Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Prince of Pinot Profiles LIOCO

For all you Pinot Noir fans out there, if you haven't subscribed to the Pinot File yet, here's a great reason - a nice in-depth profile on the winemaking techniques & philosophy behind LIOCO.  Cheers - Ali

LIOCO Winery: A Different Path

Sommeliers approach wine from a different perspective, less focused on the hedonism of wine and more concerned with how the components of wine act in unison to compliment and enhance the experience of dining. Their profession teaches them about what kind of wine makes food sing. It is no surprise, then, that in recent years many sommeliers have launched their own wine labels, directing the crafting of wine or even making wines themselves that reflect their preference for food-loving wines. Many sommeliers have established intimate relationships with winegrowers and winemakers through the years, making it easy for them to gain access to talented people in the wine business to assist in the start up process. One of these sommeliers is Kevin O’Connor of Spago Restaurant in Los Angeles.

O’Connor predates the current surge in sommelier wine producers, having made wine for years under the O’Connor label. Beginning with the 2005 vintage, he teamed with former North Berkeley Imports wine importer Matt Licklider to found the LIOCO label, specializing in non-manipulated site-driven wines. LIOCO is a combination of the partner’s last names.

O’Connor works closely with University of California at Davis graduate Kevin Kelley (pictured below), who also crafts wines for Salinia Wine Company, Heintz Vineyard, and Spot-On Cellars. Like a number of winemakers who started out with ambitions to enter the medical profession, he was derailed after reading Charles Sullivan’s Like Modern Edens, the story of the origins of the Santa Clara Valley wine business. After serving an internship at Domaine Meo-Camuzet in Burgundy, he became an assistant winemaker under Wells Guthrie of Copain. He founded his own label, Salinia Wine Company, with his wife Jennifer in 2003, with the intention of producing wines with minimal winemaking imprint using indigenous yeasts and very little to no oak (only seasoned oak barrels are used). To achieve his goals, he picks early, does not temperature control fermentations, avoids fining and filtration, minimizes sulfur usage, and lets nature take its course...


14.3% alc., pH 3.77, 343 cases, $48. This vineyard is located at an elevation of 1,600 feet on granite and limestone soils. The climate is extreme, with 40 to 60 degree diurnal shifts, resulting in stressed vines. 10-day cold soak, aged 12 months in 1, 2, and 3- year-old oak barrels, unfined and unfiltered. · Deeply colored. Appealing, even ridiculously sensual aromas of warm cherry tart, tea, ground savory and dark roses. Flavors of loamy black cherries and berries, spice and grilled mushrooms. A sweet and sour thing is going on with the fruit. Silky and smooth with healthy ripe tannins yet a charming elegance. Amazing persistence of berry fruit on the generous finish. This wine will stand up to hearty foods. Very good (+).

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