On my recent trip to Sonoma, Calif., I stopped by Littorai winery to taste new releases with one of my favorite California Pinot producers, Ted Lemon. In his lineup of vineyard-designated Pinot offerings, I fell hard for this Asian spice-black cherry-and-mineral 2009 Littorai B.A. Thieriot Vineyard Pinot Noir, a succulent wine with plenty of richness and a long, long finish that promises to be even better with more age.
No, it’s not cheap, but then expressive Pinots that evoke a strong sense of place never are, no matter where they come from. This one is worth it.
Lemon is noted for making wines of immense balance — this one is under 14 percent alcohol — and like most Littorai wines, it comes from biodynamically grown grapes.
The B.A. Thieriot vineyard is located in the west Sonoma Coast area southwest of the town of Occidental. It’s a cool vineyard at an elevation of 900 feet overlooking Bodega and not far from the Pacific Ocean. Lemon has farmed it for over a decade.
Burgundy was his first wine inspiration. He studied winemaking in Burgundy and spent several years working there at famous estates like Domaine Dujac and Domaine Guy Roulot. And Littorai wines show the same obsession with terroir that Burgundies do. After Lemon returned to the United States and met and married his wife Heidi, they drove up and down the Sonoma coastline looking to lease vineyards whose terroir showed something special when the grapes were made into wines. Later they added several more from Anderson Valley.
Ten years ago, the couple finally bought a 30-acre property not far from Sebastopol, which they’ve turned into a model farm with vines, based on Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic principles. Chickens wander paths, wildflowers grow between rows of vines, and rocks from the many vineyards Lemon farms are artfully arranged in an old barn. It’s pretty idyllic.
Littorai Pinots from vineyards in the west Sonoma Coast, Russian River and Anderson Valley are some of the finest in California and have the kind of precision, transparency and sexy elegance that Pinot lovers prize. Every one of them could be a wine of the week.
Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”