BELLA LUNA VINEYARD
Churchill Cellars specializes in the production of premium Pinot Noir from grapes grown on less than 2 acre estate vineyards. We believe that small, precision-farmed vineyards in the coolest regions of the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations produce the region’s most exceptional Pinot Noirs. We also believe that great wine is made in the vineyard, so each one is lovingly farmed by hand to produce the perfectly, evenly ripened fruit required to make an outstanding wine.
The Bella Luna Vineyard is only 1 acre in size and was planted in 2000. In 2003, our first Pinot Noir won a gold medal in the San Francisco Wine Competition. The vineyard is located on Ken and Susan Churchill's ranch on Olivet Road in the Russian River Valley. The vines are planted on 4' x 4' spacing. The Pacific Ocean's cooling coastal influence, Sebastopol Sandy Loam soil composition, and Dijon clones selections of 115, 459, 667, and 777 all work together to produce the pure fruit forward taste that the Russian River Valley is famous for.
BURKE FAMILY VINEYARD
The Burke Family Vineyard is 1.25 acres in size and located outside the town of Cotati in the Russian River Valley appellation. Clones 113, 115, 667, and 777 are planted on 4' x 3.5' spacing. Close spacing keeps the vines smaller with less fruit and causes the vines root systems to compete with each other and encourages downward growth. These factors work together to produce wines with complex and concentrated flavors.
As good stewards the land, our grape growers employ sustainable farming practices. They eliminate or reduce use of toxic chemicals and pesticides and use hand-farming methods and drip irrigation systems to conserve energy and water. To reduce waste, they compost organic materials from the vineyard and chip pruned canes instead of burning them, helping to reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions. Finally, the growers enlist nature's help against fighting unwanted pests by building insectaries alongside the vineyard and creating homes for barn owls that control the gopher population.
Precision farming incorporates specific techniques that improve grape quality. It also reduces harvest yield, but quality not quantity is our goal. Precision farming ensures that all the grapes ripen evenly. Unripe grapes cause the wine to taste bitter, and overripe, raisin-like grapes make the wine too sweet. The key to evenly ripened fruit is a well-maintained leaf canopy. Our growers manage the growth of vines by passing through the vineyard five or six times during the growing season to remove unwanted shoots and suckers, top the vines and drop fruit that is not ripening fast enough.
Minimal watering and stressing the vines keeps the berries small, resulting in the concentrate flavors of our wines.
WINEMAKER – ANTHONY AUSTIN
Anthony grew up in Sonoma County and received his Enology degree from the University of California at Davis. After graduation, he honed his winemaking skills under the tutelage of the world-renowned winemaker, Andre Tchelistcheff, considered the father of American Pinot Noir.
Anthony moved to the Central Coast region of California and became the founding winemaker at Firestone Vineyards before starting his own winery, Austin Cellars. His Central Coast wines are highly acclaimed. His wines won numerous Double Gold Medals and Best of Class awards in world-wide competitions.
In 2001 Anthony sold his winery and returned home to Sonoma County to make wines for a group of small premium grape growers, like Churchill Cellars.
The philosophy of Anthony Austin is to create hand made, food friendly and elegant wines of great purity using minimal cellar manipulation, unhurried fermentation and the finest French Oak barrels.
We pick our grapes at 23 to 25 Brix when the flavors are full in the early morning hours to ensure the grapes don't start fermentation before they arrive at the winery.
Once they arrive the grapes are de-stemmed and placed in containers for a prolonged nine to ten day cold soak. The cold soak extracts the broad spectrum of flavor components and creates the smooth, elegant characteristics of a great Pinot Noir. During the soaking process, the fruit is punched down two times per day. This gentle manipulation of the cap assures balanced extraction without creating rough tannins.
Before pressing, the fruit is inoculated with Assmanhausen yeast, which finishes the fermentation with a focus on fruit expression.
The grapes are then pressed and the juice is placed in French oak barrels where it ages for 18 months. We prefer to use new French barrels which do not impart flavors into the wine enabling the full expression of the fruit to come through.
Our wines are not filtered, unless we feel filtering will add to the elegance and suppleness to the wine. After bottling, we wait 6 months to release the wines, so they are ready to enjoy.
We hope you will try our wines and love them as much as we love growing the fruit and producing them for you.
Ken & Susan Churchill