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We Love California…

…for her vast and diverse landscapes. Our constant quest for new vineyard sources has led us to some of the Golden State’s last frontiers.  And it’s brought us face-to-face with California’s unspoken heroes—the grape growers.

Scott Becker & Sam Ausburn
Scott Becker & Sam Ashburn
A New Chapter at Cerise/Demuth
Anderson Valley
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John Balletto
John Balletto
Green-Thumbed Survivor
Russian River Valley
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We knew of John's pedigree as a Sonoma County vegetable grower. When water became a scarce, he deftly converted his ranches to grape growing. When we first met him, we spoke not a word about his once legendary zucchinis. Chardonnay was the topic.

John showed us a map of the area with an overlay of the vineyards now under his purview. He explained them one at a time detailing the specifics of each site. The last one, located far out on Burnside Road, he seemed to downplay. "It's a stressed, older vineyard with low yields, and a late-ripening arc." Check. Check. Check. We went there first, tried to maintain our poker faces, and negotiated a fruit contract with our boots still on the soil.

 

Appellation: Russian River Valley
Vineyard designate: N/A
Soil type: Goldridge
Elevation: 200 feet
Clone: Clone 4
Average age of vines: 30+ years

 

Unique aspect: leaf roll virus, small yields, marginal sea-influenced climate
Sourced for: Russian River Valley Chardonnay
What to expect from the wines: Chardonnays with exciting tension between the yellow fruit flavors and stoney minerality.

Prudy Foxx
Prudy Foxx
AKA "The Vine Whisperer"
Santa Cruz Mountains
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When you get Prudy Foxx talking about the Santa Cruz Mountains, you are bound to be taken on a journey to a hillside vine somewhere. Since 1989, she's been on a one-woman's mission to locate neglected vineyards, improve the farming, and find the right home for the grapes.

At our first meeting, she compared the deep, sandy soils of Corralitos to a Great White Shark (both are slow to adopt the ambient temperature of their surroundings). Then she promptly led us to two stunning vineyard sites, La Marisma and Saveria, both on sand.

 

Appellation: Santa Cruz Mountains
Vineyard designate: La Marisma, Savaria
Soil type: sand and calcareous
Elevation: 200 feet
Clone: Chardonnay Mt. Eden Clone & Clone 96, Pinot Noir Clones Pommard & 115
Average age of vines: 15+ years

Unique aspect: both sites within five miles of the Pacifc on distinctive, sandy soils
Sourced for: La Marisma Vineyard Chardonnay, Savaria Vineyard Pinot Noir
What to expect from the wines: Chardonnay with a briny, sea-influenced character and brisk acidity. Pinot Noir with freshly-picked, dark berry and exotic spice

David Hirsch
David Hirsch
Bronx Native, Sonoma Coast Innovator
Sonoma Coast
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In the late 1970s and early '80s, David Hirsch went where no Sonoma grape grower had gone before: to the extreme edge of the Sonoma Coast. On the recommendation of a vintner friend, he planted Pinot Noir on his foggy ridgeline property, within two miles of the Pacific Ocean. Today the Hirsch Vineyard is recognized internationally for its Sonoma Coast Pinot. Always pushing the site-specific limits, David has recently taken the vineyard biodynamic.

Our expression of Hirsch Vineyard is a blend derived from three unique blocks that are exclusive to us, and our technique is clear. We harvest early to maintain snappy, fresh character and brisk acidity; we use 30% whole cluster in the fermenters, producing an edgy, spice-driven complexity; and we age the wine in just 20% new oak to avoid the "white noise" of too much oakiness. Finally, our Hirsch spends four months in a chilled stainless steel tank, developing to a razor-sharp focus.

 

Appellation: Sonoma Coast
Vineyard designate: Hirsch Vineyard
Soil type: complex calcareous seabed material
Elevation: Elevation: 1100 - 1400 feet
Clone: Pinot Noir Clones 115, Pommard, and Mt. Eden
Average age of vines: 30+ years

Unique aspect: proximity to the ocean, heterogeneous topography, biodynamic farming
Sourced for: Hirsch Vineyard and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
What to expect from the wines: Elegant Pinot Noir that displays a combination of tart red berry fruit and intense minerality.

Bob & Claudia Klindt
Bob & Claudia Klindt
A Stoic Husband/Wife Team Take on the “Deep End”
Anderson Valley
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Bob and Claudia Klindt’s boutique 10-acre vineyard is tucked into the northwest corner of the Anderson Valley, a neighborhood the locals affectionately refer to as the “deep end” at the margin. It faces southwest and is ringed by enormous redwood trees on a southwest facing slope ringed by enormous redwood trees. Just 11 miles from the sea and cloaked in fog all summer, acidity is rarely a problem here. Yields are.

On a good year, we might expect two tons per acre. The Klindts believe the wines from this part of the valley—in all their “foresty” glory—justify the means. We tend to agree.

 

Appellation: Anderson Valley
Vineyard designate: Klindt Vineyard
Soil type: decomposing sandstone and fractured rock
Elevation: 400 feet
Clone: Pinot Noir Clones 115, 667, 777, and Pommard
Average age of vines: 15+ years

Unique aspect: marginal location, relationship to the redwoods, steep hillside planting, diverse clonal material
Sourced for: Klindt Vineyard Pinot Noir
What to expect from the wines: Pinot Noir that evokes a damp, coastal redwood forest

Jim McCutchen
Jim McCutchen
A Vineyard Man for the Decades in the Rugged Mendocino Mountains
Pine Mountain
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Jim has been working this same piece of land for 75-years. When we first met him he came rumbling down the hill on his ATV, two dogs barking from the back seat. As he approached us, I was taken aback at his ripe age, but when he shook my hand and began to tell us about his vineyard it was clear that this man with a vice-grip was still young at heart and as committed as ever to the responsible stewardship of his land.

I asked him if I could take his picture and he declined, saying something like, "A picture of me will not help you sell any wine!" Actually he's wrong about that, because this man is the genuine article.

 

Appellation: Pine Mountain (newly formed AVA as of 2013)
Vineyard designate: N/A
Soil type: Clay and fractured rock
Elevation: 2400 - 2600 feet
Clone: Mother clone Carignan
Average age of vines: 70+ years

Unique aspect: Old vines, dry farming, high elevation site
Sourced for: Sativa, Indica
What to expect from the wines: Fresh red and dark fruit character, an earthy dustiness, true varietal character

Michael McNeil
Michael McNeil
Custodians of Burgundian-Style Winemaking in California
Sonoma Valley
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Nestled in the Mayacamas mountains above the town of Sonoma, 46-acre Hanzell Vineyards produces wines prized by collectors worldwide. Its place in the pantheon of California winemaking history is undisputed. This estate is home to the oldest continuously producing Pinot Noir vines in North America, and the first-ever French oak-aged California Chardonnays were raised in their cellar. With such undeniable pedigree, Hanzell Vineyards has seldom had the desire to sell grapes. That we were able to secure a fruit contract here is one of our proudest moments.

Our interpretation of Hanzell is dictated by our general philosophy about Chardonnay, which is to say we like them full of freshness and minerality. LIOCO's Hanzell has sharper edges than the estate's bottling. It is often harvested earlier, sees zero new oak, and spends several months in stainless steel prior to bottling, a technique that brings a fuzzy picture of Hanzell into crisp focus. Given the exceptional quality of the raw material, our mission is clear: simply get out of the way and let the voice of this special vineyard come through.

 

Appellation: Sonoma Valley
Vineyard designate: Hanzell Vineyard
Soil type: cobblestones, volcanic, red clay
Elevation: 800 feet
Clone: Chardonnay Hanzell Clone
Average age of vines: old vines, low-yields, heritage Hanzell Clone, volcanic soil, elite pedigree

Unique aspect: old vines, low-yields, heritage Hanzell Clone, volcanic soil, elite pedigree
Sourced for: Hanzell Vineyard Chardonnay
What to expect from the wines: Age-worthy, mountain-grown Chardonnay that smells of fresh loquats and spearmint, and tastes like candied lemon peels, mirabelle

Michael Michaud
Michael Michaud
Unsung hero of old Chalone.
Chalone
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It takes unyielding determination to farm up on the sun-scorched, limestone mound that is Chalone, just west of Pinnacles National Park. Despite the rich wine-making history that exists here, the place was without electricity until the mid-1990s. Working by kerosene lamp and installing, by hand, both power lines and water pipes, Michael Michaud could only be described as indefatigable.

 

Appellation: Chalone
Vineyard designate: Michaud Vineyard
Soil type: rare braid of granite and limestone
Elevation: 1600 feet
Clone: Pinot Noir Clones 667, 777, and Swan
Average age of vines: 22+ years

Unique aspect: Extremity at every level: elevation, temperature, water-table, soil
Sourced for: Michaud Vineyard, Pinot Noir
What to expect from the wines: Profound, mineral-driven Pinot Noir with distinctive Christmas spice notes, and an age-worthiness rarely found in the new world.

Steven Moore
Steven Moore
Bohemian, musician, naturalist
Sonoma Coast
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Steve represents the latest generation at his family’s “old-timey” California farm, replete with row crops, fruit orchards, livestock, and a well-manicured vineyard.

This kind of farmyard diversification is rare in Sonoma County, where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are king and queen. Steve believes the biodiversity on his farm enhances the complexity of his grapes. So do we.

Situated west of the town of Sebastopol in the lee of the Laguna de la Santa Rosa, Steve’s farm has provided LIOCO with remarkably expressive Pinot Noir since 2011, and beginning in 2013, equally expressive Chardonnay.

Appellation

Sonoma Coast

Vineyard designate

N/A

Soil type

Goldridge

Elevation

200 feet

Clone

Chardonnay Clone 4, Pinot Noir Clones 777 & 115

Average age of vines

15+ years

Unique aspect:

poly-culture, closed-loop farming, choice clonal material

Sourced for:

Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley Chardonnay

What to expect from the wines:

Pinot Noir with a cooling, fresh-berry snappiness. Ripe Chardonnay character without any excess weight. The restrained, lemon-driven profile characteristic of Clone 4 Chardonnay growing in a cool climate.

Chuy Ordaz
Chuy Ordaz
Legendary grower up on Moon Mountain
Sonoma Valley
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Athan Apoulos
Athan Poulos
Turns Out, You Can Come Home Again
Redwood Valley
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Athan's wife, Denise grew up on the storied Lolonis ranch. She spent her summers swimming in the reservoir and her winters in front of the family hearth. So when the property came up for sale last year, she and Athan seized the opportunity. The two have been vigilantly restoring this pre-Prohibition property to its former glory. There are plantings of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Carignan, and Valdiguie that date back to 1945, putting some of these vines into the category of "oldest in California."

 

Appellation: Redwood Valley
Vineyard designate: Lolonis
Soil type: Clay and fractured rock
Elevation: 400 feet
Clone: Mother clone Carignan & Valdiguie
Average age of vines: 70+ years

Unique aspect: Very old vines, dry farming, historical ranch, rare Valdiguie vines
Sourced for: Sativa, Indica, Valdiguie
What to expect from the wines: A dense, brambly, red fruit character (Carignan); a wholly unique briny, blue fruited, light bodied red (Valdiguie).

Fritz Stuhlmuller
Fritz Stuhlmuller
Family-Owned Vineyards
RRV/Alexander Valley/Chalk Hill
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