Ken and Susan Churchill are Pinot Noir enthusiasts who sold their environmental consulting business
and moved to the Russian River Valley to make ultra-premium Pinot Noir. Their first Pinot Noir, the
2003 Churchill Cellars Bella Luna Vineyard Pinot Noir, won a Gold Medal at the 2006 San Francisco
Chronicle Wine Competition. Inspired by their success, they are now pursuing their dream in earnest.
They are committed to sustainable and precision farming and have talented winemaker, Anthony
Austin, on board to steer the ship. Anthony Austin crafted some memorable Pinot Noirs in the early
days of Santa Barbara County wine history and is also currently the winemaker at Sonoma Coast Vineyards.
Winemaking is typical for California Pinot Noir. The grapes are de-stemmed and cold soaked for 9
days. Punch downs are done twice a day. The fruit is fermented with both natural and Assmanhausen
yeast. The grapes are then pressed and placed in new French oak barrels for 18 months.
The estate vineyard, Bella Luna Vineyard, is located on the Churchill Estate in the Russian River Valley.
Soils are sandy loam and clonal selections are Dijon 115, 667, 777, and 459.. The vineyard is planted
with 4’ x 4’ spacing, similar to Burgundy. Watering is kept to a minimum to mildly stress the vines and
concentrate the flavors in the grapes.
2004 Churchill Cellars Russian River Valley Blend Pinot Noir
alc., 479 cases, $36. This wine is a blend of six Russian River Valley and
Sonoma Coast vineyards. Clones are Dijon 115, 667, 777, Swan and
Pommard 3. 25% whole clusters are added in. Aged in 50% new Tonnellerie
Sirugue oak barrels and 50% seasoned barrels.
This is a medium to fullbodied
Pinot Noir with a deep, ruby color. Aromas of damp leaves and dark
stone fruits lead to fruit-driven flavors. The wine is tight and concentrated at
this stage, and although it is fat on the palate, it lacks acidity. As it warms, the
nose and finish deliver a little heat.
2004 Churchill Cellars Bella Luna Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 124 cases, $45. 15-18% whole clusters. Aging and winemaking
the same as above.
The aromatics in this wine are to die for: ripe cherries, vanilla,
and Xmas spice. Tasted over a few hours, the wine kept pumping out
these terrific aromas and I was thoroughly content just to sniff. It was a nose
you could drink. I am convinced that this type of perfume is distinctive and
typical of great Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs. The wine is full-bodied and
rich with red and black fruits and tea flavors, but the nose trumps the flavors at this point. The mouth feel
is luxurious. A slight astringency at the finish will flush out with cellaring. This vineyard is a star in the
making and in the same mold as its neighboring prestigious vineyards such as Olivet Lane and Olivet
Churchill Cellars is located at 1574 Olivet Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95401. The phone number is 707-578-
5393. Wine may be purchased on the website at www.churchill-cellars.com.