If reading is not your thing, here is my roughshod video review of Laetitia Vineyard and Winery (nb: it is a Coquard press, not Jacquard press….that’s for linen…oy)
For those born to a world of paper books:
We leave Paso Robles for another wedding (my brother’s) and then return. But on our way back to Paso, we stop in Arroyo Grande Valley for some bubbles. Both Paso Robles AVA and Arroyo Grande AVA sit in San Louis Obispo County (not an AVA), which the Central Coast AVA engulfs. Confused? Here’s a map:
Unlike Paso Robles, which suns itself inside the coastal mountain range, Arroyo Grande is just a hop away from the the 101 and into the Pacific. The valley also runs West, creating a funnel for fog, clouds, cold, rain, and general dreariness: perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Laetitia Vineyard and Winery began with Maison Deutz from Champagne planting vineyards in 1982. Jean-Claude Tardivat bought and renamed them after his daughter, Laetitia. A year later Selim Zilkha, became partner, then, in 2001, bought Laetitia with his daughter Nadia Wellisz. Luckily, Dave Hickey has made their fizz since 1990, with son Eric taking over still wines.
At Laetitia’s heart rests their Coquard presses:
Basically, they are big, French baskets. Dump in grapes and let the pneumatic lid press them gently until juice runs through the slats. This method avoids extracting the dreaded skin and seed tannins and pigments.
In honor of this fabulous antique, we try its same-named fiz: Brut Coquard 2010: an 80% Chard, 20% Pinot Noir affair:
APPEARANCE: Rapid bubbles break up its pale, hay color. AROMAS: exude a proud, full toast, lemon rind, and minerality. The PALATE: claims “Brut” but feels off dry, with saving medium plus acidity that gives the medium body an angular character. FLAVORS: taste of lime rind, white pear, and odd but pleasant petrol even rubber with medium plus length. Their Brut Coquard is very good (4 of 5). Enough that we buy one to try in five years.
Next, Cuvée M 2011: an even split of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. AROMAS smell of gold apple, bear claw, vanilla, pear, with strawberry pith. A good start, but the PALATE again feels overly angular, with extra acidity and a chalky texture. FLAVORS: taste similarly pith and mineral driven, with a simple, medium length finish. Later harvest fruit might help this, angry, acidic youth: good (3 of 5). Maybe try it in a decade.
Brut Rosé 2012:
The APPEARANCE looks a pale, flesh tone. AROMAS: smell moderately at first of rubber, cream, sulfur…urk… which mellows into double cream brie, wild berry, and underripe plum. A PALATE of off dryness fades with medium plus acidity, a medium body, and a soft, round, easy texture. The FLAVORS taste clean and of delicate homey, blossoms, field flowers, and a slight saline solution. 2012’s rosé is very good (4 of 5) but numbed a touch by the sweetness.
Happy and curious, we try their still wines by son Eric.
Laetitia Estate Chardonnay 2013: A mash of Dijon, Wente, and other numbered clones. The APPEARANCE looks a bright, clear, lemon color. AROMAS and FLAVORS: smell and taste pretty pronounced of browned butter (thanks, 100% barrel ferment (25% new)), with wax, lemonade, and a nice sage. PALATE: Dry, high acid, a plump body. Their chard is good (3 of 5), but a bit standard.
Their estate Pinot Noir 2013 folds 10 clones into 30% new French barrels for 11 months. APPEARANCE: looks a medium ruby, with cherry highlights. AROMAS smell of medium plus intense cherry compote, light tobacco, young raspberries. The PALATE is dry, with medium acids, tannins, body, and a silky, numb, young texture. FLAVORS: taste of ripe, plump plum, cherry, and tobacco. A solid, ripe, very Californian Pinot (3 of 5) good ($25).
Maybe blending 10 clones blurred the end result. Let us dive into Laetitia’s Pommard Clone 5 2013: A clear, ruby APPEARANCE, jumps into extra strong aromas of rhubarb, musk, floral perfume, and cherry liquor. The dry PALATE shows a similar, safe medium-ness of acid, tannins, and body. But beyond the supple texture is a jangly drying. FLAVORS tend to be riper, spicier, muskier, and earthier than their regular Pinot Noir. However, Pommard 5 taste a bit too young, closed and dumb to be better than good (3 of 5).
Hmmm…let’s try clone 777. The APPEARANCE looks medium purple, with bright ruby highlights. AROMAS: rocks it with spiced orange peel, nutmeg, and black cherry. Its PALATE flaunts extra acid and tannin (yay!) a medium body. There’s more structure but edges seem a touch dulled. FLAVORS: make up with tart, angry cherry, black fruit and toast that finally last a medium plus length. 777 tastes interesting, a bit safe, but complex and very good (4 of 5).
Maybe all this gentle pressing and destemming presents the problem. What if Californians left the sticks in like the French…
Enter: Whole Cluster 2013
Again, the APPEARANCE looks medium ruby with a purple core. But AROMAS pounce with orange peel, nutmeg, and inky cherry. It grips the PALATE with medium plus acid and tannin feeling serious, twangy, with a furrowed brow. FLAVORS taste mineral, with green olive, switching to black yet tart cherry, and a medium plus length tobacco finish. I like a challenging wine, very good (4 of 5).
Overall, Laetitia makes that rare thing: truly cool, coastal pinot noir and chardonnay of good quality. Their bubbly lacks the cut of Champagne but still shows style and class at a reasonable price. Their still wines range widely from too easy and bland to quite complex and fascinating. Worth a visit.