Twelve vintages ago, Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor began making vineyard-driven California wines, seeking lower alcohol and European styles to get away from the bigger-is-better approach that California had become known for. This was seven years before the In Pursuit of Balance team started widely promoting this style and there was plenty of uncertainties of whether local consumers would take to this style. For Matt, then a distributor of European wines and Kevin, the wine director at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, moving forward in this
direction was a gamble.
That gamble is paying off as Lioco wines can now be found as far away as Japan, and are distributed across 30 states within the U.S. The wines, which include Carignan, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah are made of fruit purchased from distinguished vineyards from such places as the Sonoma Coast and Mendocino. With an intense focus on cool climate and picking early enough to retain the fruit’s acidity, these aromatic wines showcase its terroir and are created to pair with food (although for any wine geek, these wines on their own provide quite a bit of intellectual fodder to enjoy on their own).
To show off the wines, Matt together with Andy from MacArthur Beverages hosted a wonderful
four-course dinner at Black Salt in the quiet Palisades neighborhood (Did you hear that California winemakers? Matt hosted a dinner here in D.C.!! It was successful, you should follow his lead 😉 )
Pairings included the Indica Carignan Rosé (Mendocino, 2015) with salmon tataki with pickled melons and citrus aioli (this is one of my favorite rosés and the pairing created a seamlessly fresh experience of flavors):
Estero Chardonnay (Russian River Valley, 2014 ) with Chesapeake chowder (during the dinner, Matt told us he saw the Chardonnay as that bit of lemon you squeeze over your fish):
Cerise Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley, 2013) with duck bolognese (our table of six snuck in a bottle of 2012 Lioco Hirsch Pinot Noir to try side-by-side. The Cerise was full of really bright fruit, while the Hirsch showed off its herbal spine ):
And lastly the Caleta Syrah (Santa Cruz Mountains, 2014) with braised beef short rib (I honestly can’t tell you much about the pairing as the Syrah on its own blew us all away. This is not your typical California Syrah. At 11.9 percent alcohol, the wine can best be described as a yin and a yang: brooding and dense on appearance but with an elegant palate more reminiscent of the Northern Rhone):
I’ve been a fan of Lioco wines for a while, so it was a real treat to have Matt here in D.C. A big thank you to him, Andy and Black Salt for the superb evening! I was at a table with five other friends, and as is usually the case, combing good friends while sharing delicious wine and food, in the presence of talented individuals makes for an evening that will be impossible to forget! Cheers!
(All photos by me)