Claiborne & Churchill is a small, premium family-owned winery in the Edna Valley of San Luis Obispo, founded in 1983 by Claiborne (Clay) Thompson and Fredericka Churchill Thompson. Former teachers at the University of Michigan, the couple left the “Groves of Academe” for the vineyards of California in 1981 in order to begin a new life in the wine industry.
With its first crush Claiborne & Churchill announced its special focus, producing 565 cases of Dry Riesling and Dry Gewürztraminer, inspired by the fruity but dry dinner wines of the French province of Alsace. Today Claiborne & Churchill produces about 8,000 cases of wine each year, sourcing grapes from vineyards in the cool maritime valleys of California’s Central Coast and its own small estate vineyards.
In 1995 Clay and Fredericka completed construction on their new and permanent winery building. This 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.