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


2019 Littorai Anderson Valley

Les Larmes – “the tears" – refer to real tears shed in 2005, when the prized One Acre Vineyard in the Anderson Valley succumbed to phylloxera, and the vines had to be ripped out. For a few years, Les Larmes was made from the fruit of the new vines in the replanted One Acre vineyard. Since 2017, it has been blended from top sites used for single-vineyard designates. In 2019, 35% of the blend came from de-classified lots from the Cerise, Savoy, Wendling and One Acre vineyards, 35% from a separate block in Wendling that is now dedicated to “Les Larmes,” and another 25% from a newly-acquired estate vineyard located near the One Acre vineyard above Booneville. Les Larmes is made to enjoy young. Look for vibrant and mouthwatering dark and red fruit flavors with hints of forest floor. It has a bit more density than the Sonoma Coast bottling with more power, tannin concentration, and an umami note as well. Lovely acidity and structure make for excellent pairings with hearty and savory meals.

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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)
2019 Littorai B.A. Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay

The B.A. Thieriot Vineyard is planted on a ridge, 350 m above the town of Occidental, in Sonoma County. While maritime winds are strong and fogs chilly, the vineyard is protected by an even higher ridge to the north. Farming the site with a long-term lease, Littorai uses organic and biodynamic methods and no irrigation. Yields are minuscule – less than three tons per acre  – yet the grapes consistently produce Chardonnay that’s bracing, intense, energetic, and pure. 2019 began with significant rainfall lasting into late spring, which meant irrigation wasn’t required. The summer was moderate to warm, with cooler temperatures settling in in September. While the vineyards required a lot of attention, the quality is shaping up to be excellent. In the winery, the Littorai team decided to add some crushing to its regime of whole-cluster pressing Chardonnay. But since they don’t own a crusher, feet were employed to tread the grapes while still in the picking bins. The Thieriot Chardonnay is made only from the free run and lightly-pressed juice, which is racked to barrel for native yeast fermentation. About this wine, the winery said, “On the palate, this is, as usual, tighter and more linear than either Charles Heintz or Mays and it possesses a touch of phenolics which lends a pithy quality to the finish. Crackling acidity on the finish. This is all about precision and length.”

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¥15,840 (incl. tax)
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2019 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, a Chardonnay that typically features aromas of pear blossom, honeysuckle and jasmine as well as good mid palate richness associated with significant acidity. Antonio Galloni said, “The 2019 Chardonnay Charles Heintz Vineyard shows the textural pliancy typical of this site, while also retaining terrific freshness and verve, with fewer of the tropical overtones that are often found in Heintz Chardonnays. All the elements are so impeccably balanced."

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¥15,840 (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)
2019 Littorai One Acre Pinot Noir

The One Acre vineyard sits at an elevation of 500 meters in the mountains northeast of Booneville, 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. Littorai has a long history with the One Acre Vineyard, as it 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 winery has found that conditions in 2019 produced wines that are delicate and perfumed. According to Ted Lemon, “where the 2018 version was unusually dark and tannic, the 2019 offers seductive mouthfeel and tannins from start to finish. Very harmonious now. This clearly falls into the camp of wines which will be immediately appealing and gratifying in the 2019 vintage.”

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¥17,600 (incl. tax)
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