Hirsch, Lioco and Red Car dinner at Nick's Cove and Littorai story

West of West Festival in Occidental, CA. After my tasting at Williams-Selyem I drove back to Rohnert Park to the Doubletree to change for dinner and barely made it to the Union Hotel parking lot in Occidental to catch the 6:10 bus taking us to Nick’s Cove for dinner. Ashley Christensen (chef from Raleigh and imported chef for Saturday night’s dinner) was in the parking lot with a Riesling tour tee shirt on her back and a beer in hand. She wasn’t able to join us at Nick’s Cove due to her responsibilities as pit master for the NC barbecue hog for Saturday’s dinner but she was surprised to see me and gave me a high five. I boarded the bus and after two slightly late couples arrived we were off to Nick’s Cove. Our female bus driver was a hoot and had her “ass-kicking” boots on. We had a rose’ wine and Chardonnay with oysters and some stayed for awhile on the deck or walked down the dock to a boathouse but it was windy and decidedly chilly. Jasmine Hirsch, one of the organizers of the event, said we ask you to come to dinner in August and bring a sweater or parka. The dinner was worth it. I sat at the “Lioco” table and ended up ordering two bottles of the Lioco unoaked Chardonnay to be shipped later. Besides Matt Licklider (LI) and Kevin O’Conner (OCO)= LIOCO, we had a distributor from Virginia whose hometown is Fayetteville, NC where I currently live and another woman who is associated with Lioco who chatted with me about a favorite author (Ann Patchett.) The night’s menu and wine pairings included crab with Chardonnays and salmon and pork with Pinot Noirs from the three sponsoring wineries. No dessert but I was full by the last course anyway. The bus got us back to Occidental at about 10:30 and I still had about a fifty-minute drive to Rohnert Park which went about 30 minutes longer because I got lost on the not-so-well-lit Occidental Road with patches of fog and ended up in Sebastopol (twice!) before I finally got on 12 East to Sant Rosa and then 101 South to Rohnert Park.

Up at 6:30 AM the next day to have breakfast and then be in Occidental by 9:15 to pick up name tag and tickets for the events of the West of West Festival for which I had pre-registered. I thought there might be a line of registrants but other than the industry people and volunteers, I was one of the first. The seminars were sold out. The first one at 10:00 AM (Yes, I was drinking wine at 10:00 in the morning) was with Ted Lemon of Littorai and Eric Asimov, NY Times wine writer as interviewer. We sampled two Littorai library wines–the 1997 LITTORAI CHARLES HEINTZ CHARDONNAY and the 1998 LITTORAI THIERIOT PINOT NOIR. I was impressed with both wines. The Chard had a minerally component on the nose and was a pale gold color with transparency. It smelled of an older wine (on the verge of oxidation?) Subtle butter and vanilla; tastes fresher than the nose; retains some elegance. The vineyard was planted in 1982 and Hillcrest Vineyard was planted in 1985 but was infected with leaf roll, a virus that inhibits ripening, so the vines were later pulled out. The 1998 THIERIOT PINOT NOIR was reddish-brown with transparency and expressed a mixture of elegant and earthy. Tastes mature with secondary or tertiary nnotes. Dark cherries on nose and palate but more a sense of baked than bright, freshly picked cherries. Ted Lemon’s first vintage was 150 cases of Pinot Noir, and 150 cases of Chardonnay from purchased grapes. The Pinot had a bit of spice on the finish. Ted founded Littorai in 1993. On a year abroad from Brown University he studied in Dijon and then had an opportunity to apprentice in viniculture/viticulture in France. He was in an early tasting group with Steve Kistler, Bert Williams (of Williams Selyem), Helen Turley and her husband. The group focused on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir mostly from Burgundy, California or Oregon. Ted was one of the early winemakers to pay by acreage instead of size of crop and encouraged growers to drop some of the crop to achieve greater quality. He has a tie-in with Dujac distribution in the USA and has worked with various Burgundian domaines including Roumier. He also worked with Rich Savoy, Charles Heintz, David Hirsch, etc. After the Great Depression, Burgundy’s negociants weren’t buying wine from the estates, and the estates began bottling the wine themselves and selling it through the great restaurants of France. Ted Lemon followed that model. He also likes to pick the grapes earlier than is standard in his desire to create livelier wines. He now uses 10% new barrels for Chardonnay and performs only one racking to lessen lees-driven quality.

Next episodes–Exile on Main Street seminar–eight West Sonoma Coast Chardonnays and a seminar on West Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir tasted partially blind (we knew vineyard but not the producer’s name or vintage.) Grand tasting Saturday afternoon with over 30 West Sonoma County wineries represented. Whole Hog Dinner Saturday night at Union Hotel in Occidental–chef Ashley Christensen. Sunday visits to Joseph Swan winerey and Inman Family Winery.

Nice write up Jane. Looking forward to the next episode.

Nice work!

Those old Littorai Chards are among the most valued wines I own.

Love the reporting of your experience here. BTW, what did you taste at Williams Selyem and how did it show? A separate thread?