The Laetitia Estate Vineyards were first planted to grapes in 1982 when French viticulturists found ideal growing conditions in the Arroyo Grande Valley for producing wines of similar character to those of their homeland in Epernay, France. Nineteen years later, the property would be acquired by Selim Zilkha, founder of a successful wind power development company and champion of environmental sustainability. Between his qualifications in renewable energy solutions and his passion for the pleasures of the harvest, Selim has developed Laetitia into the home of some of California's highest quality, sustainably-produced wines.
Wine made from estate-grown fruit is distinctive because it is the product of one artistic vision from vine to glass. At Laetitia, Vice President Vineyard Operations Lino Bozzano begins fulfilling that vision by farming the vines according to the winemakers' styles, the disposition of the varieties, and their particular growing conditions. "There is tremendous diversity in this small area, from the soils to the meso-climates," says Lino, a third-generation California farmer and graduate of Cal Poly's Crop Science program. "It's the perfect venue for understanding what site means to the wines." Having assumed the position of Vice President Vineyard Operations, Lino possesses a breadth of knowledge of the Laetitia property that includes the clonal properties, soil types and varietal composition of any given row of vines. His fastidious attention to the estate's 600+ acres of vines and the unity of purpose he shares with winemakers Eric Hickey and Dave Hickey bring clarity, focus, and grace to each bottle of Laetitia wine.
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A deep and abiding respect for Laetitia's estate-grown fruit is the mark of Eric Hickey's winemaking. Beginning his hands-on training in the cellar at the tender age of 16, Eric has lived and breathed Laetitia all the way to the top, where he is now the Head Winemaker and the winery's President. "I keep it simple," he says, "and I stay eye-to-eye with Lino because the interplay between us is what determines the wines' quality. Everything done in the cellar starts with what we do out in the vineyard." While Eric makes a point of experimenting with small lots each vintage, his style is fundamentally built upon finding balance, finesse, and the essence of the fruit he has come to know for so many years. Similarly, Laetitia's Sparkling Winemaker and Vice President Production, Dave Hickey, is a self-described student of the vines. "The vineyards were planted in 1982, and I came on in 1985," he says. "Working with the same fruit for so long translates into a lot of knowledge." Trained in Méthode Champenoise winemaking by French traditionalists, Dave uses the winery's Coquard grape presses (the only two in North America and the gold standard for winemaking in Champagne) as the foundation for sparkling wines that have attracted devotees to the Laetitia Estate for decades.
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