The UK has less than two years left until the clock runs out and it will officially be out of the European Union. What that means for many industries, on both sides of the channel, is not yet clear: it has not been decided how “hard” or “soft” of a Brexit the UK and EU will agree on. As a result the internet abounds with wild speculation of all types, some of which the wine industry will certainly be affected by. I will not be adding my two cents. I am not an economist and I like to keep my politics and my wine separate. However, one thing does seem to be emerging from the fray: The Winston Churchill is back.
I am, of course, speaking of the pint-sized bottles of champagne (often referred to as just “The Churchill”) last produced by Pol Roger in 1973, not a zombified British Prime Minister (though someone should write that screenplay, stat). When the UK joined the European Economic Community and adopted the metric system for all goods sold in the UK in 1973, the last market for these uniquely sized bottles dried up and The Churchill was resigned to history.
But, with the prospect of Brexit around the corner, Pol Roger announced it is in discussions with its suppliers to bring The Churchill back for sale in the UK. Churchill himself would no doubt approve, as he seemed to find the pints of champagne to be just the right amount, observing in 1908:
A single glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced, the imagination is agreeably stirred, the wits become more nimble. A bottle produces a contrary effect. Excess causes a comatose insensibility.
Winston was famous for his drinking and his remarks about his drinking, especially champagne. Contrary to popular belief, however, the smaller bottle of champagne was not created for him specifically but was originally released by Pol Roger in 1874. Nonetheless he became closely associated with the bottle and the brand, reportedly drinking two pints a day during World War II (in between whiskey sodas starting at 9am, cognac, claret and a brandy nightcap). His fondness for the bottle earned the pints of champagne the nickname “The Winston Churchill.” Upon his death in 1965, Odette Pol Roger announced the company was in mourning and put a black band across the label of their Non Vintage White Foil. Understandable, as at his peak consumption Winston was supposedly $75,000 dollars in debt to his wine merchant. Don’t we wish we had him on our list today. In 1975 Pol Roger produced the first Cuvee Winston Churchill after the style of champagne he was most fond of to replace the pint sized bottle retired two years earlier. Though these were in the 1.5 liter magnum bottle.
Winston once remarked “I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me,” a statement which appears to ring true decades after his death with the return of the bottle of champagne most associated with him. Personally, I’m fascinated by the rapidly changing alternate-format market in wine, especially with the advent of cans both in the US and abroad. And as a history nerd I’m delighted by the nod to one of history’s greatest wine drinkers. What will be next to be resurrected? Wine in Clay amphora? I could see hipsters drinking that.
Screaming Eagle, Scarecrow, Harlan, Willams Selyem, Kosta Brown… Even a gal from small-town Idaho knows those big names, but I have a knack for seeking something adventurous and unknown, wine or otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, you can find good taste by following the crowd, and my personal cellar is crowded, but style — whether in music, art, or wine — contains a level of creativity and originality that dares one to seek the unknown. Plus, everyone loves a great discovery, and I believe that is what drives us when seeking new thrills. So, when a warehouse worker named Chris Strieter pulled me away from a droning inventory project back in 2012 to secretively show off his own wine brand stashed there, I was intrigued.
“Hey, come check this out,” Chris said, taking me over to the bottom shelf of a towering gorilla rack that reached two stories tall. He began to tell me of this dream he and his two friends shared as children playing in the vineyard together, “And so that’s how my best friends and I decided to craft Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast.” And from a dusty, indistinguishable box, he pulled a bottle of Senses 2011 Pinot Noir. There, through the excitement of our shared ambitions, I made my first discovery amongst the icons of the wine industry: Senses Wines.
Isn’t that what wine is all about? Any of us can head on down to the corner market and pick up a bottle of — insert your go-to $20 bottle of wine — and head off to our friend’s birthday party. But what drives us to, instead, reach into our coveted personal stash? Regardless if it’s a torn-up box in the back of the closet, or a custom build cellar with vintages dating back decades… I’d bet my bottom dollar the reason is driven by the desire to share a discovery that gets you stoked, and intrigues your friends.
And that’s my mission as General Manager: To make those discoveries with each of you. I invite you to come out to Occidental! Let’s raise a glass, laugh, humble ourselves, and fall in love with the gorgeous setting Chris, Max and Myles call home. Because at the bottom of each glass of Senses, there should always be good times shared and a story to tell.
We are pleased to announce the inaugural release of our wines available for sale today. We have worked tirelessly this past year to bring this dream to fruition, and are extremely excited at the opportunity to share these two wines with you. We know you will be pleased with the result: a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay representative of the best the Sonoma Coast has to offer.
Our 2011 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay displays a delicate, light straw color in the glass. It carries you through playful tropical fruit accents, subtle vanilla oak, and even floral underlinings of lavender and honeysuckle. Styled in a fresh Sonoma Coast style, this Chardonnay pays homage to its traditional Burgundy roots while remaining distinctly Californian.
The 2011 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir strikes the glass with a toasted cranberry color and cherry blossom bouquet. Enjoy red cherry flavors evolving into a red raspberry mid-palate and finishing with hints of grapefruit zest and soft tannins. This wine represents the Sonoma Coast, a region that allows the fragile Pinot Noir grape to fully express its subtle character with a light acidity that carries through to the finish.
We are very pleased with how the wines turned out, and we know you will be too. Our 2011 vintage is very limited so be sure to get your order in as soon as possible; orders will be limited to 6 bottles of each varietal. Our Chardonnay will ship this month to arrive in time for Thanksgiving when ordered by November 15th. Our Pinot Noir will ship in December to arrive in time for Christmas when ordered by December 15th. Orders can now be taken at our website:www.senseswines.com.
We thank you for being a part of our inaugural vintage and look forward to seeing you on the road to fine wine and good company!
Thanks for staying connected on twitter and facebook and thanks to those who have already purchased wine – deliveries begin next week! You are now part of our wine family and we look forward to hearing how you enjoy our wines. These elegant wines are very food friendly and perfect for family dinners during the holiday season.
We are excited to announce coming partnerships with local restaurants and wine shops in Sonoma County and the San Francisco area. We are eager to make our wines available to the general public but with our limited inventory, we want to be sure we have enough wine for you to taste. We recommend ordering your wine as soon as possible to ensure you reserve an opportunity to experience our inaugural vintage and to excite your senses.
A few parting announcements:
All orders purchased by Thursday (11/15) will begin shipping Friday
Please enjoy a case discount of 10% for orders totaling 12 bottles
(coupon code: case)
Currently only shipping to CA addresses
Out of state purchasers can reserve their bottles by placing their order for will call, and will need to contact us directly to arrange for pick up.
Christopher Strieter Max Thieriot Myles Lawrence-Briggs
Myles has done a great job of keeping us up-to-date with progress in the vineyards, but it’s about time for another member of the Senses trio to start contributing to this blog. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Chris, and I, along with Myles and Max, am a co-founder of Sense Wines.
The time has finally arrived! We are thrilled to officially announce the launch of our label: Senses. After much thought, collaboration and hard work, three childhood friends have come together to create two handcrafted wines representative of the area in which we grew up: Occidental, or the True Sonoma Coast. This area is home to some of the best cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards in the world. Our name reflects how wine should be approached – that is, using your three “wine senses” to see, smell and taste.
With 2011 production under 100 cases, this is a very limited release – and highly anticipated thanks to the incredible support we’ve received during this journey. The wines will sell out quickly – so stay tuned for our exclusive release in November and experience Senses Wines from the very beginning!
We look forward to sharing our adventure. It’s been a wild ride so far and this is only the beginning!