WINE REVIEW: 2014 Claiborne & Churchill Dry Gewürztraminer, Central Coast CA ($18)
by Andrew Chalk
Appearance: Light straw, bright;
Nose: Lemon, spices, lychee;
Palate: Medium plus acid, notable phenolics, green apples, white peaches;
A tasting of their reveals a wine that is one of the few domestic gewürztraminers that can legitimately refer to Alsace as its muse. Even the aromatic element of lychee is there in the nose. This wine would be ideal with many Thai or Vietnamese dishes.
Claiborne & Churchill Winery deserves special mention by virtue of its singular mission being so out in left field - to make Alsatian style wine. If was founded in 1983 by recovering academics, Claiborne (Clay) Thompson and Fredericka Churchill Thompson, from Michigan. Clay had a dream to start a winery and came to Edna Valley where he was hired as a cellar rat by Dick Graff at Edna Valley on the strength of his Harvard Ph.D. in languages because Graff was a fellow Harvard man (degree in musicology). He learned winemaking and set about pursuing the goal of a winery dedicated to the wines of Alsace, initially making the wine in Edna Valley’s cellar. Hence, today Claiborne & Churchill produces gewürztraminer, pinot gris, pinot noir, and riesling because of their Alsace connection. They also make chardonnay (but not as a sparkling wine, as is done in Alsace), syrah, and grenache to support market demand. With only 8,000 cases a year, things are distinctly artisan.