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.

Wine Maker

Ted Lemon





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Wines from this Winery

2018 Littorai Anderson Valley

Les Larmes is an Anderson Valley appellation wine that is blended from de-classified barrels and press wine from such vineyards as Cerise, Savoy, Wendling and One Acre. In French, Les Larmes means "the tears." Those tears were shed in 2005, when the One Acre Vineyard succumbed to phylloxera, and the vines had to be ripped out. At first, Les Larmes was made from the fruit of the new vines in the replanted One Acre vineyard. Like Littorai’s Sonoma Coast appellation wine, Les Larmes is made to be enjoyed young. While it’s a vibrant, mouthwatering wine with aromas of raspberry and cranberry, it nevertheless impresses with power and earthiness.

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¥10,450 (incl. tax)
2019 Littorai Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

The Sonoma Coast bottling is one of Littorai’s two appellation wines. While the Les Larmes from Anderson Valley is generally darker and more structured, the Sonoma Coast is delicate and precise. According to the winery, “50% of the final blend comes from the Twin Hills vineyard just south of Sebastopol, 17% comes from declassified vineyard designate lots: Hirsch, Mays Canyon, The Pivot, The Haven and Thieriot vineyards. 33% is sourced from press wines from these same vineyards.” The Sonoma Coast Pinot spends less time in barrel than the vineyard-designated wines 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! 

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¥10,450 (incl. tax)
2018 Littorai Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir

The Savoy Vineyard is located just north of Philo, in the upper reaches of Mendocino’s Anderson Valley, the part that stays rather cool and foggy most of the summer. But because the vineyard is on a valley floor, it is protected from winds, and the environment is rather less harsh than in other vineyards that hug the Pacific coast. The more benign conditions may be one reason why adjectives like “soft,” “feminine,” “delicate,” and “forward,” are often used to describe this wine. Savoy vineyard Pinots feature joyous raspberry, plums and cherry as well as earthy notes of fern, wet moss and minerals. Antonio Galloni called the 2018 “A stellar wine in the making… Bright and focused, with terrific energy, the 2018 is a wine of pure and total class.” Ted Lemon suggests game as a good match with Savoy Pinot Noir. 

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¥14,960 (incl. tax)
2017 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. Antonio Galloni noted that the 2017 B.A. Thieriot is “airy, gracious and translucent. The heat of the year has softened some of the more angular contours this wine can show when young. In exchange, though, the 2017 will drink well right out of the gate.”

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¥15,840 (incl. tax)
2017 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 2017, 25% whole cluster fermentation helped produce a wine with a wonderful lift and perfume. Allow this light/medium-bodied wine a few minutes in the glass to begin revealing its charms. Pretty and in perfect balance, it offers wild strawberry, raspberries, sour cherry, violets, vanilla, peppery notes, and savory tones.

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¥15,840 (incl. tax)
2018 Littorai Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay
2018 Littorai One Acre Pinot Noir

The One Acre vineyard sits at an elevation of 500 meters in the mountains northeast of Boonville, in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley. The windy site, farmed using organic and biodynamic methods, produces some of the richest, most seductive and complex wines in the Littorai portfolio. While Littorai’s One Acre Pinot Noir is a new offering for us here at Hotei Wines, the vineyard provided the fruit for Ted and Heidi Lemon’s very first California Pinot back in 1993. In 2016, they purchased the vineyard (and even expanded its size to 3.5 acres) to ensure access to these fine grapes forever. The 2018 is dark in color with aromas of rose hip tea, dried flowers, cocoa and earthy notes. On entry, it’s rich, balancing fine-grained, delicate tannins with intense acidity. Give it some time to open up — either in the glass or in the cellar. 

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¥16,940 (incl. tax)