Sustainable winemaking at Claiborne & Churchill, Edna valley, California

By Tobias Webb

Back in June this year I was lucky enough to meet a few more wine folks in California and record a few interviews about the history of wine in the region in modern times, how approaches have evolved and sustainability issues.

Meeting Clay Thompson and Fredericka Churchill Thompson of Claiborne & Churchill for a tasting, tour and podcast was one of my favourite afternoons spent with winemakers in recent times. They were lovely hosts and fascinating to spend a couple of hours with.

In the podcast we talked about their story of becoming winemakers, their approach and focus on Alsace grapes, and their experience with SIP Certified / Vineyard Team, who have helped them become a more sustainable vineyard.

I found most of the wines I tasted just a little too young for my palate (cashflow is king in any small business so I totally understand why they would sell them now, see below for labels) but the 2014 Reisling, now just approaching its drinking window, is completely wonderful. It has that superb viscosity, minerality, petroleum notes (which shouldn’t be a good thing but absolutely is) and a wonderful texture. A lovely, lovely food wine that I can still recall now.

I’d buy that wine any time, and we enjoyed a gifted bottle over dinner after the visit. The other wines are also very well made, and with a little bottle ageing I’m sure will be excellent.

Check out the podcast below for a little California wine history, a great story of wine entrepreneurship and some sustainability insights into what working with a group like Vineyard team can offer a winemaker.

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About the author

Tobias Webb

Toby Webb is co-founder of Sustainable Wine. He is also founder of Innovation Forum, a leading platform for change in sustainable supply chains. He has spent 20+ years working in business and sustainability and has spent ten years teaching the subject at various London universities. He advises a number of companies large and small on sustainability. Businesses he has worked with include Patagonia, Interface, Bayer, SOK Group, Boots/Walgreens, Metro, Unilever, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser, Sainsbury’s, and many others. He co-authored the UK’s national CSR strategy for David Cameron from 2006-10. He has been organising events, advising, teaching writing, blogging and podcasting on sustainable business since 2001. His (non-wine) blog is at