La Follette Wines
Sonoma County region
We create small-lot Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that embody the essence of our region, the individuality of the vineyard, and the intention of our winemaker.
It all began thirteen years ago as an attempt to create an ongoing dialogue between a number of select vineyards to showcase two of California’s premier grape varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
California’s North Coast growing region was chosen as the major grape source for La Follette Wines’ initial releases due to its incredible assortment of growing areas and the diversity of climate and soils it offers to the band of farmers that have made the North Coast one of California’s premier growing areas.
La Follette Wines is owned by Pete and Terri Kight who also own the well-respected Quivira Vineyards in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, as well as the highly acclaimed Torbreck Vintners in Australia’s Barossa Valley. Kight is the CEO of electronic bill pay pioneer CheckFree and an avid devotee of fine wines.
The Kights’ entrance into the wine industry occurred in the spring of 2006, when they met Henry and Holly Wendt, the founders of Quivira Vineyards. The Kights were captivated by Quivira’s location in Dry Creek Valley and the winery’s vision to craft better wine through better vineyard management, using biodynamic and organic farming techniques. Since shaking hands and purchasing the winery in the summer of 2006, Pete and Terri have rallied their team around a strong sense of purpose and the mutual understanding of how a sustainable, holistic approach to growing grapes can yield distinctive wines.
Fast forward a couple years and the Kights established a sister winery to Quivira Vineyards - a partnership with winemaker Greg La Follette. The entity began operations in 2008 and was officially launched in 2010. Thus was the beginning of La Follette Wines.
The winery, which takes its name from the founding winemaker, Greg La Follette, began producing vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from some of the most expressive and interesting vineyards in Sonoma and Mendocino County. A total of 5,000 cases were initially released and that number has just slightly increased to the present level of around 7,200 cases.
Greg La Follette is something of a legend in winemaking circles around Sonoma County. While his career began as a musician at 17 (he was the bagpiper for the Queen Mary berthed in Long Beach, California), he always wanted to be a winemaker. He eventually transferred to UC Davis to pursue his dream and was able to complete his post grad work on how Burgundian winemaking techniques affect mouthfeel. That experience fostered an attachment for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that affected his entire winemaking career.
For the past fifty years, Greg La Follette has plied his trade as a world-class winemaker and has been responsible for wine entities such as Flowers, Alquimista, Steelhead, and Tandem to name a few. He has also been named Winemaker of the Year and tagged as the ‘Prince of Pinot’ by the website of the same name. Throughout the years, awards and accolades have come by the bushel to Greg La Follette and his wines have earned a reputation for both their quality and price/value relationship.
Since La Follette Wines’ inception, the company has been an excellent negotiant model for the Northern California wine industry. With no estate vineyards, La Follette has prospered on long-term contracts with growers from a number of highly-rated vineyards. Included are the likes of renowned Sangiacomo Vineyards, Charles Heintz Vineyard, Hawk’s Roost Vineyard, Van Der Kamp Vineyard and several others. The grape-growing group represents an outstanding selection of fruit from specific terroirs that reflect the flavors and intensities of each specific site.
The illustration on La Follette’s label was found in a rare first-edition French viticulture manual published in 1847, and fits perfectly with the winery’s vision of mixing old and new. The manual covered the latest methods of winegrowing, while also championing traditional techniques - a viewpoint that resonates with the La Follette winemaking team, which today falls under the leadership of Hugh Chappelle.
Hugh brings nearly three decades of winemaking experince to La Follette, including stints at such luminaries as Flowers, Lynmar, and Quivira. His desire to fully embrace the concept of terroir - crafting wines that are true to the vineyard, pure in their expression, and a delight to drink - is reflective of La Follette’s philosophy as well.
La Follette Wines is a wonderful story of insight and planning that provides an excellent collection of award-winning wines from high-caliber vineyards. We are proud to present La Follette to our Gold Wine Club members. Enjoy!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members
Our 2017 La Follette Lorenzo Chardonnay is sure to please anyone who loves classic, richly textured California Chardonnay with a modern sensibility to overall wine balance in terms of oak, alcohol and natural acidity. From a wonderful vintage, and some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in all of California (planted in 1974), we have crafted a gorgeous wine that perfectly captures time, place, and grape variety.
The Lorenzo vineyard is family owned and managed and sells only to California’s top Chardonnay producers. We are truly privileged to be among the few who are allocated a few tons of these precious grapes. The vineyard location is in a climatic sweet spot for Chardonnay, within the Russian River, which when combined with vine age and coveted Old Wente clonal material, yields a truly thrilling result, year-in, year-out.
Winemaking here is as simple and natural as can be, relying on impeccable quality fruit and keen attention to detail, rather than the latest ‘bells and whistles.’ Only native, wild yeast and bacteria were used for the fermentations... no laboratory yeasts! The resultant aroma and flavor profile, and texture, embody everything we love about great Chardonnay - exotic citrus notes of Kaffir lime and Meyer lemon, interwoven with Asian spice, wet stone minerality, a creamy mid-palate, and a crisp, cleansing finish. This wine hits all the notes you would want to bring you back for a second glass! While all traditional Chardonnay food/wine pairings should shine here, we particularly enjoy this wine with bolder seafood dishes such as local Dungeness crab, vegetable tempura, or halibut with lime zest.
Simone Sequeira - Winemaker
The winemaking team at La Follette Wines is among the best in the country with substantial experience and expertise. Founding winemaker Greg La Follette was principle winemaker until leaving the entity in 2016. His associate winemaker, Simone Sequeira, has been with the winery since its inception and maintains the attention to detail that is necessary to produce exceptional wines. Sequeira’s work experience includes a stint at Taft Street Winery in Sebastopol and foreign stints at the prestigious Clos de Vougeot in Burgundy and also with a top winery in Argentina early in her career.
Sequeira believes her greatest asset is her nose in making wines. “I feel like I’m receiving nonverbal messages and clues all day long from ambient aromas inside and outside the winery,” she revealed.
Nowadays, Winemaker Ehren Jordan serves as consultant at La Follette Wines. Jordan is a former winemaker-of-the-year (2008) and has been associated with such luminaries as Turley Wine Cellars, Failla Wines and Neyers Vineyards. Enough said.
Greg La Follette
Founding Winemaker Greg La Follette is something of a legend in winemaking circles around Sonoma County, with good reason.
La Follette’s career began as a musician. At 17, he became the bagpiper for the Queen Mary berthed in Long Beach, California. “I wanted to be a winemaker since my teens,” admitted La Follette. “But who in Los Angeles becomes a winemaker?” La Follette eventually transferred to UC Davis to pursue his dream of becoming a winemaker and was able to complete his post grad work on how Burgundian winemaking techniques affect mouthfeel. That experience fostered an attachment for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that affected La Follette’s entire winemaking career. “A bottle of the 1961 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Le Montrachet (considered by many to be the finest white Burgundy in the world) put the icing on the cake for me as far as Burgundies were concerned,” he added.
For the past fifty years, Greg La Follette has plied his trade as a world-class winemaker. As winemaker or consulting winemaker, he has been responsible for wine entities such as Flowers Vineyards and Winery, Alquimista Cellars, Steelhead Vineyards and Tandem Wines to name a few. He is Sonoma’s most revered winemaker and was honored as Winemaker of the Year in 2010. He has also been tagged “Prince of Pinot” by the website of the same name.
La Follette points out that, “Perhaps the biggest lesson is that a wine is a sum of its parts and the biggest part is the land itself and that we as spokespersons for the land must revere the rocks, sun, wind and rain - everything that ultimately affects the growing of the grapes.”
He also alludes to his mentor, wine icon and winemaking teaching legend Andre Tchelistcheff, who often extolled him to “Live the wine.”
Greg La Follette is a proponent of balanced wines and chides the adage that low yields make higher-quality wines. “A broad generalization” he said, referring to the low yield maxim. “It is more likely that high-end wines from vines that are cropped too low are actually worse than if the vine has a balanced crop. This leads to runaway alcohols. If the vine isn’t balanced, it will pay no attention to ripening its grape tannins. Then you must pick the grapes at higher sugar percentages to produce flavor-ripeness and that leads to higher alcohols, lower acidity and jammy flavors. Balanced vines mean balanced wines, it’s as simple as all that.”
Awards and accolades have come by the bushel to Greg La Follette and his portfolio of finely textured wines. Throughout the years, his wines have earned a reputation both for their quality as well as their price/value relationship.
He continues to preach the gospel about terroir and its effect on the wines that are produced from specific areas. “Each site, each vineyard has uniqueness, a specialness that can be listened to and partnered to,” he stated. “If I do anything well, it is listening to my vineyards and inviting the land to share its voice in every glass of wine.”
Luminaries such as Greg La Follette are increasingly difficult to find in the California wine industry as it continues to grow and prosper. When profitability and status become bywords in the wine arena, many growers and vintners succumb to the pressures of the industry. Not so with Greg La Follette, a humble and resolute man who remains true to his origins and his passions.
It is our pleasure to spotlight Greg La Follette for our Gold Wine Club members.
North Coast AVA
Northern California’s North Coast AVA (American Viticultural Area) encompasses growing areas in six California counties and covers more than 3,000,000 acres along the coast of the Golden State.
Mainstay designations such as Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Mendocino County are the headliners and the North Coast Appellation is home to the most wineries in California.
With the rise in popularity of the amazing Pinot Noir grape, added attention has been given to the North Coast AVA and its sometimes fierce weather conditions. While officially classified as Mediterranean/maritime in climate, the area’s altitude variances and wind conditions have made it one of the most desirous places for growing the hard to handle Pinot Noir and to a lesser degree the Chardonnay.
The long, rough-edged rectangle that is the North Coast AVA measures a little over 120 miles from South to North and about half that from west to east. Summer temperatures in the North Coast AVA are significantly lower (while winters are noticeably milder) than the inland growing areas and provide a higher quality of fruit. While many of the sub-regions (Napa Valley, Sonoma County etc.) are delineated by national, state or county borders, the North Coast AVA is defined by topography, hydrography and other geographical factors.
Many winemaking gems originate within this AVA and consumers should take note of each wine’s origins when making their selection. Such prudent shopping will seldom be disappointing.