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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!


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!


Trails of SLO Wine Country

We may be a little biased, but we believe that the trails of SLO Wine Country are surrounded by some of the most spectacular views and breathtaking nature. These trails are a fun way to get active while admiring our scenery! The Central Coast’s moderate climate also allows us to enjoy this beauty almost 365 days of the year. The Claiborne & Churchill staff is excited for a summer filled with great hikes, and we wanted to share some of our favorites with you!


Easy

 

bluff trail, claiborne & churchill, hike, Trails of SLO Wine Country

Bluff Trail

4.7 mile loop

291 feet elevation change

This trail is a nice easy loop that takes you through the beautiful coastline of Montana de Oro State Park. Open year round, it offers great views of the ocean and wild flowers. It is a great trail for kids, but dogs are not allowed.

bob jones, claiborne & churchill, hike, Trails of SLO Wine Country

Bob Jones Bike Trail

2.6 mile out & back

101 feet elevation change

This trail is friendly to walkers, runners, bikers, kids & dogs! Stroll along the foothills with beautiful views and end up in Avila Beach. It can get crowded during weekends and holidays, but the scenery is worth it!

oso flaco, claiborne & churchill, hike, Trails of SLO Wine Country

Oso Flaco Lake Trail

1.5 mile out & back

6 feet elevation change

This is the easiest trail that starts by a lake near Nipomo and ends up by the Pacific Ocean. The board walk of the trail leads you above water and sand with gorgeous views of the wild life.

reservoir canyon, claiborne & churchill, hike, Trails of SLO Wine Country

Reservoir Canyon Trail

5.0 mile out & back

1286 feet elevation change

This trail is accompanied with beautiful scenery but the big benefits are the breathtaking views from the top. It is a great opportunity to bring kids and dogs to see the wildlife, wild flowers & waterfall along the way!


Moderate

 

bishop's peak, claiborne & churchill, hike, Trails of SLO Wine Country

Bishops Peak Trail

6.6 mile out & back

2332 feet elevation change

Hike the highest of the Nine Sisters, a chain of volcanic peaks stretching to Morro Bay! This trail leads to gorgeous views of San Luis Obispo and the coastline along the Pacific Ocean. This trail is even more spectacular when you watch the sunrise of the sunset from the top!

cerro san luis, claiborne & churchill, hike, Trails of SLO Wine Country

Cerro San Luis Trail

4.0 mile loop

843 feet elevation change

Hike around Madonna Mountain where the trail is surrounded by beautiful green landscape and wildflowers. See the town of San Luis Obispo from above and enjoy views of the coast. It is a great hike and dog friendly!

islay hill, claiborne & churchill, hike, Trails of SLO Wine Country

Islay Hill Trail

1.7 mile out & back

488 feet elevation change

This trail takes you to the top of the eastern most of the Nine Sisters. It is one of the quickest of these moderate trails taking less than an hour total. The views from the top are 360 degree sights over San Luis Obispo and Edna Valley.

valencia peak, claiborne & churchill, hike, Trails of SLO Wine Country

Valencia Peak Trail

3.3 mile out & back

1108 feet elevation change

This trail takes you up Valencia Peak in Montana de Oro. At the top, you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of Morro Bay, Cayucos, and even further on clear days. Leave your dogs at home for this one!


We hope you put some of our recommendations to the test! Tag us in your hiking pictures and share with us which trails are your favorite. We believe a nice cool white or rose is the perfect way to celebrate the accomplishments of a long hike. Cheers to a fun summer spent in the surroundings of our Central Coast!

All information and pictures from alltrails.com.


Wine? There’s an app for that!

There’s an app for everything now! From checking the traffic to finding a restaurant, these pieces of technology help us do things easier. We wanted to share some of the wine apps that we’ve come to enjoy. Check them out for yourself and try them in SLO Wine Country!

claiborne and churchill, wine, apps, wine apps

Wine Apps: Our Top App Suggestions for You!

#1 Delectable

Delectable, wine, wine app, claiborne & churchill

Price: Free!

So how does it work? Just take a photo of the wine label. In seconds, it will identify the wine and allow you to view reviews and tasting notes on that bottle from industry leaders.

You can also create your personal wine journal through the app. Add your own ratings and tasting notes for you to access in the future. You can even share your recommendations with friends.

Don’t forget to see the recommendations from the experts! On this app you can follow the industry leaders and  winemakers from your favorite wineries to see what they are enjoying!

This app is ready to help you find your next favorite wine!


#2 Vivino

wine, wine app, vivino, claiborne & churchill

Price: Free! (Vivino Premium available for $4.99/month)

Similarly, this app allows a quick photo to unlock a vault of knowledge about the wine you are about to drink! From average price, reviews, and food pairings, there is so much for you to learn.

Do you find yourself overwhelmed at the wine lists restaurants have? Use this app to scan the entire wine list to see the top ratings and reviews.

You even are able to see the trending wines in your area and find the best deals on your favorite bottles!

You will be a wine expert in no time thanks to this fun app!


Wine Enthusiast Magazine has a great post about some of their favorite apps! Make sure to check out the ones they recommend. Click here to see it yourself!

What about you?

Now that we’ve shared some of our favorites with you, download them and try them out! Do you already have some favorite wine apps? Let us know the wine apps you have come to love!


Interview with the Winemaker

Through this Interview with the Winemaker, get an inside look into Coby Parker-Garcia‘s predictions on this year’s harvest and what he is excited about! As he says, our wines “are challenging to grow and fun to make!”

claiborne and churchill, coby, winery, vineyard, Q & A with the Winemaker, Interview with the Winemaker

Where did your interest in the wine industry begin?

“My first interest probably stemmed from wine tasting. I became really excited about the wine making process and the ability to turn grapes into an alcoholic beverage. I wanted to be able to do that process myself.”

Why do you like to work with the unique varietals Claiborne & Churchill is known for?

“I have always believed these characteristics and more interesting flavor profile than your typical Chardonnay and Cabernet. They’re unique wines that go with a variety of foods. They are challenging to grow and fun to make.”

Is your winemaking philosophy similar to that of Clay’s?

“Clay would put a lot of trust in the vineyard management, but I like to spend a lot of time in the vineyards. We are making the Riesling and Gewürztraminer a little drier than in the past and using a different yeast than before. There is more time spent doing lab work and monitoring the sulfur levels, pH and the total acidity to make the best decisions in the vineyard and prior to bottling.”

What are you most excited for in the upcoming harvest?

“Every harvest and every vintage brings a new challenge. I’m excited about how happy and healthy the vineyards are looking. We’re getting some really nice growth on the vines and starting to see that we’re going to get about two clusters per shoot. This is a good indication that we’ll have a good crop this year.”

Was bud break early this year? How will that impact harvest?

“Bud break came later than last year, but still earlier than usual. Our Riesling and Pinot Noir vineyards had bud break about two weeks earlier than usual. The next few months will help us forecast when harvest will come this year. Growth will slow down if we have cooler months with rain, but will speed up if the weather is warmer. It’s looking like it will be an early harvest, but not as early as last year.”

claiborne and churchill, bud break, vineyard, winery, Q & A with the Winemaker, Interview with the Winemaker

How important is our vineyard practices? What do we focus on in the vineyard?

“It is known that you need great fruit quality to make great wine. We follow the SIP (Sustainability in Practice) protocol which has shown it ensures quality.”

What are you doing different this year?

“We don’t have any frost protection on the property, so we left some extra canes to ensure that if we had frost damage, we have the chance to get secondary growth. Now that we are through the frost period, we will begin thinning to get back to a more balanced vine.”

How has the drought impacted our crop and wines?

“In 2015, the quality remained high, because there wasn’t a lot of mildew pressure due to the lack of rain. These wines are really concentrated and have a lot of density. We were able to make balanced wines that aren’t too high in alcohol but have a nice balanced acidity.”

How will the wines be different this year from past vintages?

“I believe we will have higher yields, but will have a better idea once we see the fruit set and how the berries form. Right now things are looking good, but there is still a lot of game to play.”

What are you doing now to prepare for harvest?

“Now is the time when we implement practices to prevent mildew and other harmful problems. We are getting the weeds cut back, mowing the cover crop and tilling it back into the soil to improve the nitrogen levels. We are thinning back a little bit, especially the extra canes we left incase of frost damage. It is  a waiting game now.”

claiborne and churchill, winery, vineyard, Q & A with the Winemaker, Interview with the Winemaker

Where do you want to see Claiborne & Churchill Winery in five years?

“With the size of our facility, we are currently at maximum case production. I think we will see more wine club members and people coming to the winery. We will rely less on distribution, and more from the tasting room and direct sales.”


Riesling Rediscovered Book

Riesling rediscovered, Claiborne and Churchill, Riesling, John Winthrop Haeger

Riesling Rediscovered Overview

A new book has been released telling the story of something dear to our hearts: Riesling. In November of 2015, John Winthrop Haeger released his account of this white wine grape variety titled Riesling Rediscovered.

At Claiborne & Churchill, we make our Rieslings dry compared to the common sweet Rieslings of North America. As the book’s description says, “Now usually made dry in most of Europe and Australia, and assumed dry by most German consumers, Riesling is made mostly sweet or lightly sweet in North America and is believed sweet in the American marketplace irrespective of origin. Riesling is thus consequently—but mistakenly—shunned by the mainstream of American wine drinkers, whose tastes and habits have been overwhelmingly dry for two generations.” We see that most of our guests that say they dislike Riesling are pleasantly surprised by the dryness of our varieties.

This book takes an in depth look into how variety, place, and style impact the final taste of the Riesling. The variety looks into how the cultivar of Riesling, a variety created by selective breeding, will change the taste. Place investigates how the location, topography, climate and other factors alter the wine. Style looks at how growing practices, processing, and storing methods modify how the winery’s Riesling will taste. Haegar also talks about the history of Riesling, how it is made, and a map of winery locations. Another section of the book features a number of vineyards and wineries known for Riesling, including Claiborne & Churchill.


Riesling rediscovered, Claiborne and Churchill, Riesling, John Winthrop Haeger

Claiborne & Churchill Highlight

We are very honored to be highlighted in this renowned book. Our section starts with a look into the Claiborne Vineyard. He discusses where the vineyard is located, climate, and other factors of our vineyard. In the next section, Haegar follows the story of Clay and Fredericka, the start of the winery, Coby’s time as our winemaker, and a look into the Riesling we produce.

Make sure to grab a copy of Riesling Rediscovered here! It gives a great insight into the variety we love so much!

We appreciate the width and depth of information that Haeger shares in Riesling Rediscovered. It is evident that he made sure to represent Riesling as a whole. As Oliver Humbrecht said, “John Winthrop Haeger has captured the essence of Riesling. The author goes against the modern trend that favors sweeter and softer styles, demonstrating that Riesling can be at its best as a dry wine. Riesling wine producers from around the world will applaud this research.”