Above: A new American gothic? Kevin O’Connor from Lioco.
Conversation with Lioco’s Kevin O’Connor last night over dinner at Sotto (where I co-curate the wine list) in Los Angeles spanned the heady days of his tenure as wine director at Spago and his years prior in New York when the current renaissance began to explode.
It was truly moving to hear him speak of the legendary Los Angeles sommelier Michael Bonaccorsi, one of his mentors and a rising star on the U.S. wine scene when he succumbed to a heart attack at 43 in 2004.
We’ve worked with a lot of Kevin’s wines at Sotto since the restaurant opened. And while we included the winery’s entry-tier Chardonnay on our inaugural list, I had always found it to fall on the softer side of the Chardonnay spectrum.
After I tasted his 2011 vintage, we talked about the shift Lioco’s winemaker has made toward a more muscular and acidity-driven wine. He talked about how they are now balancing large-format cask fermentation with stainless steel and how all the wines continue to be aged in stainless steel (and some cement, he said).
I was blown away by his 2011 Russian River (one of the higher tier in the Chardonnay line). It was rich in the mouth but retained that lightness of body that I look for in fine wine and its acidity sang out over a rhythm of white and stone fruit.
A Russian River Valley Chardonnay that I loved? I bet you never thought you’d hear me say that!