(Or How My Trip to Lemelson Turned Into a Religious Experience)
I’ve been meaning to go to Lemelson Vineyards for some time now. I poured the Lemelson wines at both the Beverly Hills Hotel and Gordon Ramsay in Los Angeles with great success, and I’ve heard stories that the winery itself is amazing, the stories proved correct.
Lemelson Vineyards gets its name from founder Eric Lemelson, who is the son of famed inventor Jerome Lemelson. One of his contributions involved the beanie hat with a propeller on top, and a sketch of one of these hats can be found on Lemelson Vineyards’ website surrounded by the words “tradition, innovation, [and] nature”. Innovation and nature really stand out as things Lemelson has become a front-runner in.
Nature was most certainly a priority in designing the winery that Lemelson Vineyards has called home since 1999. The winery gets 50% of its power from on-site solar panels, as well as uses bio-diesel in the vineyard. Eric Lemelson has gone as far as to assist winery employees with buying hybrid vehicles…yes, these people are the real deal.
What about innovation? Well, they have a “sorting table” that I’m convinced was inspired by transformers or Mr. Box from Logan’s Run. This contraption is one of a kind, and what it does is give the winemaker, in this case Anthony King, complete control over where grapes go after the leave the sorting table. If you look at the picture of it, you’ll see tracks it rolls on spanning the length of the winery.
Speaking of winemaker Anthony King, that guy is the man. A UC Davis graduate and former winemaker and vineyard manager of Acacia, there is a develishness to his method that Eric has nurtured leading to experiments that aren’t too common in commercial wineries, mostly ideas that start out with, “I wonder what would happen if…”.
As I taste the Chestnut Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir out of barrel, Anthony tells me how people in the wine industry thought Eric was crazy to buy the Chestnut Vineyard as it is situated at 950 ft. above sea level, an ambitious elevation by local standards, but the vineyard is producing compelling fruit. Some experiments turn out well, and everyone benefits from the results.
Anthony is a big believer in blending, which is perfect because Lemelson’s main bottling is a blend of Pinot Noir from all of the vineyards called “Thea’s Selection”. In addition to Pinot Noir, they also make a Riesling, a Pinot Gris, and a Chardonnay all definitely worth checking out.
We left Lemelson Vineyard with time to spare, so we headed towards what I was certain a Belgian style brewery, the Trappist Abbey, only to discover that this place is an actually monastery. Cloistered monks live here as well as work here, doing everything from binding books and selling fruit cakes to storing wine for local wineries and hanging out on the 1200 acres of land they own. A new chapel was completed recently, and it is a magnificent room to see. We were told about the “fudge monks” down the road who make ends meet by making fudge as probably being a better fit for our magazine.