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de Lorimier Winery - Alexander Valley - Sonoma Cou


Alfred de Lorimier bought his vineyard land in 1971.

Alfred de Lorimier bought his vineyard land in 1971. Originally, he was simply looking to find a get-away spot for him and his family to escape the busy city life of San Francisco. The Sonoma location where he settled is just a short drive away in the heart of the beautiful Alexander Valley. At that time the property was an old prune orchard owned by Beringer Vineyards. de Lorimier tried his hand at prune farming for one harvest before converting the entire parcel into vineyards.

Once the decision was made to plant vineyards, de Lorimier plunged headfirst planting the classic Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. For thirteen years de Lorimier sold his entire grape production to other wineries. He observed how these wineries were winning medal after medal using his grapes! What really bothered him though was the one-varietal style in which most of these wines were being produced and bottled. “I was tired of the monochromatic wines being made back then,” he says. “The Chardonnays were too oaky, and the Sauvignon Blancs were too grassy. I prefer a fruitier more complex style,” he adds, “So I decided to build my own winery to make wines the way I like to drink them.”

By 1987 he was off and running with his own offering of uniquely blended wines, fashioned in the time-honored Bordeaux style--and more importantly, the way he preferred to drink wine. Al de Lorimier's wife, Sandy, created a patterns concept in naming the wines. The wine names, Spectrum, a white Meritage, Mosaic, a red Meritage, and Prism, a blend of three Chardonnays, were the initial wines produced. The names suggest the essence of each particular wine, and the artistry, and richness in each blend. All three wines are complex, yet distinctive combinations of grape varietals, which produce an array of generous flavors. A fourth offering called, Lace, is a late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc wine, available only in special years when the weather cooperates.

Since those inaugural releases, de Lorimier has introduced three varietally labeled wines to the line-up, a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Merlot. The Sauvignon Blanc is a blend from three estate vineyards showing a style that is straightforward, crisp, clean and fruity—not overly grassy. The Chardonnay is a unique blend of three to four different clonal selections of the grape that come together to produce an exotic, multi-layered wine. de Lorimier has grown Merlot for over a decade and since 1990 a very small amount has been bottled as a varietal-named wine. The Merlot is usually blended with a small amount of Malbec that adds a soft, jammy fruit character. An abundance of red, ripe fruit flavors of cherry and plum make this wine a crowd pleaser year-in and year-out. As with the proprietary-named wines, each has won a plethora of medals in the industry wine competitions.

Al de Lorimier keeps an eye on the winery operation, and is also a prominent pediatric surgeon in San Francisco (see Spotlight profile in this publication). Al's wife, Sandy; winemaker Don Frazer (see related article); sales & marketing manager, John Woodward; and vineyard manager, Alex Vyborny; are the lifeblood of the operation. Total production is about 10,000 cases annually, with an eventual goal of 12,000. Only the best grapes are used to make their own wines, which account for roughly one-third of the total grape production. The other two-thirds continue to be sold to other wineries.

Throughout the 1990s, de Lorimier Winery contributed greatly to opening the door for a new range of affordable, yet serious California wines. Early in the decade, his carefully crafted blends were on the cutting edge of California winemaking. A growing army of winemakers throughout the state now shares his belief that well-crafted, blended wines are superior to single varietal wines. “It was simply a matter of time,” Al de Lorimier says with a grin.



Donald H. Frazer joined de Lorimier Winery in the spring of 1989

Donald H. Frazer joined de Lorimier Winery in the spring of 1989, and with him has brought an extensive background in viticulture and winemaking.

Raised on a family farm just north of Sacramento, Don worked summers and after school at all phases of an agricultural operation. He attended the University of California at Davis, where he obtained a B.S. specializing in Plant Science. Don joined Charles Krug winery in 1978 where he was elevated to the position of winemaker/production manager in January of 1980. In 1982 Don accepted a position as winemaker at Belvedere Winery where he was promoted to Vice President--Winemaker in 1985.

Don's winemaking philosophy is based on the fact that wine is a fruit product and therefore should reflect the varietal character of the grapes as well as the region and vineyard in which they are grown. This unique combination should be the central focus of a wine. From the time a vineyard is selected to the time a wine is released, all decisions must be made with ultimate goal of enhancing and preserving that unique character and presenting a wine that is complex, balanced and delicious to drink.

Dr. Alfred de Lorimier - Winery Owner

Dr. Alfred de Lorimier figured there had to be a better way. During medical school at the University of California in San Francisco, he saw a big void of expertise in the surgeries performed on children and infants. ‘It was an area that needed a lot of attention,” he remembers. de Lorimier spent five years learning general surgery at U.C.S.F., followed by two years of pediatric surgery at Ohio State perfecting his craft. Dr. de Lorimier has honed his skills to become one of the nations' most prominent physicians in the Pediatric Surgery field. In fact, last year he served as the President of the American Pediatric Surgical Association.

Al was born in Washington D.C., the son of an Army Radiologist. As an Army brat he spent his childhood living on Army bases in Washington, Panama Canal, and Memphis, before the family finally settled down in Berkeley, California. Northern California is where he has remained ever since.

Al de Lorimier's interest in wines developed during his medical school years, but owning a vineyard was the furthest thing from his mind. ‘In the late 1960's we began looking for a future escape valve out of San Francisco-a place in the country where we could go to relax someday and maybe try to grow something,” Al recalls. ‘On a map we drew a two-hour drive radius around San Francisco and began exploring the possibilities,” he said. The de Lorimier family fell in love with the beauty of the Alexander Valley. So in 1972, they bought two parcels of land, about seven miles apart, totaling about 65 acres.

Even at this point Al de Lorimier had not yet decided to plant vineyards. The two properties had existing prune and pear orchards, which had been largely neglected by previous owner, Beringer vineyards. ‘Beringer had been holding on to the land with the idea of converting it to vineyards, but they decided to scale back and sell it instead,” he reported. ‘We thought it would be fun to resurrect the orchards.” he chuckled. But the de Lorimiers quickly learned that prunes and pears were not exactly big cash crops, and it would cost them more to harvest than they would get for the crop.

In 1972, one year after buying the orchard properties, they converted it entirely to vineyards. And through the years with the help of vineyard neighbors, winery experts, former winemaker Dennis Hill, and current winemaker Don Frazer, the de Lorimier's have carved out a successful grape growing and winery operation that competes with the best California has to offer. We hope you enjoy discovering two of deLorimier's finest wines.

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