LIOCO of North Coast, California- “Pure, Honest, Principled Wine”

This week’s tasting will feature six wines from LIOCO Winery, owned by Matt Licklider (a “seasoned” wine import specialist) and Kevin O’Connor (former wine director at Michelin Two-Star Spago-Beverly Hills), and located in Santa Rosa, California. Their goal is to create “wines of origin” from the North Coast, that are sourced from specific, distinct vineyard sites. They determined that “California can achieve a wine of origin, provided certain protocols are adhered to–both in the vineyard and in the cellar.”

On their website, Matt and Kevin state that they believe “Everything begins in the vineyard–without a compelling vineyard site, there is little chance of creating a distinctive wine. Inspired by traditional European winegrowing practices, we seek out vineyard sites with tougher soil, older vines, and some stress-producing aspect (altitude, extreme temperature, poor soil, etc). Then we simply shepherd the grapes from bud to bottle in the least intrusive way possible…What registers is: this wine came from this place only, and could not have come from anywhere else. This is a wine of origin. Such singularity in wine is worth pursuing.”

I agree with the Old World approach. Terroir or “sense of place” is a much discussed philosophy in our business and I believe wines that express terroir (or what the LIOCO team calls “wines of origin”) are always the purest, most honest, and most interesting. As Neal Rosenthal says, “The most satisfying of wines reveal their characters slurp by slurp as they speak of their origins and their traditions. The best of wines always proudly tell you from where they come.” Click here to read more about terroir.

LIOCO does not own vineyards, but makes their wines depending on the availability of superior quality fruit, which may change from year to year. Matt and Kevin’s favorite wines are those from Burgundy, France, the most elegant of all Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs in the world. They seek to make vineyard-designate examples that express the terroir of California, while always adhering to their philosophy that mirrors that of the Old World. They also make a few rose and reds in the style of “rural Europe”, Mediterranean France and Spain, blending grapes such as Carignan and Petite Sirah with the goal of making everyday priced wines that express balance and approachability.

LIOCO Chardonnay- “Chardonnay is a site-transparent grape and very revealing of the particularities of where it is grown. We will bottle several single-vineyard Chardonnays and vinify them in inert, stainless-steel tanks.  No oak. We pick these wines earlier to maintain natural acidity (and lower potential alcohol), employ wild yeasts, and bottle without fining or filtration. This is “natural winemaking” and the resulting wines are crystalline, alive, and pure.”

LIOCO Pinot Noir- “While this varietal seemed to come of age in America only recently, its Burgundian cousins were early to inspire us. Pinot Noir, if appropriately handled, can produce a transcendental experience. This elusive grape is universally regarded as the most soil-susceptible, making vineyard selection paramount. We will bottle several gently-treated, single vineyard Pinot Noirs from “fringe sites”, or places with extreme climate and tougher soil.”

NOCO, short for North Coast, was founded in 2009 by Matt and Kevin. Under this label they make two wines at this time, a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, following the same principled philosophy applied to LIOCO: “source fruit from interesting vineyard sites and make the wines with as little intervention as possible.”

NOCO- “…denotes the six viticultural counties north of San Francisco (Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa, Lake, and Solano). A winemaking mecca since the mid-19th century, this area is largely moderated by the cool Pacific Ocean. Our interest is in sourcing the best possible fruit from the North Coast and producing authentic wines which deliver value. While Chardonnay will be a cornerstone of this label, the red offering will be more fluid—allowing for the topsy-turvy fruit market to dictate where the best values will be found. From the abundant, financially recessed fruit market of 2009 we stole a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. From the late-ripening 2011 harvest…a Cabernet blend?”

We hope you will join us this week to sample six outstanding wines of origin, two Chardonnays, two Pinot Noirs, and two “rural Europe”-style blends (one rose, one red). LIOCO wines are among of our favorites from America; we hope to see you Thursday night!


The specific wines for the tasting are:

NOCO Chardonnay 2010– North Coast. “The 2010 NoCo Chardonnay comes from the Valentine Vineyard, which sits with one foot in Sonoma and the other in Mendocino (though technically the entire vineyard is a Mendocino AVA).  It runs alongside and is largely influenced by the Mendocino River.  The vines are 30 years old hanging Chardonnay Clone 4.  The soil is an alluvial mix of shale, clay, and sand.” Tasting $15.99

LIOCO Chardonnay Sonoma County 2010– Sonoma County. “A blend of four complimentary vineyard sites with tough, stony creekbed soil in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek, Russian River Valley, and Carneros. Fermented in 100% stainless steel (no oak) using wild yeasts. Aged sur-lie with no battonage. 9800 cases produced.” Tasting $18.99

LIOCO Indica Rose 2011– Mendocino County. “A pressed Rose from 70 yr-old, dry-farmed, organic Carignan in the Redwood Valley of Mendocino. One of California’s only Carignan roses. Fermented
on the fine lees in stainless steel. 700 cases produced.” Tasting $15.99

NOCO Pinot Noir 2009– North Coast. “This is nothing short of an opportunity wine—a wine we may never again be able to reproduce from these fruit sources, at this price. The vineyards responsible for this wine usually command $35 – $50 bottle prices for our parent winery LIOCO. When in the summer of 2009 a big crop (of exceptional quality) coincided with a crashing economy–a buyer’s market prevailed. We bought 40 tons of discounted fruit from our growers with the plans to declassify a handful of barrels of finished wine from each site and blend them into our second label. This is no central valley Pinot Noir cropped at 5+ tons per acre. This is Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from choice vineyard sites. Enjoy it while it lasts!” Tasting $21.99

LIOCO Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2010– Sonoma Coast.”Vineyard sits in the Petaluma Wind Gap–a place renown for cold, old-born wind and fog. Clones 667 and 115 planted on a hillside in loamy “Franciscan” soil. Fermented open top using wild yeasts. Manual punch downs. 30% whole cluster. Aged 15-months in used French oak. 650 cases produced.” Tasting $35.99

LIOCO Indica 2009– Mendocino County. “An “old-timey” field blend harkening back to California’s earliest winemaking efforts. A blend of old-vine Carignan (85%), Grenache (9%), and Petite Sirah (6%) from a selection of cool benchland vineyards in Mendocino’s Redwood Valley. Fermented in stainless-steel with wild yeasts. Aged 10-months in neutral barrels. Bottled without fining or filtration. 1600 cases produced.” Tasting $18.99

lioco pic lioco bottle

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