Founded in 1983 by Claiborne (Clay) Thompson and Fredericka Churchill, former teachers at the University of Michigan (Clay specialized in Old Norse Languages and Literatures and Fredericka taught German), the winery focuses on Alsatian varietals in the first straw bale winery in California. Grapes are purchased from premium growers around the cool Edna Valley, with 2/3 of the production being Dry Riesling and Dry Gewürztraminer. At Claiborne & Churchill, traditional European winemaking techniques prevail, including extensive use of barrel-fermentation and barrel-aging (even with Riesling and Gewürztraminer), minimal manipulation of juice and wine, "natural" or spontaneous fermentation using indigenous yeast, and limited use of SO2, all in the belief that the winemaker's task is to bring out the flavor and character that is latent in the grape. San Luis Obispo native Colby Parker- Garcia came on board in 2004 as Claiborne & Churchill's winemaker, learning from Clay all of the techniques required for the success of the unique varietals which are the winery's signature.
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