Churchill Cellars

2006 Leepin Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir •Leepin Vineyard

California: Sonoma County: Sonoma Coast

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Mission Codename: Send in the clones

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Churchill Cellars, makers of some of our favorite Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. This time, evaluate their newest Pinot, the 2006 Leepin Vineyard Pinot Noir. If the wine is as good as – or better than – previous Churchill PNs, secure an ample allotment

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Churchill Cellars

Wine Subject: 2006 Leepin Vineyard Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Anthony Austin


We first featured Churchill Cellars last in 2008. We were head over heels for Ken Churchill’s 2005 Pinot Noir, and we have been eagerly anticipating a new 2006 release. For today’s wine Agent Red returned to Churchill Cellars to evaluate Ken’s newest, a 2006 Pinot Noir from Leepin Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. He loved it and he was able to retreive a small number of cases for our Operatives. Read Red’s mission report and tasting notes, below

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Light ruby core with glittering pink highlighted edges that sparkle in the sunlight. The surface shows a distinctly snappy surface that settles quickly when swirled. When the wine settles, it leaves fat legs that are slow to emerge and then fast to move down the glass

Smell – This wine leads off with aromas of buttery red raspberry tart, Bing cherry and young strawberry. These are enthusiastically followed by vanilla, soft spice and blackberry bramble

Feel – Soft and very round on the attack, then the wine reveals a medium body as fine tannins gently take hold, drying the tongue in a unique from the edges inward effect that is very pronounced

Taste – Dark strawberry and smoky red plum kick this wine off, delivering tasty initial flavors that are soon accompanied by dark cherry, slate (mineral), smoky red plum and subtle black pepper

Finish – A very long and very flavorful finish that leads off with dark fruit, reveals minerals and then adds a soft spice component before tailing off

Conclusion – Ken Churchill has much to be proud of with his growing family of Pinot Noir wines. Today’s single vineyard 2006 Leepin Vineyard Pinot Noir compliments the lineup beautifully, by delivering a wine that is unique among its brethren. This wine is darker of nature than Churchill’s previous wines, but just as delicious. In fact, it stands out from the others with its duskier and more robust character. This wine is no fruit-bomb. Instead, it delivers a drinking experience that will surprise and delight any Russian River Valley Pinot lover with its deep flavors and bigger aromatics. Bright acidity make the wine a perfect food companion. We enjoyed a bottle just last night with a unique Agent K-prepared salad made from mixed greens, with bleu cheese, toasted nuts, balsamic vinaigrette, wild rice (for real) and shredded organic chicken. The wine and the food worked together brilliantly!

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 2006 Churchill Cellars Leepin Vineyard Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

ANTHONY: Thank you, thank 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: What I really like about the wine is the deep rich racy black cherry flavors. It was rough around the edges for the first few years in the bottle but now it has smoothed out very nicely and has a very long finish.

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

ANTHONY: This wine pairs well with beef, lamb and pork loin.

RED: Tell me, what makes the Russian River Valley so special?

ANTHONY: This wine is from Sonoma Coast, even though it is in the Russian River Valley, it is not in the Appellation.

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: Blending/finishing/final fermentations both malolactic and alcoholic.

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


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


RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know


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 develope 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:

Gold Medal Winner – Sonoma County Harvest Festival

91 Points – “Medium ruby color; deep, spicy aromas of cinnamon with black cherry notes; deep, complex core of black cherry fruit, spicy and earthy notes, sweet oak, good structure and balance; long finish. Deep and rich, this Pinot is a terrific mouthful of earthy, spicy complexity.” – Pinot Report 12/30/08

87 Points – “Rich, root-beer-like spice in the nose immediate separates this one from its siblings, and, unlike its mates, it draws up just a bit short at the finish. Fairly firm and showing acidy angles and edges just now, it has enough well-defined fruit at its heart to invite a few years of comfortable keeping.” – Connoisseur’s Guide to Wine 10/08

87 Points – “Offers a touch of racy sour cherry and wild berry. Zesty, vibrant and medium-bodied, this ends with a citrusy edge that’s mouthwatering.”- James Laube, Wine Spectator

About This Wine:

Aroma: A spicy nose of anise, all spice, nutmeg and mushroom

Taste: A dark fruit wine with deep rich flavors of blackberries and black cherries. The wine has great structure and wonderful acidity with a sweet oak finish. This wine will age very well.

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: October 3, 2006

Clones: 113, 115, 667, 777

Cold Soak: 10 days

Brix: 25.8

pH: 3.72

Aged: 18 months

Alcohol: 14.95

Bottled: 1-Apr-08

Released: September 1, 2008

Cases: 300

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