In all my trips to the SoCAL wine country, one winery has always intrigued me, but I never had the chance to visit: Loring Wine Company. You know LWC by the cool purple stenciled logo on what seems like an endless assortment of Pinots from the best vineyards in California...I had a chance to barrel taste the 2015 releases with Brian Loring just days before they were bottled.
I came to the winery expecting mostly Pinot, but when I first walked in and saw his small riddling machine, Brian and I went deep into our mutual love for Champagne. He started in retail, at Victor's in Hollywood back when a bottle of Pol Roger Churchill was a minor splurge and the rappers hadn't pushed Cristal prices through the roof. What he is making in California isn't trying to be Champagne. It's pure California juice and the bottle I took home and tried was remarkable. There was a peachy, pear, deep Chardonnay flavor and a ripe roundness that makes this a great aperitif.
LWC is a small, family run operation, most duties handed either by Brian or his sister, Kimberly. They have designed and built a custom winery that seems to be just the right size --no plans to start making ten times the volume he makes now, all the barrels on one level for easy tasting and topping. We tasted maybe 20 barrels, many wines in both new-ish and then neutral oak, which I love to do. It's a great education tasting the same juice in various ages of barrels, and picking winemaker's brains about their barrel choices. For Brian, it's a mix that includes mostly French, but many American barrels --judiciously used.
Brian is sourcing from some of the best properties around in Santa Barbara County, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills, and as far as the Russian River Valley (Brian's pal, Adam Lee at Siduri helps him deal with his long-distant fruit), so if you see LWC wines on your winemonger's shelf, grab it. My favs are the Sierra Mar Vineyard, Rosella's Vineyard, Gary's Vineyard, and Clos Pepe. Check out his site for details on individual wines. He only makes a few Chardonnays, but they are terrific as well. The crisp Santa Lucia Highlands and the Sierra Mar Vineyards both really popped. If you run across his Russell Family Vineyard Mouvèdre, grab it! I was treated to a 2011 and it was unabashedly rich, earthy, leathery juice. Great with grilled sausages.
Key tidbits from my visit: Everything is destemmed. Brian's not crazy about green food and says he doesn't want green vegetal flavors in the Pinot either! As I toured and tasted in the area for the next 2 days, I had lots of other juice that was partially whole cluster and it is a very different beast. Brian's wines are intentionally clean and high-toned, brightly colored, fresh tasting wines. Highly Recommended.