Tag Archives: pinot noir

De-Mystifying Whole-Cluster Fermentation

whole clusterWhole-cluster fermentation is gaining rapid interest as a winemaking practice, but how much does the average consumer really know about this mysterious method and its effects?

“Whole-cluster fermentation is the act of using the entire bunch or cluster of grapes, including the stem, in alcoholic fermentation,” says Winemaker Eric Hickey of Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, who has used whole-cluster fermentation for about a decade. “The winemaker can vary the amount of whole clusters included in the fermentor. For example, in our case, I use anywhere from thirty to seventy percent whole clusters in a given batch.  The remaining percentage in the fermentor is made up of de-stemmed grapes.”

The use of whole-cluster fermentation began as an experiment for Hickey, who has made a career of exploring different approaches to Pinot Noir from Laetitia’s Arroyo Grande Valley AVA estate. “We have a vast array of plantings, clones, and diversity when it comes to Pinot Noir,” he said. “Not all of our lots do well with whole-cluster, but through all of our trials over the years, we’ve located the specific clones and sites that work well.”

In Burgundy, where Pinot Noir is king, whole-cluster fermentation has been used for hundreds of years, perhaps somewhat out of the convenience of tossing an entire bunch into the fermenting vessel. The hallmark of whole-cluster wines – a signature burnt tobacco note entwined with the fruit aromas and flavors – became synonymous with the Pinot Noir variety in Old World winemaking.

Eric Hickey

Eric Hickey

“It’s not always obvious, but there’s an extra layer of structure to whole-cluster Pinot Noir,” says Hickey, “and when it’s at its best, there is a dusty chalkiness to the mid-palate.”

Whole-cluster fermentation can be practiced on any variety, and is often used to tone down fruit characteristics and add another dimension to the wine. (For example, Hickey also uses whole-cluster fermentation on Grenache from the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard for the NADIA Wines label.) While New World winemakers have used this method for many years, a fruit-driven, de-stemmed Pinot Noir became popular as the variety gained a foothold in the United States market in the late 1980s and 1990s. Today, the pendulum is swinging the other direction, with many winemakers moving away from “pure-fruit” Pinot Noir by fermenting clusters whole to impart complexity, tannic grip, and a lift on the palate.

Laetitia_Pinot_Noir_Whole_ClusterWEBTo bring this style further into balance, when Hickey whole-cluster ferments Pinot Noir, he leaves the intact bunches to rest in the fermentor after harvest rather than crushing them immediately. In this anaerobic environment, fermentation then begins within each individual berry as yeast penetrates the skin wall under the pressure of carbon dioxide, a process called carbonic maceration. “When fermentation takes place inside the berry, you tend to get very high levels of delicate red fruit and floral aromas,” says Hickey. “In the case of the whole-cluster technique, the high fruit tone is a good counter balance to the earthy tobacco characters the stems provide.”

Each vintage, Hickey rounds-out the Laetitia Pinot Noir program by offering a whole-cluster Pinot Noir made from clones conducive to the practice. The most recent release is the 2012 vintage, which included Pinot Noir from clones 115 and 2A to produce a wine marked by focused flavors and a refreshing grip in mouth feel. Crisp notes of cassis, whole-leaf tobacco and black peppercorn mingle with a touch of sweet oak and sultry black tea on the nose and palate. With its heightened earthiness, the 2012 Laetitia Whole Cluster Pinot Noir pairs well with similarly earthy cuisine such as roast duck, sautéed porcini mushrooms, or eggplant lasagna.

“Consumer response [toward whole-cluster wine] has been great,” says Hickey. “It usually appeals to those who prefer a Pinot with more power, structure and less ‘pure red fruit’ on the nose.”


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Three Wines for Three Wedding Styles

Perhaps we’re just wedding-crazed around here, but lately, it seems that trends for the Big Day are seriously rolling high. We at Parker Sanpei recently investigated a few common wedding styles – contemporary, rustic, and modern – and paired wines from one of our favorite wineries, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery. Have a look.

Classic Glamour

GlamourFor their big day, some couples go truly big with timeless glamour and touches reminiscent of old Hollywood or a night at the Ritz: ruby red lips, white roses, long trains, and tall cakes. For a classic nuptial, the best wine is a classic sparkler like Laetitia Vineyard & Winery’s Brut Cuvée. Tiny streams of bubbles bring convey notes of red apple, lemon chiffon and juicy pear laced with aromas of fresh-baked challah bread. This festive sparkling wine – comprised of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc – is delightful sipped alone, paired with hors d’oeuvres, risotto or vegetable dishes, or poured specially for a toast to the happy couple.

A Rustic Affair


A rustic-chic wedding can feel as comfortable and authentic as a favorite pair of blue jeans. Maybe the bride wears vintage; maybe the reception is held beneath twinkling lights hung high in a country barn. But however rustic the event leans, wine from Laetitia’s sister brand, NADIA, is always an elegant match. Comprised of the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard’s finest Bordeaux and Rhône-variety grapes, NADIA Wines eloquently express the remarkable high-elevation terroir of the Sierra Madre Mountains in limited-production lots. For flavor-forward cuisine like charred meats or grilled pizza, go for the NADIA Cabernet Sauvignon, which offers notes of concentrated dark fruits, a hint of clove and toasty graham cracker, balanced tannins and a long finish.

Thoroughly Modern Marriage

MODERNToday’s contemporary weddings blend high design with playful touches that run the gamut from brightly-colored and patterned cakes to outlandish tropical floral arrangements. Fresh, locally-sourced cuisine that’s big on flavor pairs perfectly with Laetitia’s Reserve du Domaine Pinot Noir. Marked by notes of juicy red berries and rich earthiness, the Reserve du Domaine Pinot Noir boasts flavors and aromas of vine-ripened boysenberry and smoked truffle flavors that contribute to the wine’s firm structure and supple grip. Pair this playful Pinot with succulent veal or fresh ratatouille for a meal – and a day – not quickly forgotten.

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Seductive Wine and Cuisine Ideas for Valentine’s Day

When it comes to romance, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery has the wine covered. Beautifully, we might add.

45_1bfa589a1e7e8eaa18eb401498656fe5From its ideal position on California’s picturesque Central Coast, Laetitia offers a wide array of wines from estate fruit that have been seducing palates for over thirty years. Whether it’s their traditionally-crafted sparkling wine or lusty Pinot Noir, Laetitia knows how to flirt. And with February 14th swiftly approaching, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery employees have weighed in on how they’re planning to woo their Valentine with a special meal paired with (what else?) Laetitia estate wine.

  • Sara Nesper, Vineyard Accounting and Contracts Manager, plans to pick up a freshly-baked baguette and a wedge of Abbaye de Belloc sheep’s milk cheese to pair with the nuanced flavors and aromas of Laetitia Single Vineyard La Colline Pinot Noir.
  • Vice President Vineyard Operations, Lino Bozzano, cooks up homemade chile rellenos with pasilla peppers grown in the Laetitia employee garden. After fire roasting and peeling the peppers, he stuffs sharp cheddar into each and fries them in a light batter before serving alongside the well-structured and aromatic Laetitia Whole Cluster Pinot Noir.
  • Viticulturist Dave Terry goes cozy and casual with a bottle of sumptuous NADIA Trio (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot blend) and orders a pizza.
  • Randy Wilkerson, Senior Accounting Associate opts for pink bubbles – Laetitia Brut Rosé – with surf and turf, a baked potato and green beans.
  • And don’t forget the chocolate! Kylie Burd, Hospitality & Vineyard Accounts Payable likes her dark chocolate fondue paired against the dark fruit and spice notes in the Laetitia Reserve du Domaine Pinot Noir.

To celebrate this Valentine’s Day in effervescent style, Laetitia is offering a three-year vertical of its popular Brut Rosé (2008, 2009 and 2011, as the Brut Rosé wasn’t made in 2010) for $76.50 plus tax ($69 for Wine Club). Visit the Laetitia Vineyard & Winery tasting room or www.LaetitiaWines.com to order.

MAMA_WalnutTruffleThe winery is also holding a chocolate and wine pairing on Feb 13th featuring San Luis Obispo artisan chocolatier, Mama Ganache. On Thursday, February 13, from 6 to 8 P.M., guests will taste ten chocolates made especially for pairing with Laetitia and NADIA Wines, including: 

Tickets to this indulgent event are $25 or $20 for Wine Club members. Guests must be 21 and over. To reserve, please call 805.474.7641.

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Laetitia Vineyard’s Nightlife

Nightlife in Laetitia Vineyard

During your next late evening glass of wine take a moment to think of the vineyard crews, as they are likely just arriving to work at the Laetitia Estate Vineyard. Fall is one of our favorite times here at Parker Sanpei, not only does Linda free her latest pair of fashionable boots from the closet, but we all look forward to the harvest updates from our winery clients and friends.

Harvest time is crunch time for wineries throughout the world. In the northern hemisphere this busy season usually begins in August and can last through until November. The vineyard and winemaking crews at Laetitia Vineyard & Winery are no exception to the demanding pace that characterizes this time of year. Lino Bozzano and Eric Hickey lead the Laetitia vineyard and winemaking teams, respectively. Years of perfecting the harvest routine have brought them both to the conclusion that vineyard nightlife is the time to bring in the grapes soon to become our favorite wines.

On the vineyard side of things, Lino points out it’s common sense to avoid the heat by harvesting late at night into the early morning hours. The improved working conditions naturally lend for more productive workdays, or rather in this case nights. A few members of the Parker Sanpei crew have been fortunate enough to experience a night harvest in person, something you should definitely take advantage of should the opportunity come your way. Out in the vineyard, the dark  night is cut by eerie lights that allow the crews the ability to see the clusters that are hand harvested and sent off to the winery to begin each wine’s individual winemaking process.

Eric and Lino Enjoy Some Vineyard Fun

Following the grapes to the winery, we learned there are even more benefits to be cultivated from night harvests. Head Winemaker Eric Hickey explained, “when picked in the cool 50 degree weather, grapes are firmer making them easier to work with, particularly facilitating de-stemming. Additionally, lower temperatures allow Pinot Noir grapes to arrive near the same temperature necessary to begin cold soaking, the first step in the production of these wines.”

Cold soaking is a unique winemaking process that allows Eric to draw richer colors, distinct aromatics and softer tannins in the flavor profiles from this finicky varietal. Personal fans of Laetitia Pinots, we support this process and are thankful to enjoy it’s delectable results.

Remember, next time you are savoring your evening glass of wine and continuing long past the hours when you drift off to dreamland, the crews of Laetitia Vineyard & Winery are hard at work. Considering the fruits of their labor bring us these delightful labels, we encourage you to join us in raising a glass in gratitude to the hardworking team bringing you fantastic Laetitia wines.

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Unity of Purpose from Field to Cellar

A longstanding partnership between a winemaker and vineyard manager produces phenomenal results

In wine, as in life, the best things take time.  Such is the story behind the partnership that produces Laetitia Estate Vineyard & Winery’s consistently extraordinary wines.  President and Winemaker, Eric Hickey, and VP of Vineyard Operations, Lino Bozzano, have cultivated a longstanding collaboration that carries Laetitia wines through from first leaf to the last bottle on the line.

Eric Hickey

Beginning his hands-on training in Laetitia’s cellar over twenty years ago, Eric Hickey has had ample time to discover what works best for the quality of the estate’s venerated brand.  “Staying eye-to-eye with Lino is the most important part of my job,” he says, “because the interplay between us is what ultimately determines the wines’ quality. Everything done in the cellar starts with what we do out in the vineyard.”

As a third-generation farmer, Lino Bozzano intimately understands how every nuance in the field impacts the final product.  “There is tremendous diversity in this small area, from the soils to the meso-climates,” says Lino. “It’s the perfect venue for understanding what site means to the wines.” Having started with Laetitia in 2004, Lino’s intimate knowledge of the 600+-acre estate includes the clonal properties, soil types and varietal composition of any given row of vines. This is particularly important for Pinot Noir, which makes up the backbone of Laetitia’s program.

Lino Bozzano

While it’s impossible to name any one facet of the terroir that makes Laetitia Pinot Noir great, Lino and Eric point to the vineyard’s soils as essential to their wines’ complexity and breadth of style.  Rolling hills comprised of volcanic pumice, sedimentary shale and rich, alluvial soils contribute different characteristics to each of the 57 Pinot Noir blocks.  Notes of cola and earthy spice (volcanic soils) or bright, red fruit (alluvial) are complemented and augmented by carefully made clonal selections such as 667 (dark berries), 2A (sarsaparilla) and 115 (juicy red fruit).

It is the unity of purpose between Lino and Eric – synergy with the land, the fruit, and with each other – that makes Laetitia the respected house it is today.  “It’s partly the beauty of having consistency on the team,” says Eric, “but it’s also the beauty of estate production. We know our property and our fruit like the back of our hand.  Sure, there are surprises from year to year.  But in the end, no one knows better how to work with our vines than me and Lino because we’ve been doing it for so many years.”

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