“Remember, happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have, it depends solely upon what you drink!”â€”Brian Loring
â€œThere are times when Brian Loring finds himself racing to make ends meet, juggling work as a software engineer with a career as an aspiring winemaker.â€–Wine Spectator, 2003
That was then, when he still had a Software Engineer day job and hoped to someday make 3000 case of wine a year.Â Now, 49 yr-old Brian Loring is one of the top Pinot-makers in the USA, famous for his Loring Wine Company label of single-vineyard Pinots and a consulting winemaker for boutique properties Pali, Twin Oaks, Goldenâ€™s, et al.Â His production has grown to over 7000 casesâ€”still tiny by most standardsâ€”but bigger than where he started and very big on quality and reputation.
According to Brian Loring, Siduri set the model for small production single-vineyard pinots, working with growers and buying by the acre.Â Adventuresome winemakers, such as Brian Loring, followed suit, experimenting in defining distinctly California Pinot Noir.Â A bigger, bolder pinot style was pioneering, but by 2004, they had all approached the upper boundary of â€˜bignessâ€™ and decided to dial it back to where each stylistically wanted to be, rather than continuing to test the limits or purely focusing on being different.
What does it mean to be a California pinot versus a French one?Â Loring says, â€œEmbrace your longer hangtimeâ€.Â Perhaps they will not have the same longevity as their French counterparts, but Loring believes that his Pinots can have complexity and simultaneously be appreciable at an early age.
For all of I’ve read about Brian Loring, he sure seems like a nice guy.Â He is also extremely smart, a talented winemaker and a very bad dresser.Â We present Brian Loring, in his own words:
WHY I MAKE PINOT NOIR
My name is Brian Loring and my obsession is Pinot Noir. OK, I’m also pretty crazy about Champagne, but that’s another story. While in college, I worked at a wine shop in Hollywood (Victor’s), where one of the owners was a Burgundy fanatic. So, my very first experiences with Pinot Noir were from producers like Domaine Dujac, Henri Jayer, and DRC. Needless to say, I found subsequent tasting safaris into the domestic Pinot Noir jungle less than satisfying. It wasn’t until I literally stumbled into Calera (I tripped over a case of their wine in the store room) that I found a California Pinot Noir that I could love. But it would be quite a while before I found someone else that lived up to the standard that Josh Jensen had established. I eventually came to understand and enjoy Pinots from Williams Selyem, Chalone, and Sanford, but I really got excited about California Pinot Noir when I met Norm Beko from Cottonwood Canyon at an Orange County Wine Society tasting.
I made about 3 trips around the booths at the tasting without finding a single good Pinot Noir. So, being the open minded person that I am (remember I passed him up 3 times), I stopped at the Cottonwood booth. I was BLOWN away by Norman’s 1990 Santa Maria Pinot Noir. After a few years of attending every Cottonwood event and asking Norm 10,000 questions about winemaking, he offered to let come learn the process during the ’97 crush. I checked sugar levels, picked, crushed, punched down, pressed, filled barrels, and generally moved a bunch of stuff around with fork lifts and pallet jacks! It was the time of my life… I was totally hooked. And even though I hadn’t planned it, I ended up making two barrels of Pinot Noir. That was the start of the Loring Wine Company. What had started out as a dream 15 years earlier was now a reality – I was a winemaker!
HOW I MAKE PINOT NOIR
My philosophy on making wine is that the fruit is EVERYTHING. What happens in the vineyard determines the quality of the wine – I can’t make it better – I can only screw it up! That’s why I’m extremely picky when choosing vineyards to buy grapes from. Not only am I looking for the right soil, micro-climate, and clones, I’m also looking for a grower with the same passion and dedication to producing great wine that I have. In other words, a total Pinot Freak! My part in the vineyard equation is to throw heaping piles of money at the vineyard owners (so that they can limit yields and still make a profit) and then stay out of the way! Since most, if not all of the growers keep some fruit to make their own wine, I tell them to farm my acre(s) the same way they do theirs – since they’ll obviously be doing whatever is necessary to get the best possible fruit. One of the most important decisions made in the vineyard is when to pick. Some people go by the numbers (brix, pH, TA, etc) and some go by taste. Once again, I trust the decision to the vineyard people. The day they pick the fruit for their wine is the day I’m there with a truck to pick mine. Given this approach, the wine that I produce is as much a reflection of the vineyard owner as it is of my winemaking skills. I figure that I’m extending the concept of terroir a bit to include the vineyard owner/manager… but it seems to make sense to me. The added benefit is that I’ll be producing a wide variety of Pinots. It’d be boring if everything I made tasted the same.
ABOUT THE NAME
Sounds pretty straight forward, last name Loring, therefore Loring Wine Company. Ahhh, but what about the “Wine Company” part? That is an hommage to Josh Jensen at Calera… which is actually Calera Wine Company. Since he was the guy who showed me that great Pinot Noir could be made in California, I decided to name my winery Loring Wine Company to “honor” him. Hopefully, Josh sees it for what it is and doesn’t want to sue me for trademark infringement!
Brian goes on to thanks the folks at Cottonwood Canyon and Adam Lee of Siduri on his website, AS WELL AS recommend dozens and dozens of his favorite California Pinot-producers and Champagne houses.Â What a nice guy.
The thoughtful and distinctive Loring Wine Company labels…
2005 LWC Clos Pepe Vineyard
Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills
This photo shows an end-post for one of our rows. The PN-667 tells you it’s a row of Pinot Noir 667 clone. 101-14 is the rootstock. And it’s row number 8. Not many vineyards list this type of detail on the end-posts.
2005 LWC Garys’ Vineyard
Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands
Good shot showing the rocky soil showing through under the vines. Santa Lucia Highlands