On the Trail

More Stories from the Central Coast

Sal Rodriguez

It was mid-morning when we stepped inside the tasting room at Claiborne & Churchill and the smell of bacon filled the room like only bacon can. There, waiting for us, was a bacon, egg, and cheese quiche and a fruit plate. Just perfect to hold us over until lunch! Did I mention bacon? 

One of my favorite things about the wine industry is how hospitable so many of the winemakers are. Even on a first visit, it can feel like you’re hanging out with old friends. This is exactly how the wonderful folks, Clay and Elizabeth, made us feel on our recent visit to Claiborne & Churchill. You can always tell the people who love what they’re doing and they most certainly do. Something I’ve done, after other trips, is purchase products for personal consumption from a winery or two, once I return to work. Upon my return to work, I immediately checked our inventory levels of all of our C&C products. When we didn’t have everything I wanted, I even went so far as to purchase a couple of bottles directly from the winery because I was impatient. I really had to have some bottles in hand to share with my family. I too am a fan of instant gratification. Elizabeth was all too happy to oblige

Everywhere we travelled on our Central Coast trip, amazing Pinot Noir was quite prevalent. C&C was no exception. A serious stand-out was their 2015 “Classic Estate” Edna Valley Pinot Noir. Never-ending perfumed aromas of fruit and flowers came out in layers from the glass. Cranberry, and brambly wild-berries on the palate were in high concentration. Noticeable tannins are right in line with all of the aromas and the bright acidity of a classic Pinot from the region. At the time I’m writing this there is even a tiny handful of the 2014 “Classic Estate” Pinot and it too was amazing! A slightly darker fruited wine, with a little more noticeable oak, and with just the right hint of smoked meats, and it’s a pleasure too! It’s incredible how we can offer this much wine for this low of a price! Just outstanding! 

I could not forget feeling entertained by a shirt that had “Gewurtz ‘til it hurts” ironed on it and was for sale in their tasting room. Although we all thought it was quite cool, there’s a darn good reason it was for sale there. Claiborne & Churchill is quite well-known for their Gewurtztraminer, and who wouldn’t want to drink bottle after bottle of it. Consistent quality and persistence no matter the vintage is what can be expected from C&C.  The 2016 is the one we were able to taste with Elizabeth and Clay; I found it to be fresh, tropical, high-toned acid and zippy crispness of fruit. There is plenty of minerality and texture that keep things in balance while intensity accurately describes the flavorful finish. So much going on and again, what incredible pricing!

I don’t think it would be right not to mention their Riesling as well. The 2015 Central Coast Riesling showed tons of lift from the aromas of stone fruit and orange blossom as well as crispness and precision. There’s no way this won’t be getting better with a little more age. Like my colleague Anthony made some mention of in a previous blog post, the Central Coast is making “serious” wines. I'm pretty sure the producers here have always taken themselves seriously, but as of late their wines are showing off a tremendous amount of style, finesse, and precision that maybe we would have only expected from regions that command much more money per bottle. I have a sneaking suspicion that we will be seeing the region really begin to take an even stronger-hold in the wine market and start representing California in quite an impressive way and no doubt Claiborne & Churchill will be smack in the middle of it all!

-Sal Rodriguez