Exclusive offer: 5/12/2023 — LIOCO
Offer available through Monday, 5/15/2023, or as inventory lasts.
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Hi everyone –
On Thursday May 11th we did an INCREDIBLE wine dinner at J. Selby’s in St. Paul with Matt Licklider of LIOCO winery. Here are some photos.
Matt Licklider presenting to the group.
The chef team at J. Selby’s also introduced every course.
Fish tacos paired with the Sonoma Chardonnay. Remember, this is a vegan restaurant, so the “fish” was made of fried banana blossoms and was simply incredible. The explosion of flavors from these little tacos was unreal, leaving everyone in the room, including Matt from LIOCO, speechless.
Chilled basil-thai gazpacho with grilled pineapple, paired with the Rosé. I’m not one to say something like this often, but this was THE BEST cup of soup I’ve ever had (and I’m not even a chilled soup guy), and it paired absolutely perfectly with the Rosé of Carignane. Bravo!
After that, we had more courses of incredible foods, including a wild mushroom tart with the Pinot Noir and a vegan meatball entree with Indica Red. But I was having so much fun I forgot to snap photos!
It was a stunning evening and an honor to organize.
LIOCO is a winery that means a lot to me. It was one of the first of the “New California” wineries to hit the scene (before the book by Jon Bonne was written), and the founders (Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor … smash their names together and you get LIOCO) were kindred spirits in a “let’s go for it” mindset that I respect and admire.
The genesis for LIOCO was when Kevin was the lead sommelier at Spago of Beverley Hills, and Matt was one of his wine sales reps (specializing in French wine). When you’re the Somm at Spago, you get to know a LOT of people, and suddenly you have access to almost any winery or vineyard in California. Everyone wanted a piece of the Spago action.
The wines of Europe drove Kevin and Matt, but they were in the era (the mid-1990s and early 2000s) of “hedonistic fruit bombs” to borrow Mr. Parker’s favorite phrase. They desperately wanted to escape what Matt called the “fat Elvis phase” of Chardonnay and get back to what really matters: terroir. With this midset, they purchased a few tons of fruit from some of the top vineyards in California, and LIOCO was born.
Over time, they started to get access to more of the legendary top-level vineyards. They purchased a little fruit here and there and started to release what would become coveted wines for those in the know. To have a glass of LIOCO Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir was as close to eating the dirt of that legendary vineyard as you could get.
Over time Matt combined forces with his wife Sara to run the company. They evolved in their style, thinking, and approach but never lost sight of what really matters: terroir and the question of terroir in California. They built up their company, established an office in Healdsburg, and eventually opened a stylish and fabulous tasting room that you can now visit.
Then March 2020 hit.
As with any small business, their world turned upside down. As chronicled in the New York Times, Matt and Sara were suddenly working over 100 hours a week (each!), taking orders, boxing wines, shipping out tasting kits, and hosting virtual wine events worldwide in order to keep the boat afloat.
They got through it, but you don’t go through a blender like that without getting bruised (don’t I know!).
One thing to take note of
On the back of all LIOCO bottles are food pairing suggestions. Those are REAL based on experience.
I remember talking with Kevin O’Connor about this ten years ago. On the back of one of the wines was a suggestion of pairing with “Indian spiced coconut beef tacos” or something like that. A tiny taco joint in the Mission District of San Francisco was pouring LIOCO by the glass, paired with this fantastic taco. Kevin happened to it one day and wholeheartedly agreed. So take note of those pairings; they be REAL!
(And as I made clear to Matt in front of the entire group at last night’s dinner, my goal was to have one of the pairings we experienced on a bottle next vintage.)
Why this week’s offer is important
Today LIOCO is firing on all cylinders. The wines are unbelievably even better than five or ten years ago. There is something here for everyone, from serious rosé to single vineyard gems with a touch of age. Let’s get to it!
Tech sheets and awesome labels
LIOCO, like Ridge Vineyards, does a better job than others at clear and clean information relating to the wines, aromas, flavors, chemistry, and terroir. Their labels and tech sheets are fantastic, which is why we present them to you here.
(Hint: to learn more about any favorite wine, Google it along with “tech sheet pdf” and watch what comes up. Most wineries and importers have them buried in their websites for salespeople, but I think they are particularly good for consumers!)
THE CORE FOUR WINES
LIOCO “SoCo” Sonoma Chardonnay 2021
This is the go-to wine of LIOCO and the door opener for many. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve poured this for anyone that dares say “I don’t like Chardonnay” and watch them INSTANTLY change their minds.
How and why? It’s about balance. It’s about the perfect amount of orchard fruit aromas (apples and pears), amazing acidity, polished edges without being soft too round, and a finish that lasts for a minute. Seriously, this ranks up there with big time village-level white Burgundy.
LIOCO Rosé of Carignane 2022
Carignane (or if you’re in France, Carignan. Or if you’re in northeast Spain where it’s originally from, Mazuelo. Or if you’re in Rioja, Mazuela or Mollard) is a vigorous and highly productive vine in its youth, which explains why it became a dominant grape in California in the late 1800s — it was all about quantity, not quality.
When Prohibition hit and in the ensuing decades, most Carignane was ripped out of California vineyards. But not all. And that which is still left in the ground has entered their Yoda phase of the “wise old wizards” in the vineyard. Old vine Carignane, like zinfandel, gives qualities and characteristics that you simply can’t find any other way.
LIOCO makes two Carignane-based wines: one red, one rosé, both from those ancient vines.
In one of the most important wine books out there, Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson (the catalog of pretty much every grape variety in the world) she says it best: “As Carignane (sic) in California (3,393 acres in 2010), once again it is old bushiness, prized by producers such as Ridge, Cline, and Lioco, that produce the best wines.”
The rosé is annually one of our favorites. Loads of strawberry and cherry framed by beautiful acidity and a punchy finish.
The Indica Red is hands down one of my favorites to pull out during a wine party. The freshness and food-friendliness of the wine is off the charts, and it’s one of my favorites to enjoy with anything off the charcoal grill.
LIOCO “Indica” Red (Old vine Carignane) 2020
This is one of my favorite wines coming out of California. As Matt said at the dinner, Carignane was brought to California to be a workhorse grape and was almost extinct in the state as more fashionable Cabernet, Merlot, and Chardonnay started to take hold. Most Carignane was ripped out, but the secret to an incredible Carignane is vine age.
There are just a handful of old vine Carignane vineyards left in the state, and this wine comes from a handful of vineyards in Mendocino County. The wine is medium-bodied, dark, packed with black raspberry and wild strawberry, and possibly the ultimate wine for anything off the grill.
LIOCO Pinot Noir, Mendocino County 2021
There are fewer and fewer Pinot Noirs under $40 today that have personality.
There, I’ve said it.
Understand me. There is PLENTY that is very good to excellent. It’s just that they’re not distinctive. It seems the homogenization of flavors has taken over, making so many Pinot Noirs taste the same.
Not this one. LIOCO has pulled off something incredible here, with more depth, breath, and detail than other Pinots priced in the same wheelhouse. This wine is stunning, with complex aromas of tobacco leaf, spice box, dried plum, and blackberry. Wowza.
Matt pointed out at our dinner, which is super informative that we’ve become very used to the aromas and flavors of Sonoma County Pinot Noirs (i.e. Russian River Valley): red fruit packed, raspberry, and strawberry. But the Pinot Noirs of Mendocino County run more black fruit driven, spicy, and concentrated. One is not better, but I find the Mendo style a breath of fresh air.
THE SINGLE VINEYARD RARITIES
See the tech sheets and labels below for all the details you need to know.
They do far better to inform the consumer than I can.
I will say this, though: these are serious wines. They are in the upper echelon of the world’s best, and all can age gracefully. There is no rush to pop these corks; when you do, make an occasion out of it.
LIOCO Marisma Chardonnay 2019
93 cases were produced. Total. That’s all. (That’s like .00000000000001% of Kendall Jackson’s Chardonnay production. Maybe even less.)
Only 12 bottles available.
LIOCO Skycrest Chardonnay 2020
LIOCO Edmeads Pinot Noir 2021
LIOCO Saveria Pinot Noir 2018 and 2019
As you can tell, this is a special brand for me. Like Ridge Vineyards, The Eyrie Vineyards, and a handful of others, LIOCO has proven year after year and bottle after bottle that they embrace what I seek in wine: quality, personality, attention to terroir first and foremost, integrity, and humbleness.
The core four wines are (mostly) readily available over the year (except the rosé, which is quite limited). The single vineyard wines are incredibly rare; when they’re gone, they’re gone.
My advice? A mix-and-match of the core four and maybe two or three of the single vineyards (if you’re so inclined).
Sommelier and founder/owner of Twin Cities Wine Education
Offer is open Friday thru Monday, or as inventory lasts.
The wines will be packed and ready for you on Wednesday.