Littorai

A sense of place

Ted Lemon is a winegrower, not a winemaker. Winegrowing implies that careful and conscientious farming is the primary step in crafting wines that express their terroir. Littorai was founded in 1993 after Ted and Heidi Lemon took an epic wine tasting tour from Walla Walla, Washington, to Santa Barbara in search of a spot that would yield great Pinot Noir. They became convinced that Northern California coast offered the best potential. Littorai’s wines have since become the benchmark for a new style of California Pinot Noir that strives to be a “wine of place.” These wines are lighter in color and alcohol and less extravagant and ripe, but strikingly fresh, pure, and vibrant – aromatic and flavorful without being weighty or opulent. Burgundy was an early influence on Lemon. He studied enology at the Université de Dijon, apprenticed at several Burgundy houses and was appointed head of Domaine Guy Roulot in Meursault – all by the age of 25! But though Burgundy has been a model for Littorai, it was never a template. Instead, he lets the terroir of his vineyards suggest how best to cultivate them and craft their wines. These vineyards are located along the littoral, the coastal edge of California, on rugged hillsides in the Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) and along the Sonoma Coast. Here ocean fogs bless the vines with an extended growing season, but more importantly, the soils are so diverse (as a result of the area’s turbulent geology) that even nearby vineyards can produce wines of different aroma, flavor and ageability. Littorai focuses on single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but also makes two appellation bottlings with those barrels or vineyard lots that do not meet the highest standards. Littorai owns just one estate vineyard (The Pivot, near Sebastopol), but sources the rest via “by the acre” contracts or long term leases that allow Lemon to plant and work the vineyards as he pleases, even if the yields are tiny. A firm believer in biodynamie, the estate operates an integrated farm, with vineyards, pastures, and woodland combined into one holistic unit, but even the non-estate vineyards are farmed organically without any fertilizers beyond vineyard compost. Winemaking involves fermenting the Pinot Noir with some amount of whole clusters in traditional open-top fermenters with natural yeasts and without (or with very little) sulphur or other additives. The wines age in (partially new) French oak for up to 16 months. If rich, mouth-coating, opulent black fruit is what you expect in a California Pinot Noir, Littorai’s wines may provoke a surprise. Prepare for floral and red fruit aromas, vibrant flavors, fresh acidity and a tannic structure that will allow the wines to develop and blossom over the years.

Wines from this Winery

2015 Littorai Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

2015 Littorai Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Every vineyard that Littorai farms is intended to be used as a vineyard-designated wine. Nevertheless, every year some amount of wine is declassified into either the Sonoma Coast or Anderson Valley bottlings. A block of vines may yet be too young –  or yielding too little due to disease. Another block may have suffered in a heat wave. Some barrels of one clone or another might not fit into the final blend. The 2015 Sonoma Coast consists of 21% declassified vineyard-designated lots, 47% pressed wine from the single vineyard wines, and 32% Goldrock Vineyard, located in a remote area well north of the Hirsch Vineyard in Jenner. The Sonoma Coast Pinot spends less time in barrel and in a lower percentage of new oak, which makes it more appropriate for early drinking. If you are looking for Pinot Noir that’s vibrant and alive with bright fruit flavor rather than dense and alcoholic, this one’s for you! 

Details
¥ 9,500
2013 Littorai Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir

2013 Littorai Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir

Littorai’s only vineyard planted on a valley floor, Savoy is located just north of Philo, at the upper end of the Anderson Valley, where nighttime summer fogs are thick and chilly. On the other hand, because the vineyard is protected from winds by the surrounding hills, the environment is much less harsh than, say, the one at the Hirsch Vineyard. The more benign conditions may be one reason why adjectives like “soft,” “feminine,” “delicate,” and “forward,” are often used to describe this wine. The 2013 is fresh and aromatically complex with bright red fruit and plenty of grip and structure. It’s delicious now but some bottle age - or some time to open up in the glass - will increase the pleasure it is sure to bring.

Details
¥ 12,000
2014 Littorai Pivot Vineyard Pinot Noir

2014 Littorai Pivot Vineyard Pinot Noir

Located in the hills just outside of Sebastopol about 11 km from the coast, the Pivot is Littorai’s own estate vineyard and home to the winery. Five clones of Pinot Noir grow on the property, which is farmed sustainably using biodynamic methods. Planted in 2004, the vineyard is just entering a mature phase and gradually beginning to reveal its true personality. In recent vintages, the Pivot’s wines appear to be about a balance between generosity of fruit and flavor and structured elegance. In 2014, copious yields required significant crop thinning, but smaller berries led to a wine of great depth and concentration. Ted Lemon believes this may be his best Pivot to date as it’s a complex and forthcoming wine with wonderful red fruit and floral aromatics, chewy tannins, bright acidity and minerality.

Details
¥ 12,800
2014 Littorai Platt Vineyard Pinot Noir

2014 Littorai Platt Vineyard Pinot Noir

Nestled among rolling hills just six miles from the coast, the Platt Vineyard overlooks the quaint seaside town of Bodega from an elevation of about 750 ft. The coastal location guarantees enough rainfall that irrigation is not needed. The blocs farmed by Littorai were planted in 2004, meaning that the vines are just entering maturity. While 2014 yielded such a large enough crop that thinning was required, the fruit was dark and concentrated and the resulting wine has a fabulous balance of dark and red fruit, spice, earth – and such spine that time in the glass or cellar is needed for this wine to reveal its magic. 

Details
¥ 12,800
2014 Littorai Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir

2014 Littorai Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir

Two hours north of San Francisco, near the mouth of the Russian River, the Hirsch Vineyard is planted along a rolling 500 m. ridge top within view of the Pacific Ocean. Until the 1980s, this was cattle country. With the San Andreas Fault just a few miles away, the soils are complex and gravelly – too poor for most crops. Extremely wet winters as well as winds, fogs and dry summers - not to mention the distance to established “wine country” - kept these hills off winemakers’ radars, until people realized these conditions and soils favor a fresher, more vibrant style of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. As a purchaser of Hirsch Vineyard fruit since 1994, Littorai has demonstrated the consistent excellence and longevity of its wines. Conditions were so good in 2014 that rigorous thinning was required in the vineyards to prevent excessive yields. The Hirsch vineyards produced concentrated wines with structure, depth and excellent potential for aging. 

Details
¥ 12,800
Out of Stock
2014 Littorai B.A. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay

2014 Littorai B.A. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay

Like the Charles Heintz Vineyard, the B.A. Thieriot Vineyard is planted along a 350 m ridge near Occidental, in Sonoma County. But it’s closer to the ocean and overlooks Bodega Bay. While maritime winds are strong and fogs chilly, the vineyard is protected by a ridge to the north. Farming the site with a long-term lease, Littorai uses organic and biodynamic methods and no irrigation. Yields are miniscule – less than three tons per acre  – yet the grapes consistently produce Chardonnay that’s bracing, intense, energetic and pure. In 2014, the dry conditions pushed the growing season to start and end significantly earlier than usual. Tightness on the palate and high total acidity suggest a significant potential for ageing, yet the aromatics and bright fruit flavors make opening a bottle difficult to resist.

Details
¥ 13,600
Out of Stock
2014 Littorai Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay

2014 Littorai Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay

Like a Grand Cru vineyard in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, the Charles Heintz vineyard is situated in a geographical sweet spot. Just miles from the Pacific Ocean, near Occidental, in Sonoma County, the vineyard sits at an elevation of 250 m on a rolling plateau that is cooled by ocean fogs and breezes but also warmed by air rising from the Santa Rosa Plain. Because of the high elevation, the vineyard is never damaged by spring frosts. Budbreak typically starts earlier than in other nearby vineyards, resulting in a longer growing season that encourages excellent ripeness without high sugar levels. Littorai has been purchasing fruit from the same rows of vines since 1995, producing a Chardonnay that typically features aromas of pear blossom, honeysuckle and jasmine as well as good mid palate richness associated with significant acidity. In 2014, lack of rainfall led to an early harvest, yet yields were not down significantly and the winery was pleased with the quality of the grapes, noting high acidity. The wine is nothing if not distinctive: from the intriguing, hard-to-pin-down aromas to the seductive weight and mouthwatering acidity. Be sure to give this wine some time to open up – in the glass if not in the cellar. 

Details
¥ 13,600
Out of Stock