It finally rained in 2017. It rained all the way through the Spring. The parched California soils were recharged, and the vines got the drink they'd been longing for. We had fine weather at flowering and fruit set returned to near-normal levels. Despite a good looking crop, the clusters were small with a lot of shot berries (shatter) resulting in deeply concentrated wines. The fruit sourcing for SoCo has never been more dialed in—some Biodynamic Clone 96 from a fog-catching site near the Laguna de Santa Rosa; some Clone 4 from John Balletto's wind-swept vineyard near Littorai's estate; and the balance from our friends at Chez Stuhlmuller—45-year old Wente planted in gravelly soils on the banks of the Russian River. Parting thought: all three of these vineyard sources go into $40 wines produced by other wineries. At $22, this LIOCO Sonoma County Chardonnay presents a value without peers.
The fruit was hand-harvested, destemmed, and the berries "broken" before being pressed to stainless steel tanks. Fermented on the fine lees, with no battonage for 8-months. Malolactic fermentation occurred naturally and finished completely. A gentle cross-flow filtration was performed prior to bottling.
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LIOCO is the result of a years-long conversation between Matt Licklider (a seasoned wine import specialist) and Kevin O'Connor (former wine director at Spago-Beverly Hills) about whether California could produce a true "wine of origin." Inspired by traditional European winegrowing practices, they sought out vineyard sites with tougher soil, older vines, and some stress-producing aspect (altitude, extreme temperature, poor soil, etc). Under winemaker John Raytek of Ceritas, the grapes are shepherded from bud to bottle in the least intrusive way possible producing some of the most focused, balanced Chardonnay and Pinot Noir coming from such storied vineyards as Hirsch, Demuth, and Hanzell.