fresh and clean labels and well-prepared trade sheets from an unfamiliar winery, Claiborne and Churchill, were sent for review from Parker Sanpei and Associates. As I anticipated opening these three wines I wanted to pair them with individual meals to enjoy each at their fullest; resulting in three delicious week night meal and wine pairings.
Claiborne and Churchill is owned and operated by Clay Thompson and Federicka Churchill. Clay began his career in academia but found a passion for the grape while giving a talk at UCLA. He and Federicka soon moved to San Luis Obispo and began working at Edna Valley Vineyards. A few years into their new wine occupation Clay and Federicka traveled to Alsace, France and were inspired. They returned to the US with a passion for German and Alsatian style wines; thus resulting in their first vintage in 1983: Gewürztraminer. Clay shared, “We were always told ‘Don’t make wine for yourselves – make wine for the market. But we just decided not to do that.” Moreover, at a time with German and Alsatian varietals were obscure in the US, Clay and Federicka decided to craft wine they liked to drink; 30 years later it has proven again and again to be the right decision.
Claiborne & Churchill Pinot Gris Central Coast 2013: This elegant wine poured a soft gold (almost clear) into the glass and met the nose with pleasing notes of stone fruit and fresh herbs. On the palate this Pinot Gris offered succulent flavors of crisp white and yellow peaches, fresh cut herbs and a touch of spice in a light and clean mouth-feel with round acidity and light yet lingering finish. It was a very pleasant and highly enjoyable Pinot Gris. The grapes came from Laetitia Vineyard in Arroyo Grande AVA. Claiborne & Churchill typically barrel ferments a portion of the wine in well-seasoned neutral French oak “in order to promote depth and mouth feel.” It contained 13.5% alcohol. SRP $20. I recommend this wine. Click here to order.
I chose to pair this delightful Pinot Gris with Pan-Seared Veal Chops with Rosemary and roasted root vegetables. It was a delicious fall meal. The crisp, clean body and round acidity of the Pinot Gris was a lovely accompaniment to this meal.
Claiborne & Churchill Pinot Noir Edna Valley 2012: This vibrant wine poured a lively and light ruby into the glass and opened with an alluring bouquet of soft red berries and soft spices. On the palate this Pinot Noir offered lively flavors of fresh picked cherries, strawberries and raspberries wrapped around soft baking spice and a lingering hint of toasted cedar. This wine was elegant and light yet flavorful, with concentrated fruit that did not over power the palate but instead was nurturing with round acidity and perfect balance. C&C says this wine is a “classic example of an iron fist in a velvet glove” and I completely agree! The fruit for this Pinot Noir comes from several different vineyard throughout the Edna Valley making it a true reflection of the terroir and cool-climate viticulture of the area. It contained 13.8% alcohol. SRP $28. I recommend this wine. Click here to order.
I chose to pair this vibrant Pinot Noir with roasted pork loin topped with Quince preserves served with Mashed Rutabaga and Squash with Roasted Garlic and homemade salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Another delicious food and wine pairing. Pinot Noir goes well with pork and this was no exception. The pepper covered pork topped with quince preserves and balsamic vinaigrette met beautifully with the round fruit and spice of the Pinot Noir. Furthermore, the creaminess of the mashed veggies and the savory nuttiness of the roasted garlic blended elegantly with the Claiborne and Churchill Pinot Noir.
Claiborne and Churchill Dry Riesling Central Coast 2013: This wine poured a soft yellow gold into the glass. It opened with exuberant aromas of stone fruit and citrus with a touch of honey and cedar. This Dry Riesling elegantly offered quintessential Riesling flavors of peaches, apricots, lemon curd, with crisp minerality and a touch of honeysuckle. It delivered a full mouth feel with round acidity in a well-balanced, palate pleasing lingering finish, leaving the palate begging for another sip. I am a huge fan of Riesling and this was a very good Riesling made in the Alsatian tradition. This Dry Riesling was crafted with traditional practices: hand harvested and gently whole-cluster pressed, 90% was tank-fermented cold while the other 10% was barrel fermented in seasoned neutral French oak barrels. This wine contained 13.2% alcohol. SRP $22. I recommend this wine. Click here to order.
Riesling is one of the most versatile wine to pair with food so preparing a dish to enjoy with a high quality Riesling is quite easy. On this night I chose to roast salmon and top it with homemade delicious Toasted Pepitas Pesto and served left over Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash. As expected the Riesling paired elegantly with the variety of flavors in the salmon, pesto and risotto as well as provided a delicious balance through its round acidity. A third delightful food and wine pairing with Claiborne and Churchill wines!
In 1995 Clay and Federicka completed construction on their new winery building. The building is a straw and bale design that is a noteworthy environmental structure and the first of its kind in California. The walls are 16 inches think and are crafted of bales of rice straw, creating insulation reliable enough that the cellar maintains a constant temperature without the need for air conditioners or heaters. “We were told three things would happen if we went with straw-bale construction,” said Clay. “First, we would spend less on materials. Second, we would have lower energy costs because straw bale provides such great insulation. And third, PR would come our way because we’d be the first. And all three proved true.”
Claiborne and Churchill states, “Our aim is to create pleasurable dinner wines in which there is a harmonious balance of fruit and oak, structure and texture.” In my humble opinion they are achieving this goal with high quality German and Alsatian style wines made with traditional techniques to insure the highest quality. Furthermore, their wines are an outstanding value with each price point below $30. I encourage you to visit the Claiborne and Churchill web site to learn more about the winery, view their entire portfolio of wines and order these three wines for your weeknight, weekend, and holiday party enjoyment!
My Song Selection: The song I have chosen to pair with these three Claiborne and Churchill wines is Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac. Clay and Federicka were rebels, they went against the advice of others to follow their intuition and take a leap of faith resulting in a legacy of producing high quality wines. Not only do we as consumers benefit from their faith by enjoying their wines but also by the example of living your dreams!
Get your own bottles of Claiborne and Churchill wines and let me know what song you would pair with them. Cheers!