While growing up in Southern California Brian Loring never planned on becoming a winemaker. He first developed a taste for fine wine while working at a high-end wine shop in college. During his time there Brian regularly got to taste and experience legendary bottles from some of the world's most renowned producers. Wines from Domaine Dujac, Henri Jayer, and even Domaine de la Romanée-Conti were regularly popped and poured at the shop, and Brian soon found himself especially intrigued by Pinot Noir.
Initially inspired by some of Burgundy's finest, Brian soon stumbled upon Pinot Noir from California that he also enjoyed. Wines from Calera, Williams Selyem, Chalone, and Sanford became some of his favorites early on. After trying wine from Cottonwood Canyon in Santa Maria and befriending founder Norm Beko, Brian was given the opportunity to help out and learn hands on about winemaking during Cottonwood's 1997 crush. He ended up making two barrels of Pinot Noir for himself and thus Loring Wine Company was born. Brian eventually transitioned out of his corporate job in Southern California to move to Santa Barbara County and pursue his dream of making wine full time.
Fast forward twenty years and Brian Loring is still stoked on Pinot. Loring Wine Company has gradually grown from an accidental two-barrel production to well established producer with great reputation and a modern winery facility located in Lompoc. While they do not own any of their own vineyards Loring sources fruit from some of the most prestigious vineyard sites up and down the California Coast. It's no overstatement to say Loring is making some of the most unique and exciting Pinot Noir in the Golden State.
We had the pleasure of meeting up with Brian Loring himself to taste through his wines and talk about his story. We started with a quick guided tour of the winery and warehouse to check out the operation. Brian believes in letting the fruit do the talking in his wines, so the Loring facility is noticeably sparse on big fancy toys, gadgets, and other tricks you often see in large winemaking facilities. Our visit fell during a bit of a transitionary period where all of the wine in barrel had just been bottled but the latest vintage had not yet begun to be harvested, so rather than the organized chaos of production we were able to see the meticulous setup that goes into prepping the Loring operation. Barrels were laid out ready to be filled and the entire facility was spotlessly clean, ensuring no contamination of the precious incoming fruit.
After our brief tour we moved over to the tasting area of the building so Brian could guide us through Loring's current lineup. Brian is admittedly a Pinot-fanatic, but he also very much enjoys Chardonnay. He makes a few of his own that we were able to experience along with a plethora of appellation and single vineyard Pinot Noirs. Once our tasting began we were immediately struck by the sheer expressiveness of Brian's wines. Pronounced perfumed bouquets captivated us across the board and each wine seemed more expansive than the last. Brian characterfully explained to us he doesn't care for overly restrained, underripe, or vegetal wines, but rather he prefers his stuff to be fruit driven and forward. Loring's wines seek to achieve a certain "yum factor" and we quickly discovered that they succeed in spades.
Interestingly during our tasting we were poured very young wines from the 2017 vintage that had very recently been bottled. Per Brian, he loves to drink his wines young because that is when the fruit is at its biggest and most expressive. Although there was certainly noticeable tannin and acidity showing in the forefront of the wines they were already drinking remarkably well. Clearly Brian knows his wines, and although we usually prefer to sip stuff with a bit of bottle age all of Brian's 2017's showed excellent for us that day.
After plenty of wine and oodles of enjoyable banter our tasting concluded and we said our goodbyes and left. As we departed it struck us just how legitimately genuine Brian and the whole Loring Wine Company operation is. Brian is a guy who makes wine exactly the way he likes it - unbothered by recent trends or whatever the cool kids are doing. He is a man with particular tastes and he crafts his wine precisely the way he wants it to be. His stuff is big, in-your-face, fruity, and delicious, yet his single vineyard offerings reflect terroir and a distinct sense of place as observably as anyone.
We can't help but tip our hats and appreciate what Brian and the small but mighty Loring Wine Company crew are doing. If you haven't yet tried Loring's stuff they have a tasting room in Buellton, conveniently located next to one of the valley's best restaurants. Grab some wood-fired pizza and a Caesar salad from Industrial Eats and then walk over to Loring's tasting room for a flight of Pinot, Chardonnay, and maybe even some of their very limited sparkling wine. You'll thank us you did!