Wednesday, January 2, 2008

California Chardonnay Done Right : Lioco

If you think California can only produce Chardonnay's without real varietal character, think again. The 2006 Lioco Stuhlmuller Vineyard is not your buttery over-oaked chard of California's past, it is more reminiscent of a fine French Chablis. Its graceful style combined with judicious acidity makes this wine meant for food. I found this wine in my local wine shop for $25 and its a bargain. This wine is a revelation and I cannot wait to pick up more of it. I believe Lioco is proving that California wines can in fact demonstrate a sense of place.

This wine is sourced from a designated block of old vines on flank of russian river. On the foggy bank just north of the chalk hill gap lies the Stuhlmuller vineyard. It sits at confluence of Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill, and Russian River Valley appellations. Sometimes terrior can come off as just great marketing or wine snob wonkery, in this case there is a real sense of place with this wine. It's truly unique and worth your investment.

2006 Lioco Chardonnay
Stuhlmuller Vineyard
AVA : Alexander Valley

Tasting Notes:

  • Nose: I detected notes of lemon, ginger, crushed seashells, and chalk. As it warmed in the glass, more complex floral tones also became apparent.(Jasmine tea and honeysuckle). This wine continued to reveal itself as it sat. To me this is one of the hallmarks of a great wine
  • Tasting: Rounded on the palate while possessing a crisp, lively acidity. Tastes of lemons, pears, candied ginger with a lovely crisp mineral finish reminiscent of calcareous rock and seashells.
Lioco Wines are the brainchild of Matt Licklider (a seasoned wine import specialist), and Kevin O'Connor (wine director at the esteemed Spago-Beverly Hills). LI-cklider + OCO-nnor = LIOCO, in case you were wondering. The 2006 vintage is the first with their winemaker, Kevin Kelly and according to Matt and Kevin O, it' s the vintage year they will put their belief to the test, " that California can produce wines with a sense of place" Try it for yourself, and see what you think.

If you want to learn more about Lioco, start with their Brand Overview here. It's amazingly well focused. These guys have a clear vision about what want to do with wine and I think they'll be one to watch in 2008 and beyond.

Wine Making Style Choices
old-vine Wente clones
hand picked and sorted on 9/21/06
whole cluster pressed
cold fermented in stainless steel tanks using a wild yeast
malolactic fermentation began naturally
3-month fine lees contact. bottled without fining or filtration
Wine Stats: I really wish all winemakers would put these on their labels. This way the consumer could learn more quickly whether they prefer their wines dry or have been drinking much more residual sugar than they thought..
ph 3.41 TA .76g/l Residual Sugar .07g/l Brix 25.4

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matt@liocowine said...

The goal of our project is to explore whether California can produce "wines of origin"--or said another way: wines that reflect the place where they grow. The French call this concept "terroir" of course, and Kevin and I believe it is not the exclusive property of European wine.

That said, we defer to Europe for appropriate protocols--both in the vineyard and in the cellar--and integrate them into our approach. So, the vineyards we source fruit from remind us in some way of those in Europe (older vines, tougher soil, cooler climate, stress). Our winemaker, who is deeply influenced by the great wines of Burgundy, makes our wines with as little intervention as possible---employing native yeasts, natural malos, fine lees, and eschewing fining and filtration. We use stainless steel tanks (in place of oak) simply because we want as-clear-a-translation from each vineyard as possible. Steel was an easy choice because it is inert and will not impart flavor, aroma, or texture to the ensuring wine.

So, this is really an “exploratory” project in California. It is that spirit which drives us forward.

Dr. Debs said...

This sounds sooo good. Thanks to to Matt for chirping in here. Explorations of this kind are what Cali wine needs!

SB Wine Advocate said...

Thank you Matt for stopping by and adding more to the story behind Lioco. The work you are doing is very exciting and I'm glad to see someone moving California in the right direction.

Thanks Dr Debs for stopping by!

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