Master sommelier Larry Stone has proven he speaks the language of Pinots and Chardonnays with the first vintages of Lingua Franca, wines he released in January and spent the better part of several years crafting.
Stone, one of the first certified master sommeliers ever (achieved through a grueling and competitive process that has a success rate of less than 10 percent), has a vaulted presence in the global wine community. Some liken him to Yoda, the all-knowing Jedi; others call him the Mac Daddy. When it comes to his discerning taste and encyclopedia knowledge, it’s clear he’s in a class of his own.
So it’s no surprise that sommeliers far and wide were clamoring for a taste of his seven initial offerings, two Chardonnays and five Pinots, from his vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. With quality trumping all else, there are only 1,400 cases in total, some with less than 40. (For some perspective, Screaming Eagle makes about 800 per year; Sin Qua Non, 3,500; and Caymus, 58,000.)
Which is why it was a big coup that Naples, even with our firm footing in the wine world, got any allocation at all. When the distributor who arranged the deal, Sophia Crawford, popped the corks one afternoon for local somms to sip and swish—and sign on to carry them—the wine sold itself, earning praise all around. “This definitely isn’t cougar juice,” said one sommelier, after tasting the AVNI Chardonnay, the most reasonably priced (likely starting at retail around $75), eliciting a chorus of laughs; the American market, even the high-end segment, has bottles saturated with residual sugar, something Stone has avoided entirely. Stone’s preference is more in-sync with Burgundian winemakers a continent away than with those in Napa a state to the south. In fact, Stone worked with winemaker Dominique Lafron from that hallowed French region to get those intensely bold, spice-forward Pinots. (Other collaborators are co-founder David Honig and winemaker Thomas Savre.)
The wines have started to arrive, and more will come soon; all are being sold just by the bottle. They’re pricey, as is to be expected from any boutique production—but for a highly coveted taste of a soon-to-be cult classic, it’s worth it.
Lingua Franca wines are already available or will soon be at the following local establishments: A Nichols Worth of Wine, Bay Colony Country Club, Bleu Provence, Fiddler’s Creek, Grey Oaks Country Club, Jimmy P’s Charred, Sea Salt, The Continental and Veranda E.