October 27, 2011: Lioco of California and Charles Smith Wines of Washington State

These days there are hundreds of outstanding American vintners, but in my opinion two stand-out for their distinct, artisanal, quality-driven wines- Lioco and Charles Smith. Although each winery definitely has “a style of their own” they are similar in that they make wines of character and specialize in specific grape varieties (Lioco = Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; Charles Smith = Syrah) that have proven quite successful when grown in their corresponding terroirs.

Lioco is a unique California producer with a disciplined winemaking approach that most importantly includes making wines that speak of their origins. It was founded by Matt Licklider (a wine import specialist) and Kevin O’Connor (restaurant wine director) with the idea that compelling wine can be made when premium vineyard selection is combined with a restrained winemaking approach. They do not own any vineyards, but instead source grapes from premium vineyards throughout California. The majority of the wines they produce are from the Burgundian varietals (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), although for the tasting we will sample a wine that’s typically “winery only” and made from Pinot Blanc. Their wines are naturally fermented with wild or native yeast and bottled without fining or filtration; the whites are vinified entirely in stainless steel while the reds see minimal oak treatment.

Charles Smith is known as the “larger than life” winemaker who founded the Magnificent Wine Company and K Vintners. The Charles Smith Wines are his newest project; they are affordable, varietally correct, true to their origins, and made for immediate consumption- he calls this the “modernest project.” In the business we consider Charles Smith part of the “rock n’ roll” wine culture- he has big hair and a big attitude, but he certainly knows how to make wines that are big, robust, appealing, and did I mention delicious? Our distributor has offered us outstanding pricing on his products for the tasting this week, and on a side note, his bold black-and-white labels are perfect for any Halloween celebration!

We hope you will join us this Thursday for an excellent line-up.

The specific wines for the tasting are:

Lioco Pinot Blanc 2010– California. 100% Pinot Blanc fermented with native (or wild) yeast and aged in stainless steel. This wine is typically a “winery only” product, but because our Alabama distributor has a very good relationship with Lioco, they were able to secure a couple of cases for the state. Its pretty nose offers sweet fruit scents of green apple, citrus notes, and floral characteristics. On the palate the wine is fresh and bright with a leesy, nice texture, good acid, great complexity and structure, and a savory, lingering finish.

Lioco NOCO Chardonnay 2010– North Coast, California. 100% Chardonnay fermented with native yeast and aged in stainless steel. From grapes that were picked early to maintain their natural acidity. A fresh, mild, and subtle aroma of lemon, honey (not sweet though) and honeycomb, combined with floral undertones greets the nose. On the palate the wine is gentle and inviting, although it offers bright, lively acid within a lanolin-like texture. The finish is juicy and crisp with more acidity and lingering citrus/honeyed flavors.

Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2010– Columbia Valley, Washington. 100% Riesling harvested from a single vineyard, Evergreen Vineyard, in the Ancient Lakes area of the Columbia Valley AVA. Instead of soil, however, the Evergreen Vineyard contains gravel, stone, and rocks. The resulting wine offers lush aromas of pear, nectarine, white peach, and flowers. It is full-bodied and mouthcoating on the palate with flavors of apricot, lime, and pleasant minerality, followed by a lingering and very tasty finish.

Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot 2009– Washington State. A distinctive and aromatic Merlot with an inviting nose of blackberry and plum fruits, milk chocolate, spice, and cedar hints. It opens up nicely with rich and explosive flavors of wild ripe berry fruits, cocoa, and baking spice within a smooth and supple palate. It is well-balanced with gentle tannin and mild acid, and a lengthy, appealing finish.

Charles Smith Boom Boom Syrah 2010– Washington State. A big, full, and robust Syrah that begins with mouthwatering aromas of black cherry, black plum and blueberry fruit, sweet tobacco, and spice. The palate is intense, yet very nicely textured, with more dark berry fruits, smoked meat hints, and a bit of minerality that balances out its bold fruit components. It may be a bit over the top, but overall the Boom Boom is very complex and sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Charles Smith Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2008– Columbia Valley, Washington. 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot, and 6% Syrah. Deep, dark, pure fruit aromas combine with notes of spice, vanilla, oak, and coconut hints that are quite inviting. On the palate it offers lightly-sweet black fruits of cherry and plum with spicy/vanilla notes that are complemented by refined tannins and a soft, lingering finish. An excellent value!

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