Here are 7 little-known California wineries that you should check out

December 13, 2018

Paul Hodgins

My favorite figure in baseball isn’t a player but a GM: Billy Beane. He’s the guy who turned a bunch of undervalued utility players into a winning team, the Oakland Athletics, by simply paying attention to what they did well. He knew how rewarding overlooked talent could be.

Like Beane, I’m thrilled whenever I discover an unsung winery — some place that does its job exceedingly well and often offers excellent value for its wine, but doesn’t get a lot of attention for some reason.

Just in time for Christmas, here’s my list of undervalued and impressive California wineries — the 2002 Oakland Athletics of the wine world.


This is a small, family owned and operated winery, founded in 1983 by Claiborne (Clay) Thompson and Fredericka Churchill Thompson, former University of Michigan professors. Clay and Fredericka met while teaching Old Norse (him) and German (her) at the U of M in the late 1970s. He’ll talk your ear off about medieval European history if that’s your bag. Their small winery is located in the heart of Edna Valley, a generally overlooked area for fine cool-climate wines. Inspired by the wines of Alsace, they make superb dry German varieties in classic Alsatian style. Their Riesling and Gewürztraminer are among the state’s best, and their prices are reasonable.

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