Established by wayward Michiganians (Michiganders?) Clay Thompson and Fredericka Churchill Thompson, they say their winery structure was the first straw-bale building built in California. Its 16-inch-thick walls mean they don't have to air condition or heat the place - it maintains the right temperature naturally. In it, they make 8,000 cases of wine a year.
The 2015 Claiborne and Churchill Pinot Noir is made using grapes grown in their estate vineyards in Edna Valley. It was aged ten months in French oak barrels, only a quarter of which were new. Alcohol is restrained at 13.7% abv and it retails for $32.
The medium-dark wine has a concentrated nose of cranberry, cola and black tea. A note of tar also pokes its head into the scene. The palate is lovely, a bit on the weighty side as California Pinot is wont to be, but dark, delicious and a dandy match for a grilled pork chop, lamb or holiday ham. The expected cranberry flavor is riper, more like cherry, and the full mouthfeel is satisfying. Its acidity is perfectly refreshing while the tannins are purposeful, yet manageable.
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