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


2020 Littorai Anderson Valley

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 2020, the blend consists of 40% from declassified barrels of Cerise, Savoy, Wendling, Roman and One Acre, and 31% press wine from those same vineyards. 17% is from a separate block at Wendling that is dedicated to the Les Larmes bottling. The final 12% 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)
2021 Littorai Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

The Sonoma Coast bottling is one of Littorai’s two appellation wines. Ripe, rich, and lively with bright acidity, the 2021 offers an early glimpse of a promising vintage. According to the winery, “36% of the final blend comes from Richardson Ranch in Annapolis on the northern end of the Sonoma Coast, 10% is from Balinard Vineyard in the western hills of Sebastopol. 33% is sourced from press wines of vineyard designate lots: Hirsch, Mays Canyon, The Pivot, The Haven, and Thieriot 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 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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¥12,650 (incl. tax)
2019 Littorai Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir

The Savoy Vineyard is located just north of Philo, in the upper reaches of Mendocino’s Anderson Valley, where the climate can remain cool and foggy much 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 described the 2019 as “a wine of remarkable precision…. all energy and verve. Mint, white pepper, alpine flowers and bright red fruit lend striking aromatic brilliance to this finely sculpted, translucent Pinot.” Try it with grilled salmon, seared tuna, or chicken, pork, and vegetarian dishes. 

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¥16,280 (incl. tax)
2019 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. Conditions in 2019 produced a moderately large crop in Littorai’s vineyards, necessitating some crop thinning; the wines are more floral, perfumed, and delicate than the 2018s. In fact, you might consider opening the 2019 Pivot sooner while cellaring the 2018. According to Ted Lemon, “this wine is all about elegance and finesse. Pomegranate, dried cranberry, red licorice, yellow rose, citrus tones, and graphite. This is a very expressive wine aromatically and the palate follows suit with supple tannins that build slowly on the palate, great fruit intensity, and seductive richness.” 

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¥16,940 (incl. tax)
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2020 Littorai B.A. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay
2020 Littorai Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay

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 2020 vintage, the winery writes, “Lime, lemon, green apple, Anjou pear, hazelnuts, roasted almonds, and a hint of new wood. Beautiful stone fruit lingers on the finish. This is the most forward and giving of the Chardonnays in 2020 and was much appreciated by the team during our pre-bottling tasting. It shares a gentle richness on the mid-palate and driving acidity on the finish.”

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¥19,580 (incl. tax)
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2020 Littorai One Acre Pinot Noir

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 even expanded its size to 3.5 acres) to ensure access to these fine grapes. According to the winery, the 2020 “is an unusually fresh and vibrant version of One Acre with finely etched notes of red and black fruits, quince, alpine strawberries, red licorice, rose petal, black tea, cinnamon, white pepper, and candlewax. The palate begins with a delightfully supple entry, then very good density and concentration with a lovely cut of acidity which underlines the bright fruit tones. Assertive tannins and a long, pure finish ensure that this wine will show beautifully at a relatively young age.”

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¥20,900 (incl. tax)
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