IPOB, In Pursuit Of Balance, is a manifest to look for and celebrate totally balanced wines of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, crated in 2011 by master sommelier Rajat Parr of Michael Mina and RN74, and Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards in Sonoma Coast.
One of the members is the 10 000 cases young wine company Lioco, founded in 2005 by sommelier Kevin O’Connor (Spago, in Beverly Hills) and wine merchant Matt Licklider (North Berkley Import). Longing for other types of wines than the fruit driven, full bodied and oaky wines that came in fashion during the 1990s, they started out to craft elegant wines with low alcohol, high natural acidity, and a good expression of their terroir.
They hired John Raytek as their winemaker, purchased Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from cool vineyard sites in Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Chalone and Anderson Valley, and old vine dry farmed Carignane from Redwood Valley in the northern Mendocino, and begun to make a series of fine tuned wines with a true expression of the variety and its birthplace.
The wines are all “hands off made” with early harvested grapes, normally at 21-23 Brix, which end up in wines with alcohol levels at around 12.0 to 13.5 percent. The Chardonnays are slowly whole cluster pressed and then fermented with their natural yeast in either stainless steel tanks or smaller steel drums. There is no oak at all! Due to the high levels of malic acid, all wines are full malolactic, but there’s enough of acidity to make them taste super fresh. They are all bottled after six months on their lees, with just some bâtonnage.
Chardonnay would be their mayor production, but they also make a series of very fine and elegant Pinot Noirs that shouldn’t been overseen, and a superb old vine Carignane called Indica.
The very good news is that these wines are not expensive, they range from 20-50 dollars!
This is one of the most thrilling producers of the new age of California winemaking. Don’t miss them!
2010 Russian River Valley Chardonnay / 90 pThis is not a second wine, it’s a wine crafted from two vineyards, one in the central part of Russian River Valley, and one much cooler at Bodega Highway in the southwestern corner of Green Valley. Since the grapes are very slowly whole cluster pressed, the juice is in contact with the skins for almost eight hours, which add a good structure and a touch of golden color. The funny thing is that it reminds me of a more classic wine from Meursault, due to its slightly diacetyl flavor and creamy texture. As in the other wines, there’s a steely touch to it, but there’s so much more complexity than in most of the steel fermented Californian Chardonnays. There are no traces at all of alcohol, and yes, it’s just 12.3 percent. That’s the beauty, and the persuit of balance! This is the first vintage of this 400 case bottling.
Drink it 2012-2016
2010 Chardonnay Demuth Vineyard / 92 p
The Demuth Vineyard is located at 520 meters of altitude in the high end av very cool part of Anderson Valley, north of Roederer Estate. It was planted 40 years ago with the Old Wente clone, and although the vines were planted on their own roots, there are just small signs of phylloxera and the yields are less than 20 hectoliter per hectare. Of all Chardonnays in the line up from Lioco, this is the most astringent and mineral driven one, the most Chablis like if one should compare to the French wines (which normally if a quite stupid and meaningless idea, yet common).
This is an absolute pure expression of Chardonnay, more marked by its birthplace, the cool climate, which results in a cooler and crisp fruit (lemon, green apples) and high acidity and, the poor slate soil, which add a load of minerality and structure to the wine. Although note the same chalky minerality of Chablis wines, it offers a lovely energy that lingers for a minute, and it’s really delicious. Serve it at 12 degrees Celsius, and with some air in the glass (or decanted 20-30 minutes), it will be even more complex.
Drink it 2012-2020
2010 Chardonnay Hanzell Vineyard / 91 p
The famous Hanzell Vineyard was planted to Chardonnay over 50 years ago, and they have never sold grapes to anyone in the past. Of pure interest to find out how a wine from their grapes in the hands of Lioco, with their minimalistic philosophy, would taste like, they decided to sell some grapes to them in 2010. This wine is made from the clones Old Wente, Robert Young and the Hanzell Selection, harvested at 22.7 Brix. Of the trio, this is the most powerful wine and in that sense it is the “grand cru” of them. It offers a rich and slightly nutty, almost toasty nose with a flinty minerality, its medium bodied and very intensive with a rich and creamy texture, but lively acidity and a tickling minerality. With its 13.4 percent alcohol, it’s quite Burgundian in its structure. It’s a very good wine, that opens up just lovely with decanting, just lika the wines from Burgundy.
Drink it 2012-2016