Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Littorai Wines: Elegance and Integrity

If you enjoy wines made with integrity and character, Littorai Wines of Heidi and Ted Lemon must be on your wish list and in your cellar.  Littorai is located outside of Sebastopol in Sonoma County, California.  Their vineyards are on the North Coast in Sonoma Coast, western Sonoma, and Anderson Valley in Mendocino County.  The renowned cool morning fog of the North Coast produces age worthy Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines that are bright, fresh, aromatic, and elegant.  Ted Lemon trained and apprenticed in Burgundy and was the first American to be hired as the winemaker and vineyard manager in Burgundy at Domaine Guy Roulot in Meursault.  The Littorai stable harmonically reflects and personifies the individual and unique terroir of each designated vineyard. Syrah "wannabe” wines will not be found here.

Integrity is illustrated through integrated sustainability and biodynamic agriculture practices. With Littorai, these are not mere buzzwords, but a whole way of life.  A newly constructed winery exemplifies the green revolution.  Dormer windows in the winery open automatically in the early morning to capture the cool morning air and is cycled throughout the bales of straw insulated facility maintaining appropriate temperatures.  The air conditioning has been used only once this year.  Wastewater is recycled and used for vineyard and property irrigation.

A further reflection of the Littorai character is Ted Lemon’s decision to declassify the 2008 Savoy, Cerise and Roman Vineyards in Anderson Valley and the Hirsch Vineyard in Sonoma Coast due to wildfire smoke.  Bottled under the Sonoma Coast and Les Larmes Pinot Noir labels, the 2008s are for early drinking and excellent value. 

During a recent visit to the winery, I tasted three of the 2006 Pinot Noir designated vineyards, Thieriot Vineyard (Sonoma Coast), Roman Vineyard (Anderson Valley) and the Haven (Sonoma Coast).  Thieriot has a lovely rich texture with notes of raspberry, pepper and graphite.  The Roman Vineyard, which is similar to Hirsch, is aromatic and lies in a more moderate climate with lesser daily temperature swings than the higher altitude vineyards.  If you like mouthwatering, balanced acidity in your Pinot Noir, you will be sure to love the Haven Vineyard with its significant fog influence.  I have tasted the Hirsch previously and found it to have a firm structure with excellent aging potential.

Although Littorai is known more for its Pinot Noir, please do not overlook the Chardonnay lineup.  They are nothing short of outstanding. Their freshness, acidity and judicious use of oak mirror high quality white Burgundy. The pear, melon and floral Charles Heintz Vineyard will soon arrive in my cellar.  While I was devouring a succulent veal chop, David Baker, sommelier at John Ash & Co in Santa Rosa, offered high praise for the Littorai Chardonnays, particularly the Thieriot Vineyard.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention other members of the Littorai team.  Neil Bernardi (photo), the associate winemaker, is a bright, energetic young man who truly appreciates his blessed opportunity to apprentice under the masterful Ted Lemon.  And the personable and enthusiastic evangelist of the Littorai story, Sheri Wood (photo), can handle all of your ordering, tasting and informational needs.  Please check out the Littorai wines at www.littorai.com

In the coming days, there will be more from Sonoma with Lynmar, Merry Edwards, Copain, Ledson and other estates.  

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