Discovering Edna Valley

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This post comes to us from guest Blogger Mira Advani Honeycutt, author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles.

If you are a fan of dry Riesling and aromatic Gewurztraminer, then Claiborne & Churchill is the wine for you. Former teachers Clay Thompson (specializing in Old Norse language) and his wife Fredricka Churchill (she taught German) have a passion for Alsatian style wines. They launched their label in 1983 in the cool appellation of Edna Valley, on the Central Coast.

Their wines are crisp and fresh and laced with aromatic fruits – but not sweet.

Although known for whites (including Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc), the team makes three types of Pinot Noir and the velvety Barrel Select Rumestone Pinot. Other reds vary with each vintage ranging from Syrah, Tempranillo and Malbec.

The two small appellations of Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande are located between Santa Maria and Paso Robles. The approach to this region is through the historic town of Arroyo Grande which leads to the expansive valley cradled by the Santa Lucia Mountains.

The cool breezes from nearby Pacific make this corridor excellent region for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Most of the twenty-five plus, mostly family-owned wineries are tucked along back country roads. Not all are open to public.

A winery I discovered on my recent trip to Edna Valley is Wedell Cellars. Maurice and Susie Wedell established their label in 1994 with five acres of vineyards in Edna Valley and hired master vintner John Alban to handcraft their wines. The result is Burgundian style earthy Pinots  and lush Chardonnays with a balanced acidity. In addition to their estate vineyards the Wedells source their Pinot fruit from Santa Rita Hill’s prized Fiddlestix vineyards.

Maurice and Susie Wedell of Wedell Cellars in Edna Valley
Maurice and Susie Wedell of Wedell Cellars in Edna Valley (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Wedell is not open to public, so we taste their pricey wines (ranging from $55-$125) in their dining room, accompanied with cheeses and charcuterie. These wines are available at Red Carpet and online.

Other wineries to visit in this area that are open to public and noted for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are Chamisal (formerly Domaine Alfred), Laetitia, Baileyana and Talley.