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.

Wine Maker

Ted Lemon

Country

USA

Region

California


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Wines from this Winery


LITTORAI Chardonnay Charles Heintz Vineyard

The Charles Heintz Vineyard was planted in 1982 and is farmed organically. Just a few miles from the ocean, it 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. The high elevation protects the vineyard from spring frosts; buds break early, resulting in a longer growing season that encourages ripening without accumulating sugar. Littorai has made wine from the same rows of vines since 1995. About the 2021 wines, the winery writes they are “floral wines with very good richness, like their 2020 brethren, and excellent freshness. The initial palate impression is of richness but this yields to a muscle core of acidity. They have more than sufficient concentration for aging, but like 2020 have excellent charm for those who prefer to drink Chardonnay very young.

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¥21,560 (incl. tax)
LITTORAI Chardonnay B.A. Thieriot Vineyard

The B.A. Thieriot Vineyard is planted on a ridge, 350 m above the town of Occidental, in Sonoma County. The vineyard is protected from strong winds by a ridge to the north and from excessive fog by its elevation. Farming the site with a long-term lease, Littorai uses organic and biodynamic methods and no irrigation. Yields are minuscule – less a three tons per acre  – yet the grapes consistently produce Chardonnay that’s bracing, intense, energetic, and pure. 2021 was a vintage that offered better yields and less stress (no wildfires!) than 2021. The Wine Advocate describes the 2021 as “electric this vintage! It has pretty scents of peaches and lime peel with mineral tones of saline and iodine. The light-bodied palate is luxurious and satiny as it moves through the mouth, enlivened by laser-like acidity, and it has a long, shimmery finish.”

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¥21,560 (incl. tax)
LITTORAI Pinot Noir

Les Larmes is an Anderson Valley appellation wine made to enjoy on release. The name refers to the tears shed in 2005, when the One Acre Vineyard succumbed to phylloxera, and the vines had to be ripped out. Compared with the Sonoma Coast blend, it has a bit more density, power, and tannin concentration. In 2022, the blend consists of 27% from declassified barrels of Cerise, Savoy, Wendling, Roman and One Acre, and 32% press wine from those same vineyards. 18% is from a separate block at Wendling that is dedicated to the Les Larmes bottling. The final 23% comes from the winery’s Deer Meadows estate vineyard in the hills above Boonville. If the wine seems a bit tight on first opening a bottle, 30 minutes in a decanter should release the red fruit and floral bouquet. The Les Larmes has the backbone and structure to pair with hearty, savory fare and (despite Ted Lemon’s encouragement to drink it young) should evolve and age gracefully over the next few years.

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¥12,650 (incl. tax)
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LITTORAI Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

The Sonoma Coast bottling is one of Littorai’s two appellation wines. Ripe, rich, and lively with bright acidity, the 2022 offers an early glimpse of a promising vintage. 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 a fan of Pinot Noir that’s light on its feet, moderate in alcohol, and full of vibrant red fruit flavor, you will love Littorai’s Sonoma Coast. 

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¥15,840 (incl. tax)
LITTORAI Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard

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¥20,460 (incl. tax)
LITTORAI Pinot Noir Pivot Vineyard

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. Ted Lemon has described 2021 as a riper vintage, with Pinots that are highly concentrated and structured, but also riper, softer, slightly lower in acidity, and ready to drink in an earlier timeframe. Vinous described the wine as “ridiculously beautiful. Dark, ample and sweeping in its grandeur, the 2021 possesses off-the-charts intensity and tons of character. Inky dark fruit, lavender, spice, menthol, mocha and dried herbs saturate the palate. Rich and explosive to the core, the 2021 is tremendous.”

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¥20,900 (incl. tax)
LITTORAI Pinot Noir One Acre

High up in the mountains above Booneville in the Anderson Valley, The One Acre vineyard provided the fruit for Ted and Heidi Lemon’s very first California Pinot back in 1993. This windy site, which is farmed using organic and biodynamic methods, still produces some of the richest, most seductive, and complex wines in the Littorai portfolio. In 2016, they purchased the vineyard and expanded it to 3.5 acres. According to Ted Lemon, the 2021 Pinots are among the most concentrated and structured Littorai has yet produced. The Wine Advocate described the 2021 One Acre as having “an appealing wildness to its character, with aromatics slow to unwind from a deep core of red cherry, cranberry and blood orange to finer accents of tobacco, iodine, dried herbs and bitters. The palate is approachable and juicy with understated, bitters-laced fruit and a long, spicy finish.”

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¥22,000 (incl. tax)