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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Lioco Wines - Monterrey County

Rated 91 Points by Stephan Tanzer

LIOCO (pronounced lee-oko) is the result of a years-long conversation between Matt Licklider, a seasoned wine import specialist, and Kevin O’Connor, wine director at the esteemed Spago-Beverly Hills, about whether or not California could produce a true ‘wine of origin.’ After gathering opinions and drawing inspiration from some of the world’s greatest wine producers, the duo concluded that it could indeed be achieved.

What is a true ‘wine of origin?’ According to LIOCO, “it’s a wine that successfully portrays the voice of the vineyard through unique flavors and aromas tied inextricably to the soil.” In short, it is a wine with a clear representation of where it came from. Thus is the philosophy behind LIOCO’s vineyard-designated wines and Burgundian-influenced, gently treated Pinot Noirs.

Co-founder Matt Licklider, who had his wine epiphany during the winter of 1995, got his start in the industry by going to work for Boulder, Colorado-based boutique wine distributor, The Maxwell Company, where he soon became a leading sales person. He went on to represent Napa wine importer Dalla Terra, and finally the esteemed North Berkely Imports, for which he represented some of the classiest French and Italian producers in the United States.

His friend and colleague Kevin O’Connor found his calling at a much younger age, when his parents served “Old World” wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux at the dinner table growing up. With a great-grandmother who single-handedly made Italian Trebbiano d’Abruzzo two generations prior, it seems that O’Connor was pre-destined to a career in wine.

After a series of high-profile sommelier positions, his wine director experience at Spago-Beverly Hills, and a winemaking stint at Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Maria Valley, O’Connor joined forces with Licklider and together, formed the principles and philosophy that made LIOCO a reality.

LIOCO, which cleverly enough is a fusion of the cofounders’ last names, LI-cklider and OCO-nnor, finally laid its foundation in August of 2005, and has since been an escalating success for the tight-knit team of passionate wine enthusiasts.

When asked what distinguishes LIOCO from other wineries, aside from their “building wine from the ground up” credo, the response is their unique production process:

“We buy fruit from independent growers throughout California and make the wine in a state-of-the-art cooperative in Santa Rosa. We do not own any vineyards, nor do we own a winery. All of our resources are directed toward the sourcing of grapes from the state’s premier vineyards.”

LIOCO’s dedication to finding California’s best vineyard properties, with an emphasis on restrained winemaking practices, ensures that their wines clearly represent the varietals’ authentic flavor and aroma characteristics.

The winery’s success with Pinot Noir comes from Licklider and O’Connor’s deep understanding of the elusive, Burgundian-born grape. Widely known as one of the most soil-susceptible varietals, vineyard selection is critical, and LIOCO produces several gently treated Pinots from properties with extreme climates and tougher soils to accurately portray the varietal’s complex characters.

The Michaud Vineyard, from which the featured 2006 Pinot Noir was made, is a prime example of the type of property chosen for the LIOCO portfolio. Licklider and O’Connor find that its extremely rare soil composition of granite and limestone, paired with the arid high altitude exposure, provide favorable growing conditions yielding a great depth of varietal flavor.

LIOCO’s first release came in 2005 with slightly more than 1,600 cases, which was immediately hailed by sommeliers and wine industry press in numerous publications. Today, the winery has grown to a modest 7,000 cases with no immediate plan to significantly raise the ceiling.

Licklider and O’Connor are accompanied at LIOCO by diligent winemaker Kevin Kelley, who gained his formal education at UC Davis. Kelley also resided in Burgundy for a period of time, which gave him an intimate perspective on the philosophy and history of traditional Pinot Noir. When he returned to California, his experience landed him into top winemaking opportunities, before finding a home at LIOCO.

With a remarkable following for their portfolio of distinctive, vineyard-expressive wines, LIOCO stands as an excellent example of a winery that truly, and successfully, produces “wines of origin.”

About the Vineyard:

Tucked away in the Gabilan Mountain Range at the base of the Pinnacles National Monument, the Michaud Vineyard sits at an altitude of 1500 feet and is home to one of the most unique soil compositions in the viticultural world.

The intriguing Pinnacles National Monument is actually the remnants of an old volcano, and numerous eruptions caused grinding of the great Pacific Plate to and the North American Plate within the San Andreas Fault. The resulting soil type is a decomposed granite and clay loam. Once submerged by the Pacific Ocean, the Pacific Plate acquired numerous limestone deposits from the decay of marine organisms. The result is one of the few places in the world where granite and limestone are co-located, providing a well-drained, mineral rich soil well suited to viticulture.

The Michaud Vineyard’s extreme arid climate with daily temperature swings of 40-60 degrees promotes stressed vines, low yields, and wines with a great depth of varietal flavor.

  1. Lioco
    2006 Pinot Noir
    Michaud Vineyard
    Monterey County


    91 - Stephan Tanzer
    id: 259
    Pinot Noir

Roasted Pork with Wild Herbs


1 Garlic clove, finely diced
2 Tablespoons rosemary leaves, finely chopped
3—4 Sage leaves, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon thyme leaves, finely chopped
2 Cloves, ground
Salt and pepper
2 lb. Pork roast
4-5 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/2 Tablespoon corn starch


Mix garlic, rosemary leaves, sage, thyme, cloves, salt and pepper. With a sharp knife make some incisions in the meat and fill with the herbs. Rub the surface of the meat with the rest of the herb mix. Tie the meat piece together with a kitchen rope. In a saucepan of adequate size put the extra-virgin olive oil and turn heat to medium. When the oil is hot, place the meat in the pan and brown lightly on all sides for few minutes. Add wine, turn the heat to high, and when the wine is evaporated, add ½ cup water or broth. Cover and simmer on moderate heat for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Occasionally turn the meat to cook on all sides and add a little warm water or broth if necessary. Remove the meat from the pan. In a small bowl mix together the corn starch and 2-3 tablespoons water. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan, scraping the bottom to incorporate the gravy. Stir and cook until thicker. Cool the meat at room temperature, slice and serve dressed with the warm sauce.

Grilled Salmon with Fennel Spice Rub


1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
1 1/2 Tablespoons natural sea salt
1 Tablespoon coarsely ground pepper
6 (6-8 ounce) Salmon fillets or steaks
Olive oil


Crack and grind the fennel seed in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Combine the fennel seed, salt and pepper. This amount is plenty for an entire salmon. If you wish, prepare extra spice mix and keep it on hand for another time. It's great on fish or poultry. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. If using a charcoal grill, cover the barbecue after the coals are ready so the grill grate will heat up. The grate needs to be very hot or else the salmon will stick. Brush the salmon with a bit of olive oil, then rub the fennel spice mixture onto the fish. Grill for 7 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness measured at its thickest point). Remove fish from the grill and let rest for a few minutes before serving.