Matt Licklider, Sara Licklider & Drew Huffine
Mendocino Pinot Noir 2020
Highlights fruit from two Mendocino AVAs — Anderson Valley and Redwood Valley — both of which maintained pristine skies throughout a season of devastating wildfires. Amidst all the hardship levied on producers in 2020, silver linings were few and far between. But here’s one: a handful of $5000-a-ton coastal sources that would normally have gone into vineyard-designated wines at 3x the price were rerouted into this bottling. Thus, we’re given a moving and panoramic view of Mendocino — inland’s fruit density paired with the cerulean blue intensity of the coast. A relatively small percentage of whole cluster (10%) results in a wine that feels plush and gracefully woven. Aged for eight months in a combination of neutral French oak and stainless steel barrels. 3771 cases produced. 13.5% abv.
In 2005, two friends met in an alley behind Spago Beverly Hills and, following a fruitful conversation, emerged as winery co-founders. They were Kevin O’Connor, the restaurant’s wine director, and Matt Licklider, who sold French wine for North Berkeley Imports. The winery-to-be was LIOCO, a mashup of the founders’ last names, and an unlikely progenitor of a new American wine movement. If Spago was emblematic of the more-is-more bravado that gave us two decades of celebrity chefs, cult Cabernet and designer pizza, LIOCO marked a generational shift towards minimalism, transparency, and authenticity. To gauge the breadth of their influence, just thumb through the index of Jon Bonné’s seminal book, New California Wine, published in 2013. LIOCO, just eight years old at the time, is referenced more than almost any other winery. Today, LIOCO is a family operation: husband/wife-duo Matt and Sara Licklider run the company out of a cooperative space in Santa Rosa with a small team that includes winemaker Drew Huffine. In stark contrast to European wineries of equal stature, LIOCO doesn’t own any vineyards, or even a winery. This speaks to their stripped down ethos, and has allowed them to stay relentlessly focused on their craft. It’s also fueled a spirit of collaboration — behind every wine is a relationship with a grower that connects you to a unique corner of California.