Lingua Franca in Oregon is the realisation of a life’s ambition for Master Sommelier Larry Stone. Having bought a site in the Eola-Amity Hills in 2012, Larry joined forces with David Honig and Dominique Lafon to create wines of expression and nuance.
The impressive triumvirate behind Lingua Franca enlisted Lafon’s protégé Thomas Savre as the winemaker, while Dominique supports as a consultant himself. Thomas brought his experience from several Burgundian greats and his time at Lingua Franca’s neighbour Evening Lands where was able to learn from Dominique.
The ethos at the birth of the project was about creating wines which have a sense of place and this is something for which all involved have both passion and expertise.
Larry’s vineyard is 27ha sitting among auspicious neighbours, Seven Springs and Lone Star Vineyards. This is a hillside which Larry rightly judged to have the ideal easterly exposure, catching the morning sunshine and gentle cooling breezes.
Larry has planted exclusively Dijon and heritage clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These are sourced from specific vineyards whenever possible – cuttings from Le Montrachet for example. The Chardonnay occupies the stoniest soils to bring a distinctive minerality to the wines. The Pinot is found on silty loam “Jory” and marine fossil Nekia soils.
Larry’s enthusiasm for the vineyard was the driving force behind this project so it is perhaps unsurprising that an organic and biodynamic approach is taken in its management. The attention to detail is meticulous and the regime is as much about encouraging biodiversity as it is vine health. The winery has also been built with the environment in mind, with numerous initiatives to reduce energy consumption and reuse water and CO2.
The approach to the wine making is no less scrupulous than the care of the vines themselves. The grapes are first sorted in the vineyard before a second sorting by hand in the winery. Enormous care is taken to ensure that they are kept in perfect condition and only whole grapes make it to the wine. Depending on the vintage there is a proportion of whole clusters used for the Pinot to increase complexity.
Pigéage (punching down) is conducted by foot here, a practice not often seen in wineries these days. Thomas is convinced that this more intuitive approach gives a better result than the mechanised alternative.
The range is made up of the estate wines together with some bought in fruit from single site. These are classic Oregon, always elegant and full of pure fruit but completed with notes of spice and earth which elevate them to give them a true sense of place.