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Wineries Have Libraries?

Yes! The term Wine Library refers to a winery’s supply of bottles from earlier vintages that are properly cellared and are no longer available for purchase. At Claiborne and Churchill, we like to reserve a few cases of our various whites and reds from older vintages, saving them for special events. Bringing out library wines allows our customers to experience the difference between a young and a mature wine. Sampling library wines also gives some of our club members a chance to taste what might still be in their cellar at home, and decide if it’s time to drink or continue to let the flavors develop in bottle.

Wine Library Rieslings

So, guess what? We have a selection of Library Wines waiting to be tasted!

On May 5-7, 2017, we will be pouring our precious “wines from times past” each day with a different theme to each day of the weekend. Winemaker Coby Parker-Garcia is particularly excited about the 2007 Runestone Pinot noir. Coby emphasized that the 2007 vintage was a stand out year and that “a vintage like that comes around once in 20 years.” On the day that Coby and assistant winemaker Zack Geer were tasting all of the different Runestone Pinot Noir vintages, some of us were fortunate enough to take home the 2008 Runestone. Trust me, you do not want to miss out trying these incredibly smooth, delicately aged Pinot Noirs, along with the older Riesling vintages that are showing beautifully. For more information about the events for this weekend check out our website here or read below. Click here to buy some tickets and experience some brilliantly aged wines for yourself!

Friday: May 5, 2017 Winemaker Dinner with Chef Brian Collins of Ember Restaurant

Join us on Friday, May 5th, for the ultimate food & wine dining experience! Enjoy five gourmet courses prepared by renowned chef Brian Collins of Ember Restaurant. This elegant dinner will be hosted by our owners Clay and Fredericka Thompson and winemaker Coby Parker-Garcia in our barrel room. Each course will be paired with some of the best library wines from our collection.
$120 Cellar Club Members | $130 Non-Members  |  Purchase Tickets

Time: 6pm

Saturday: May 6, 2017 Wine Library Grand Tasting

Experience a tasting showcasing the best vintages of our library wines. You’ll have the opportunity to taste and purchase from among two dozen white and red wines which have been carefully cellared for several years.
$15 Club  |  $25 General Admission  |  Purchase Tickets

Time: 1-4pm

Sunday: May 7, 2017 Wine & Cheese Pairing (Featuring Library Wines)

“Wine down” on Sunday in our garden patio with a flight of library wines and a gourmet cheese plate by Fromagerie Sophie. Each cheese has been specially selected to pair with these stellar wines.
$18 Club  |  $24 General Admission  |  Purchase Tickets

Times: 11:30am | 1:30pm | 3:30pm

Cheers!


Bud Break Starts Harvest 2017 Excitement

We are finally starting to feel the spring weather on the Central Coast. It is so refreshing after the winter season we’ve had. The region was refreshed with many storms after years of drought. These storms were great for our dormant vines, as they flushed the toxins and salts in the top soil lower past the root zone and replenished our water storage. The recent sunshine has left the hills of the Edna Valley so green and wildflowers are starting to bloom. As the cherry trees are filled with flowers, we know something else is coming: bud break! In this post, we want to share what has been happening in the vineyard since Harvest 2016.

After Harvest:

As we were finishing up all of the hard work that goes into harvest, we began to prepare the vines for the upcoming winter season. The vines had been under a lot of stress from producing the fruit we use to make our wines. After harvest we give them some water and nutrients over the next two weeks to supplement and prepare the vines for the upcoming dormant season. This process is what all perennials go through and resembles hibernation where little energy is used.

Claiborne & Churchill, Pruning, Vines

Pruning

In late February we begin to think about pruning the vines. Since we do not have any frost protection, we wait as long as possible to prune the vines. We are able to do this since we have so few acres and it doesn’t take much time to get through all of our vines. The old wood is removed to maximize the amount of one year old wood (fruiting wood) and minimize vine density thus encouraging airflow and circulation.

Bud Break

After pruning and the soil and weather warm up, you typically see bud break start to happen. Here in SLO Wine Country bud break occurs sooner than most AVA’s in North America. Typically, bud break is seen first in the Santa Maria and Arroyo Grande valleys, then in the Edna Valley, and lastly in Paso Robles. At Claiborne & Churchill our vines have just started to burst from the warm weather over the past weekend.

Claiborne & Churchill, Vines, Bud Break

Preparing for Harvest:

In the next few weeks, we will mow the cover crop and disk the cuttings back into the soil. We planted barley between the rows to add nitrogen back into the soil and also to keep the topsoil from eroding. Cover crops like barley attract beneficial insects and help maintain the soil structure during the rainy season. We will start to see rapid growth on the vines as shoots and leaves begin to form. After that, we will see flowering then berry set. The berries will begin to grow and start to look like little clusters. The red varieties will undergo veraison, when the berries change color from green to red. Over the next few months the grapes will ripen and develop tannins and phenolic compounds which contribute to the complex flavors found in wine. Before we know it, the fruit will be ready for 2017 Harvest!

Stay tuned for more production updates throughout our growing season!


Stay & Play in “America’s Happiest City”

We are proud to call San Luis Obispo home. Between San Francisco and Los Angeles, our town is nestled  along the coast on California’s historic Highway 1. This tourist destination has become popular due to its sunny weather and slow paced lifestyle, which is why the town is called SLO! In fact, Oprah Winfrey herself named San Luis Obispo “America’s Happiest City.” Check out her video here! You won’t want to miss a chance to visit (or live) in this gorgeous region of California home to SLO Wine Country.

slo, san luis obispo, Claiborne & Churchill

Wine:

We may be biased, but we think this is one of the best highlights of the region! Following in the footsteps of Napa and Paso Robles, the Edna Valley has become an established wine region. As SLO Wine Country shares, “in 1979, Lawrence Winery was established as the region’s first modern winery, and the property is today home to Center of Effort Winery. Chamisal Vineyard began making its own wine in 1980, and Edna Valley Vineyard followed in 1981. Claiborne & Churchill Winery, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, and Talley Vineyards soon added further momentum to the local winemaking scene. These early wineries paved the way and put SLO Wine Country on the map.” The region welcomes thousands of guests each year to taste our award winning wines. The cool climate and diverse soil profiles help create amazing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay along with other varietal wines. Check out the SLO Wine Country Map to see where all the wineries are located in our region. Look here for six unique wine trails to hit, including Claiborne & Churchill on the Old Edna & Biddle Ranch Road Trail. Grab a picnic and enjoy your day with some great wines!

slo, san luis obispo, Claiborne & Churchill

Play:

The gorgeous weather, breathtaking landscapes, and close vicinity to the beach gives our locals and visitors unlimited options of things to do! The best way to take in our rolling hills or coastal views is to take a hike! Look at our previous blog post to see the perfect trail for you here – from a casual stroll to a challenging hike!

Spend the day relaxing by one of our many beach towns just miles from SLO. Shop our local spots such as Downtown SLO, the quaint Village of Arroyo Grande, or the Pismo Outlets! Even shop for dinner – checkout the SLO Farmers’ Market on Thursday nights offering an amazing selection of local produce. Find an event to attend, everything from an art show to a concert on the SLO Happenings App. This is a great resource to create a fun trip to SLO!

slo, san luis obispo, Claiborne & Churchill

Dine:

The Central Coast has become known as a “foodie” destination! There is no shortage of great restaurants from breakfast to dessert. SLO Wine Country has a great list of some of the top restaurants to hit! Trying to figure out where to visit for dinner? Ask a local!

slo, san luis obispo, Claiborne & Churchill

Stay:

There are a wide variety of options to stay while you are on your trip! SLO Wine Country has a list of their suggested hotels here! The most well known place to stay is the famous Madonna Inn. The whimsical guest rooms are perfect for a unique experience with access to a delicious steak house, boutique shopping, and horseback riding. Grab a hotel in Downtown SLO or one with an ocean view! Wanting to try something other than a hotel? Checkout VRBO or Airbnb for fun options, including our Winery Guest Cottage!

Start planning your weekend getaway or summer vacation to SLO; you will love the time you spend in “America’s Happiest City.” Make sure to visit us at Claiborne & Churchill while you’re here!


PortObispo 2015 & Recipe Pairing

We are excited to announce our 2015 PortObispo dessert wine is now available just in time for Valentine’s Day! Grab a bottle here to share with your special someone or to end the meal at your next dinner party.

We make our PortObispo in the traditional fashion, vigorously fermenting ripe red grapes until the sugar level has dropped to around 6%, and then fortifying the wine with grape spirits to an alcohol of 18%, at which level the wine stops fermenting and remains sweet. The wine is then aged for 15 months in well-seasoned oak barrels.

There are many occasions when one can enjoy a glass of this smooth and balanced (and downright yummy!) PortObispo, but the classic food pairing is with a rich chocolate dessert.

Claiborne & Churchill, Port, Dessert Wine, Recipes

Quick Bites with PortObispo:

  • Soak dried cherries overnight in PortObispo, then pour over vanilla ice cream
  • Poach crisp winter pears in a mixture of PortObispo, water, little orange juice, splash of brandy, little sugar, cinnamon stick, and a few cloves. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream!
  • Hollow the center of a piece of cantaloupe, then fill with PortObispo
  • Toast some walnuts over the fireplace. Pair with crackers, a slice of Stilton cheese, and PortObispo

Chocolate Fondant Recipe:

Claiborne & Churchill, PortObispo, Recipe

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • Some Cocoa powder for dusting
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup of flour

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Butter four large muffin tins or ramekins and dust them inside all over with cocoa powder. Melt the chocolate and buttering a pan over hot water, stirring until smooth and blended. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until fluffy. Gently fold in the chocolate-butter mixture and then the sifted flour. Pour into tins or ramekins and bake until the tops are cooked slightly firm to the touch, but the insides remain hot and molten. This can vary from 8-15 minutes. Turn out onto dessert plates and garnish with a scoop of vanilla ice cream with fresh berries. Enjoy!


Winter Release Tasting with the Winemaker

Come and join us for one of our Winter Release with the Winemaker tastings! These intimate events take you through a tasting of our newly released wines guided by our winemaker, Coby Parker-Garcia. This fun and interactive experience has been a favorite amongst the staff and we are now giving you the opportunity!

 

tasting, claiborne, claiborne & churchill

 

What?

The tasting will begin by exploring the newly released wines as you analyze the characteristics you pick up on and discuss why those characteristics are showing through. Our Winemaker Coby will educate Club Members on the growing season for these grapes, the production process of the wine, and food pairings in addition to sampling cheeses that have been perfectly paired with artisan cheeses from Fromagerie Sophie.

 

Who?

This is an event for wine lovers and novices alike. We want to have an intimate experience allowing a small group to hear the decisions that went into making the wine, what characteristics are coming out in the wine, and what these wines pair well with. With only 18 guests per seating, you will have the chance to interact with the winemaker himself and ask him your questions! Though it is only available for members of our wine club, it is not too late to join!

 

Tasting, Claiborne, Claiborne & Churchill

When & Where?

These 6 tastings are going to take place in our cellar at the winery. Check out the time most convenient for you!

Tuesday, February 7 – 3pm

Tuesday, February 7 – 6pm

Thursday, February 9 – 3pm

Thursday, February 9 – 6pm

Friday, February 10 – 3pm

Friday, February 10 – 6pm

How?

Buy your $10 ticket on our website here! Tickets are limited to two per Club Membership.

Not a member? Learn more here and sign up to be a member here!


Intl. Riesling Foundation Taste Profile

The white varietals of the Alsace region in France are extremely versatile and can be made into very sweet wines or very crisp dry wines.  Here at Claiborne and Churchill we have made Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat for over 30 years in a dry style.

Since Rieslings are made in a variety of sweetness levels, how do you know if your bottle is going to be dry or sweet? Most wineries will specify on the bottle, but not all do! Even if it says ‘sweet’ or ‘dry’, you can not trust what’s on a label because there is no scientific definition of these terms and it’s simply the winery’s interpretation. So, exactly how dry or how sweet are these wines?

The International Riesling Foundation, IRF, has the answer. The group created an official scale for Riesling wines to let the consumer know just how sweet or dry it is. The scale can be used on bottles, any promotional material, or even verbally to help explain the taste of that wine.

There are four categories for the scale: Dry, Medium Dry, Medium Sweet, and Sweet.

International Riesling Foundation: Riesling Taste Profile

The winemaker calculates the ratio of residual sugar to acid in the wine. The smaller the ratio, the dryer the wine; the larger the number, the sweeter the wine. The winemaker then measures the pH of the wine to determine the specific category it fits in and where the arrow should be placed on the scale.

Riseling Scale, Claiborne & Churchill Winery, IRF

Claiborne and Churchill utilizes the Riesling Taste Profile to showcase the dry yet crisp qualities of Riesling that our winery is so well known for. We have seen that it is really helpful for our customers and hope it will spread to some of our other white varietals. Keep your eye out for the IRF’s scale on your next bottle of Riesling or come on in and grab a bottle of our newly released 2015 Dry Riesling!


Pinterest & Wine: The Perfect Match

DIY (do it yourself) is all the rage right now! There are more and more television shows about crafting and videos are all over Facebook. The hub for all of these design projects is, of course, Pinterest. Started in early 2010, this social media platform has since grown to over 110 million monthly users across the globe, according to LinkedIn. The pins, which often link to websites, are about topics from fashion, to recipes, to gardening and home decor with everything in between. One of the biggest uses for Pinterest is DIY projects. From big to small and quick to time consuming, they have it all!

Claiborne & Churchill recently created our own Pinterest page! It is growing with recipe ideas, pairing options, wine gifts, and, of course, DIYs! We encourage you to follow us and stay updated with all the fun ideas Pinterest has to offer!

Pinterest & Wine: Cork Crafts

Make your own wine cork key chain!  Use the cork from your last bottle of Claiborne and Churchill red. Twist a screw eye into the bottom of the cork and you’re done! A bonus with this craft is it floats!

key chain, cork, Claiborne & Churchill, Pinterest & Wine

Put those corks to good use! Keep your cords straight with this quick tutorial. All you need is a cork and bungee cord!

Claiborne & Churchill, cork, crafts, Pinterest & Wine

Corks are the perfect holder for a succulent! Hollow out the end of a cork then plant a clipping inside it. Then glue a magnet to the side and you’re ready!

Claiborne & Churchill, crafts, corks, Pinterest & Wine

Pinterest & Wine: Bottles

Put one of your empty bottles to work! With a little wood working knowledge you can make this bird feeder for your backyard and garden.

Claiborne & Churchill, bird feeder, bottle, wine, Pinterest & Wine

Make some cute wall decor! This project will only take you less than half an hour to create and will look great with some flowers inside.

Claiborne & Churchill, wine, bottle, display, Pinterest & Wine

Follow our Pinterest page for more craft ideas along with recipes, vineyard photos, and wine gifts!


Harvest 2016: Preparation & Predictions

With the beginning of August behind us, we are looking forward to our most exciting time of the year: harvest! The grapes are almost ready for their metamorphosis into some great wines. We have some special inside information into Harvest 2016 for Claiborne & Churchill from Winemaker Coby Parker-Garcia. Keep reading to see his explanation of how harvest works and his predications of how it will turn out this year.

Claiborne & Churchill, Harvest 2016


Harvest 2016 predictions:

Things are looking great for the upcoming 2016 Harvest! We are expecting higher yields of fruit compared to 2015. This year’s harvest will still be an early one, however, we will begin picking fruit about two weeks later than last year. Over the past decade we have seen a consolidated in the time span of which we harvest our grapes. There are some days where we are picking Riesling and Pinot Noir on the same day. So, we are seeing the ripening track close together.


How to decide when to pick:

We are expecting to start harvesting fruit in the next week. To decide when we start, it is important to test the fruit to make sure the flavor profile and sugar levels are at the right spot for optimal wine making. Coby makes frequent visits to the vineyards to sample the fruit, even the Riesling and Gewürztraminer vineyards in Monterey county. In the last days before picking, Coby is keeping a close eye on the forecast as heats spikes will accelerate ripening. August has had great weather for the end of the growing season with the morning fog and afternoons in the eighty degree range.


Next steps:

After the grapes arrive at the Claiborne & Churchill crush pad, it’s time for the next steps for Harvest 2016! This is where some of the processes differ from one variety to the next. See how it works for reds, whites, and rosé below!

White Wines:

All of the white grapes for Claiborne & Churchill wines are whole cluster pressed; that takes just over ninety minutes to extract the juice from the skins. After this, the juice is pumped into a tank to cold settle ( at 40 to 50 degrees) where the solids fall to the bottom and the juice is racked off its solids to another vessel for fermentation. The clear juice then ferments in the vessel of choice, which at our winery is either barrels or stainless steel tanks. Fermentation in the barrels takes about three weeks compared to the stainless steel tanks which takes five to six weeks. After that, they can be transferred into a new clean vessel.

Red Wines:

For the red grapes, we de-stem the grapes and leave them as full berries. For some, we even leave the stems on! The grapes then sit in fermentation vats for two weeks and get punched down 3-4 times per day. The grapes do a three to five day cold soak and then we inoculate with three different yeasts or allow for native fermentation. All red wines go through malolactic fermention (about 3months) with the exception of our Port. After secondary fermentation SO2 is added to the barrels and topped every two to three weeks. After aging for 8-14 months the wine is filtered and bottled.

Cuvée Elizabeth Rosé of Pinot Noir:

We pick the Pinot Noir a little earlier for the Rosé and then crush and de-stem the grapes into ¾ ton fermentation bins. After 17 to 24 hours of skin contact the juice is Saignée and racked into neutral oak red wine barrels. Select yeast is added, and the juice ferments for about 3 weeks to a month. The Rosé is then racked back into clean barrels and ages for 4-5 months.

A small percentage of finished white wine is blended into the Rosé to increase aromatics and fruitiness. The finished blend goes into stainless steel tank where it sits for about one month before being fined, filtered and then bottled.


We are excited for harvest 2016 to begin and are looking forward to making our ever popular Sparkling Wine, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as a new Grenache/Syrah blend. Check out our social media accounts for updates on Harvest 2016 at Claiborne & Churchill!


Wine Tasting: Why does it work?

wine tasting, claiborne and churchill

Wine tasting in California has evolved into an ever growing industry associated with leisure and tourism. Originating in Napa, it then spread to the Edna Valley in the early 1970s according to SLO Wine Country. Thousands of people flock to California wine regions each year to taste the wines produced.

So, how do you get the most out of tasting? Let’s talk about it!

Make sure you are tasting the wines in the best order. Generally, start with the whites, then reds, then finish with desserts. This makes sure the tannins of the reds don’t affect the taste of the whites. If you are tasting at a winery, they will have a tasting list to follow that will have the wines listed in the best order to taste. Follow these steps to get the best impression of the wine: swirl, sniff, sip, swish, and swallow or spit.

Anyone that  has been tasting before, is likely to know that. But scientifically, why does wine tasting work?

Even though it is titled “Wine Tasting” after our sense of taste, this activity uses almost all of your senses. Especially smell!

claiborne and churchill, wine tasting

Before taking a sip, it is suggested to swirl around the wine and smell it to see the aromas the wine brings out. This can be just as much a part of the tasting process as tasting! Sometimes if you enjoy the taste, you will still be turned off because of the smell!

Now take a sip! The wine will hit your taste buds and immediately release a reaction, whether it is sweet or sour!

Then, it’s back to you sense of smell! People will say that they taste things like berries and cola when they try wine. However, we don’t get that reaction through our taste buds. It’s through smell! When you swirl your sip around in your mouth the aromas travel internally to your nose when you identify the flavors you think you are tasting.

We can’t forget about the sense of sight either! This has to do with how the wine looks in the glass, but also so much more. As a kid, everyone was told not to judge a book by it’s cover, but you can’t help it! This also applies to wine labels. The better the label deign, the better the first impression. Tasters also judge the bottle by the winery it was made by and where they purchased it. There will be a better expectation for a bottle coming from a well-known high-priced winery than a bottle from your local grocery store.

The best way to make sure your sense of sight doesn’t influence your wine tasting is to use a black wine glass!

Who knew we had to thank our nose for so many of the details we pick up when tasting a new wine? So now it’s time to put this knowledge to work. Cheers!


Dinner On The Deck with Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir, Claiborne & Churchill, Dinner on the Deck

Last week the staff at Claiborne & Churchill came together for a fun evening. Clay & Fredericka hosted a Dinner on the Deck at their home. This evening under the stars was filled with some great wine, great food, and great company. We all enjoyed the opportunity to spend time together outside the winery. This event was dedicated to one of our favorite varietals, Pinot Noir.

Coby, our winemaker, led a tasting challenge.  Similar to a party example in our last blog post, we had to match the bottle of wine to the wine region provided. The regions to pick from were: Oregon, Santa Barbara, New Zealand, Burgundy, Sonoma, and San Luis. We had a great time and were truly stumped at some of the pairings.

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2014 Marlborough Pinot Noir

Winery: TWR – Te Whare Ra

Region: New Zealand

This wine is a mix of two different vineyards in New Zealand. Harvest was in March of 2014 after what they call a “textbook summer.” It spends 11 months in French oak with 796 cases produced.

2012 Chorey-lés-Beaune

Winery: Tollot-Beaut

Region: Burgundy

The winery produced two cuvees that will be merged to form a blend the January before it is bottled.

2014 Pinot Noir

Winery: El Lugar

Region: Santa Barbara

The fruit for this wine is from Santa Maria and uses two clones: Pommard & Martini. It was harvested in August of 2014 and it spent 11 months in French oak barrels. It was bottled nearly a year later and 164 cases were made.

2012 Russian River Pinot Noir

Winery: Alysian

Region: Sonoma

This wine was made of six different clones from five different vineyards, which are all Russian River vineyards. Then, it spent fourteen months in barrel with about 30% of that being new French oak.

2013 Select Pinot Noir

Winery: Brick House

Region: Oregon

This ‘Select’ wine includes fruit from all of this winery’s Pinot Noir clones and blocks. After spending 15 months in neutral French oak, this wine was bottled in February 2015. They produced 535 cases of this barrel select wine.

2014 Classic Estate Pinot Noir

Winery: Claiborne & Churchill

Region: San Luis Obispo

The Estate Twin Creeks fruit included three clones: #113, 2A, and Martini from the Edna Valley. After harvesting September and early October 2014, it aged for 10 months in 35% New French Oak. This 29 barrel blend then was bottled in August 2015 making 787 cases.


All of the staff had a great time trying to match up these delicious Pinots with the region they originated from. After this tough test, we enjoyed a number of other great Pinots with dinner. Pinot Noir has had a home at Claiborne & Churchill for decades and we loved getting to see how other regions are utilizing this amazing grape.