Churchill Cellars

2008 Two Vineyard Blend Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

California: Sonoma County: Sonoma Coast

Offer Expired:Jan 27, 2012 at 11:59 pm
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Mission Codename: Opportunities won

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Churchill Cellars, makers of some of our favorite small-production Pinot Noir. This time around, evaluate their newest, budget-minded Pinot, the 2008 Two Vineyard Blend Pinot Noir. Secure an ample allotment for our Pinot-loving Operatives.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Churchill Cellars

Wine Subject: 2008 Two Vineyard Blend Pinot Noir – Sonoma Coast

Winemaker: Anthony Austin


We first featured Churchill Cellars Pinot Noir nearly five years ago. We fell in love with Ken Churchill’s Pinots, then, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting their return to our pages. For today’s wine, Agent Red returned to Churchill Cellars to evaluate Ken’s newest release, the budget-friendly 2008 Two Vineyard Blend Pinot Noir from two special vineyard sources in the Sonoma Coast Appellation. Agent Red loved the wine and he was able to retrieve a small number of cases for our Operatives. Read Red’s mission report and tasting notes, below.

The Sonoma Coast AVA is the 750 square mile area with the Pacific ocean on its western boundary, the San Pablo Bay to the south and Mendocino County to the north, headed inland to the other designated AVAs in Sonoma County. The region is heavily influenced by the cooler ocean climate, increased rainfall and fog that lingers long on the coastal mountains. The specific climate suits the demanding Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay very well.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Perfect ruby red hues, with completely even coloration from core on out to the ruby edge of the wine. When swirled, the wine settles quickly, leaving behind short, branching columns of skinny legs that move swiftly down the glass.

Smell – Bright and vibrant, with cherry, brambly raspberry, young strawberry, spiced blackberry with hints oak, forest floor and kola nut.

Feel – Soft and round on the attack. Then, quickly, the wine becomes softly weighty and mouth-filling, with a bright acidity that makes the mouth water. Supple tannins and a soft minerality give the wine a soft complexity.

Taste – Bright red cherry, earthy raspberry, bramble, young strawberry, dried red flower petals, subtle forest floor and kola nut.

Finish – Long, bright and mouthwatering, with flavors that start sweet and then go softly tart and softly spicy, with brown spice, chalky mineral and a hint of black pepper. At the very end, a soft dryness spreads to all corners of the palate, reminding you to take another flavor-filled sip.

Conclusion – Prepare to be impressed by this bright, juicy, delicious, approachable Pinot Noir! This is a juicy, bright and delicious wine that has plenty of flavor and character. Well-balanced, the bright red fruit is held in check by earthen components that make the wine complex – and interesting. Pair with a roasted chicken or a creamy pasta dish. Enjoy now, or lay some down for up to 5 more years. What ever you do, don’t miss out on this terrific wine!

Mission Report:

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” It is almost as if he were speaking about Churchill Cellars and their relentless pursuit of Pinot perfection.


SUBJECT: Anthony Austin

DATE OF BIRTH: November, 1951

PLACE OF BIRTH: Healdsburg, CA

WINE EDUCATION: B.S. Vit/Enology, University of CA, Davis Post grad with Andre Telistcheff.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Asst Winemaker, Simi, Healdsburg; Winemaker/V.P. Enology/Viticulture, Firestone Vineyard; Winemaker/General Partner, Austin Cellars; Winemaker/partner, Sonoma Coast Vineyards.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Guidance, not manipulation, nature, not technology.


CAREER HIGHLIGHT: “Worlds best Chardonnay” MW London, 3 "Best of Show 3 years running (2 time “Best Red” , 1 time “best White”. Centeral Coast Wine Comp.) “Americas best Pinot Noir” , Wine and Spirits Buying Guide, 2Cordon Bleu Awards (only one other winery recieved 2) SoCal Wine and Food Society.

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: First work as Head Winemaker by age 23, and it just gets better, though now I am doing 500 case lots, not 25,000.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: Consumable art requires work on the part of the observer to truly enjoy. Preception requires focus.


AGENT RED: Greetings, Anthony. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Churchill Cellars Two Vineyard Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

ANTHONY: Thank you, Agent Red. It is great to be back with you.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

ANTHONY: Not so much love of wine, rather LOVE of the ART of wine. Wine is many things, on many levels, a beverage, a food, and on that rare level, consumable art. Emote and it is art. So many wines are not that emotionally inspiring, many just beverages, and there is not enough there to “love”.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

ANTHONY: Most about the Science, UCD, most about elevating wine from beverage status, Andre Telistcheff, and inspired and inspiring Winemaster who would not accept good as enough. Most about my expression as winemaker from the 30+ years as winemaker.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

ANTHONY: Elegance is of utmost importance, balance is a requirement.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

ANTHONY: See Andre Techelistcheff.

RED: I can’t tell you how many times we hear that! How long have you been making wine?

ANTHONY: First vintage as Winemaker, 1975

RED: Who do you make wine for?

ANTHONY: Foremost, myself, to be personally rewarding and artistically relevant, I am the first and only “conductor” to the wines, and therefore must have the freedom to realize the concept, vision, or interpretation of what that grape/barrel/billions of yeast and bacteria can work together to produce. The labels I make are CV, Sonoma Coast Vineyards, Clouds Rest Pinot Noir, Grandpa Moses Cabernet Sauvignon.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today

ANTHONY: The wine is a blend of two different vineyards. The Bella Sonoma Vineyard located near Cotati and my own Left Edge Vineyard located in Occidental. It was my vineyards first harvest.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

ANTHONY: I would recommend paring the wine with duck, salmon or pork. It has a very nice minerality that is causes your mouth to water on the finish. So I think it is a really great food wine.

RED: Tell me, what makes the Sonoma Coast such a special place for Pinot Noir?

ANTHONY: Kosta Browne just won Wine of the Year with their 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. This recognition proves what I have been saying for a long time, that the best Pinot Noir fruit comes from the climatically challenged regions of the Sonoma Coast. That is why I moved back to Occidental from the Central Coast. I wanted to work with fruit from this region. I know this region will produce the best Pinots in the world.

RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?

ANTHONY: If you love it, do it, forget about trading dollars for your time.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

ANTHONY: The 2011 wines are still aging in the barrels and we will probably start bottling the Sauvignon Blanc and Roses from 2011 in April. The 2010 Pinots we will bottle in September. I usually age my red wines about 18 months before bottling.

RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

ANTHONY: “Everyday” to a winemaker is interesting. One of the great things about being a Winemaker is that “everyday” wine can and should be special.

RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

ANTHONY: beverages should be opened and consumed. Art should be anticipated, approached to maximize the wines potential and expression. Great wines, young or old should be opened to “breath” if not outright decanted. Proper stemware a must. Spend time with the wines, and for Pinot Noir especially, get the largest glass and pour what you are going to enjoy at that sitting, let the wine develop and open and ripen in the glass over the time you can.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

ANTHONY: Thank you, Agent Red! Enjoy the Pinot!!

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

90 PointsThe Pinot Report – “Medium ruby color; bright, raspberry, cherry aromas with some spice notes; ripe, bright cherry flavors with spice, cola and earthy notes; good structure and balance; long finish. Bright and spicy, this Pinot is great for lighter fare.” (Issue 72)

88 PointsWine Enthusiast – “Churchill makes Pinots in a lighter-bodied style, but they’re still elegant and complex. This translucent wine is silky in the mouth, and the raspberry, cherry, and cola flavors are enhanced with brisk acidity.” (6/1/2011)

About This Wine:

Aroma: Raspberry and cherry with some spice notes.

Taste: Bright cherry flavors with spice, cola and earthy notes; good structure and balance; long finish.

About The Winery:

In 1996, we traveled to the beautiful medieval hill-top Tuscan town of San Gimignano. As we toured the vineyards, we fell in love with their beauty and peacefulness and dreamed that someday we would move to the wine country, live among our own vines and produce our own world class wines. Three years later, we followed our dream and moved to Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. In 2000 we put in our vineyard and in 2003 produced our first 46 case vintage.

We chose the Russian River Valley because it has the rare balance of sunshine, cool nights and morning fog that creates the ideal terroir for Pinot Noir.

To plant and farm our vineyard, we selected Paul Sloan of Small Vines Viticulture. Paul studied fine grape growing in the Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy and then adopted the close spacing (meter x meter) concept to fit the Russian River soil and climate, which is slightly warmer and drier than Burgundy. Paul’s theory is simple “the smaller the vines, the better the wine”

Then we set out to find our winemaker. After researching his background and tasting his wines, it was an easy decision to have Anthony Austin make our wines. Anthony’s mentor was Andre Tchelistcheff, considered by many experts to be the most influential California winemaker of the past century. Anthony’s wines have won numerous prestigious awards, including Best in the World from the London Business Times for one of his Pinot Noirs and a Chardonnay.

We hope you will enjoy our wines as much as we love growing, producing, and sharing them with you.

Ken & Susan Churchill

Technical Analysis:

Harvest: September 5 & 9, 2008

Clones: 113, 114, 115, 667, 777, 828, Dijon

Cold Soak: 10 days

Brix: 22.3

pH: 3.39

Aged: 18 months

Alcohol: 14.0%

Bottled: April 1, 2010

Released: June 30, 2011

Cases: 100

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