The third stop I made on my last trip to California was to Littorai. This is a project started in 1993 by Ted Lemon in Sonoma with a focus on producing restrained Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and Anderson Valley. Ted worked in Burgundy in the 1980′s gathering valuable experience from legendary producers.
In 1993 he started his project, Littorai, eventually moving into his own facility in Sebastopol. Littorai’s focus is squarely on building not merely a vineyard but an entire natural ecosystem where farm animals roam, insects are attracted and birds fly overhead. They grow a wide assortment of herbs and flowers in their estate garden, many of which are used in their biodynamic preparations. While I’m skeptical of some aspects of biodynamic winemaking, I can’t help but notice that the attention to detail that biodynamic winemakers posses can lead to such incredible quality and pruity in their finished wines.
After a tour through the vineyard and farm, we moved on to the wines. Across the board the quality is high here. The Vin Gris (rosé of pinot noir) and Chardonnay were high quality but not exactly my preferred style. The Pinots were lovely and the ’12′s showed especially well. They were bang on, exactly what I look for in Pinot Noir. Wonderful wine done in a lovely style.
- 2014 Littorai Pinot Noir Vin Gris – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
This pours a light neon pink. The nose, as I had expected from the colour is equally pungent with bright high toned underripe cherry, watermelon and peach. The palate is high acid with a perception of just a touch of dusty tannin and a bright tangy medium finish. Good, but I think I still prefer Provençal examples. (90 points)
- 2013 Littorai Chardonnay Thieriot Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
This comes across to me as leaning to the rich side of things. The nose blasts butter, caramel, vanilla, candied lemon, caramel apple and some vaguely tropical notes of mango and pineapple. The palate enters with a rich mouthfeel with some evident some oak poking through via caramel notes. The finish is creamy textured, moderately acidic and medium plus in length. 20% new oak, barrel fermented, 13.1% alcohol. Very good, but a tad on the rich side for my tastes, at least today. (91 points)
- 2012 Littorai Pinot Noir Les Larmes – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
Pours quite light in color. Fully transparent with a cherry core. Nose is incredibly precise and pure. I found this to be entirely red fruited. The nose is of raspberry, pomegranate, light cherries, wet earth, light brown spice, and lovely high toned florals. There is a light kiss of dusty tannin and medium plus acid on the palate. The finish is medium plus in length built on red fruit and florals. Just the slightest touch of alcohol on the finish (13.8% alcohol declared). I was getting some whole cluster character on this wine lending some secondary earth and spice to the aromatics. My guide confirmed this, but he didn’t specify what percentage was whole cluster fermented. (93 points)
- 2013 Littorai Pinot Noir The Pivot Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Seems to pour just a touch darker than the previous wine but still fully transparent to the core. This wine comes across a tad brighter and more fruit-forward. The nose is of vanilla, powdered sugar, strawberry tart, damp earth in the background and mixed shrubby herbs. The palate reveals more prominent tannins and medium plus acid. The finish built on red, slightly confected fruit. 13.1% alcohol declared. (91 points)
- 2012 Littorai Pinot Noir The Haven – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
What a fantastic wine! Gorgeous nose of cherry, strawberry, dried cranberry, blood orange, incense, smoke, damp earth, cardamom and cinnamon. Definitely some whole cluster going on here. The nose is flat out gorgeous. Medium plus tannin and medium plus acid lend a youthful mouthfeel to this structured wine. Certainly needs some time to round out the mouthfeel. I can’t imagine the peak for this wine is any sooner than 10 years away. The 13.8% alcohol, is indiscernible. (94 points)
- 2013 Littorai Pinot Noir Mays Canyon – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
This wine comes across a little tough today. The nose isn’t terribly powerful and shows youthful punchy cherry and raspberry aromas with an herbal edge. I’ll chalk this up to the trend on my trip of ’13′s being quite shut down at the moment. The palate has some of the highest tannins yet of this line-up with medium plus acid and a medium finish. Certainly could and should get better in time. (90 points)