Laetitia Vineyard & Winery
Central Coast AVA
"Balanced vines make the best wine"
Found in the heart of California’s Central Coast, Laetitia Vineyard & Winery is ideally perched just four miles from the Pacific Ocean with breathtaking views of Pismo Beach and Avila Bay – a charming setting for its host of award-winning wines and expansive, estate vineyards that have consistently performed for nearly 30 years.
The estate has an incredible history, rich in French tradition that requires some explanation to fully grasp how Laetitia Vineyard & Winery has become the prestigious entity it is today. It all started back in 1982 when French enologists and viticulturalists from the esteemed champagne house Champagne Deutz, came to California in search of a suitable site for growing and producing méthode champenoise sparkling wines in America. They likened the soils and climate of the Arroyo Grande Valley to those found in their native Epernay, France and thus Maison Deutz was born.
For more than 13 years, Maison Deutz enjoyed an excellent reputation for its outstanding sparkling wines, but it wasn’t until 1997 when the site was acquired by Jean-Claude Tardivat, that the winery’s focus began to shift from sparkling wines to still wine production of Burgundian-style varietals. Tardivat named the winery Laetitia after his daughter, which in Latin, also means joy and happiness – a seemingly perfect name for the family winery.
After several years of experimenting with estate-grown Pinot Noir, it was clear the site was exceptionally well suited to the Burgundian varietal, and thus began the distinguished reputation for Laetitia’s brightly flavored, balanced, and highly allocated estate Pinots.
In 2001, the winery changed ownership once more, this time to eclectic entrepreneur Selim Zilkha who brought a new energy and adventurous spirit to Laetitia’s promising future. At nearly 70 years of age, Zilkha had embarked on several highly successful business ventures in his lifetime, including the startup of the United Kingdom’s Mothercare, a shopping mecca for expectant and new mothers, and Zilkha Renewable Energy, a wind power development company he founded with his son Michael in the late 1990s. Zilkha’s love for agriculture, food, and fine wines lead him to the wine business and ultimately brought him to Laetitia Vineyard and Winery where he found a home.
Zilkha, born in Baghdad and raised variously in Egypt, Lebanon and New York, brings a unique sense of culture and experience to his venture with Laetitia. At the winery, he is joined by his son and daughter, as well as an all-star winemaking and viticultural team that includes Dave Hickey, his son Eric Hickey, and Lino Bozzano.
“What gives me great pleasure is working with my daughter, as well as with Eric and Lino. They are a very young winery and vineyard team, and still, I have learned much from them. They help me to stay current with the wine business and to understand what it is that wine lovers expect from a brand,” Zilkha has stated.
The brand includes a portfolio of estate grown wines including mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Tempranillo, Syrah, Pinot Gris, and a limited supply of Riesling. The grapes are mostly grown on the 620-acre vineyard site on the Arroyo Grande property, which is recognized as one of California’s coolest grape growing regions and well suited to the Burgundian style grapes.
At Laetitia, it’s believed that ‘balanced vines make the best wine,’ so all farming is done with the goal of long term sustainability and overall vine health, a philosophy and practice that should be followed by all wineries. By maintaining a connection between the vineyard and winery, the team is able to express the site’s unique potential while also being good stewards of the land.
“We feel our role in winemaking is to maximize the distinct character of our vineyard and believe in a strong connection between vineyard and winery,” winemaker Dave Hickey has explained. “Considering terroir and winemaking equally is essential in creating exceptional wine.” Dave Hickey, who started at the winery when it was still Maison Deutz, now oversees Laetitia’s sparkling wine production and serves as the company’s Vice President of Production. His son, Eric Hickey, has worked his way to President and Head Winemaker, while focusing on the still wine production.
“It’s great to be able to work in the same cellar with my son, and to be working on two completely different programs. We bounce ideas off of each other all the time, and it’s been great to watch Eric turn into such an accomplished winemaker, virtually before my eyes,” says Dave Hickey.
Truly a family winery through and through, Laetitia Vineyard and Winery has become a renowned location for world-class sparkling wines and estate Pinot Noirs and we look forward to what the future holds.
About the Vineyard
Laetitia’s 2006 Reserve Pinot Noir comes from the winery’s Arroyo Grande Estate on the Central Coast of California, just south of San Luis Obispo County. The site is comprised of 1,888 acres, with 620 acres currently planted to grape vines and 450 of which are planted to Pinot Noir.
Situated on the western end of the Arroyo Grande American Viticultural Area (AVA), Laetitia’s estate vineyard is considered a Region I (coolest region) on the U.C. Davis heat summation scale, which directly benefits their Burgundian-style varietals. The estate vineyards are planted to a series of south-facing hillsides, which protect the vines from the wind and fog rushing in from the nearby Pacific Ocean. Sunny days and moderate temperatures create a long, cool growing season that allows for the grapes to ripen with maximum ripeness, intense flavor and deep complexity.
Laetitia farms with the goals of long-term sustainability and overall vine health and was recently awarded certification by the Sustainability in Practice (SIP) program.
A letter from Eric Hickey
Dear Platinum Series Members,
The 2007 Laetitia Les Galets Pinot Noir is one of the finest vintages the Central Coast has seen in the last decade. The darling years were 2002, then 2005. Great vintages, but then 2007 came along and trumped them. Mother Nature was apparently in a generous state of mind this year, because all of the pieces came together to make this a near perfect year for our Pinot Noir.
Les Galets tends to be one of the “bigger” Pinot Noirs that I make. The site of Les Galets drives the texture of the wine to a new level, creating a full body, but then adding a cutting core of tannin and structure that grips the palate in a supple manner. Speaking of the site, Les Galets is the top of a volcano “bubble” on our Estate, made of volcanic rock that has a similar color and look of a wine cork, and sits at about 900 feet elevation. Besides the exceptional wine it produces, want to know the best part? Taking a bottle up to the top of the Galets hill and checking
Á votre santé,
Laetitia Vineyard & Winery
Eric Hickey - Winemaker since 2000
Eric Hickey was named Winemaker at Laetitia Vineyard & Winery in 2000 and has since been responsible for all still wine production at the winery. His father, Dave Hickey, is Winemaker for the sparkling wine program and assists his son in managing cellar operations.
Eric began his winemaking career at the young age of 16 years old, when he joined his dad at Maison Deutz and learned every aspect of the harvest and subtleties of proper cellar work. He immersed himself in every phase of sparkling wine production and vineyard management and was eventually promoted to Cellar Master in 1994 when he had the opportunity to work alongside renowned French Winemaker Christian Roguenant.
Now for Laetitia, Eric enjoys handcrafting his own well-balanced, elegant, vibrant wines that portray the unique characteristics of the Arroyo Grande Valley’s cool climate characteristics. When he’s not in the cellar or vineyard, he can be found spending time with his family or paddling a surfboard out on the nearby Pacific Ocean.