lin·gua fran·ca noun: “a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.”
The headline for this article could read: “Local Boy Does Good!” Larry Stone is one of the most influential people in the wine industry. (Period). One of the first Americans to pass the Master Sommelier exam (#9 in 1988), the only American ever to win France’s Grand Prix de Sopexa competition (better known as the “Best Sommelier in the World”). Wine director for Charlie Trotters. Founder (With Robert De Niro and Robin Williams) of the legendary Rubicon in San Francisco. Dean of Wine Studies at the International Culinary Center.
In 2006, he left the restaurant business to become the Gérant of the Niebaum-Coppola winery, now Inglenook. He worked with Augustine Huneeus at Quintessa, started his own Napa property Sirita and he also ran a négociant firm, Deux Chapeaux, with Daniel Johnnes. In 2010, Stone became president of Evening Land Vineyards, where he collaborated with Burgundian winemaker Dominique Lafon. Today, Evening Land is in the capable hands of Stone’s Protégé Rajat Parr.
In 2012, Stone started a new winery next door – Lingua Franca.
Stone brought together a team led by Dominique Lafon. Who is Burgundy’s best-known winemaker, his name is attached to one of its most famous Domaines -Comte Lafon. The Comtes Lafon domaine, contains well over three hectares of premier cru vineyard as well a piece of burgundy’s grand cru Le Montrachet. Lafon Montrachet sells for thousands of dollars a bottle. He has been rightly called “the Wizard of Burgundy.”
He also brought on board winemaker Thomas Savre, who worked with stone and Lafon at Evening Land after working at luminary Burgundian properties as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Domaine Dujac, and Maison Nicolas Potel. To manage the vineyards he brought on local viticulturist Mimi Casteel. Mimi is the daughter of Ted Casteel and Pat Dudley, co-founders of Bethel Heights Vineyard. She brings with her a lifetime of living and working in the valley and her families well known reputation for Sustainable and Biodynamic farming.
Stone was in negotiations with Evening Land’s neighbors to purchase the land adjacent to the famed Seven Springs Vineyard, even before he left the project. After he left Evening Land the Janzen family approached him with a deal to buy the land. He sold his stake in Sirita Winery, auctioned off his personal wine collection and convinced a few friends to invest.
They cleared the land – removing fruit and Christmas Trees – planted a vineyard and built a winery, designed by Lafon and Savre. Across the road from Seven Springs it is also adjacent Domaine Serene’s Jerusalem Hill Vineyard, Argyle Winery’s Lone Star Vineyard and Domaine Drouhin’s Roserock Vineyard.
A perfect vineyard sight, a remarkably capable team and an astute understanding of the wine business. It is not surprising these wines are already creating a buzz. Lingua Franca is being poured at high-profile Paris restaurants Vitus, Taillevent and Spoon. Impressive for a new minted American Pinot Noir.
The entire first vintage from Lingua Franca received 90 plus point scores from Wine Spectator! With The Tongue N’ Cheek making it in the
Refined and precise, featuring a structure that’s elegantly complex, with raspberry and cinnamon aromas and sleek cherry and mineral flavors. Drink now through 2022. 772 cases made.
92 Points Wine Spectator
He told me, “We are not trying to make ‘burgundy’, although that is of course an influence. We are making wines of very little intervention, wines of place”. Stone describes it as “exploring Oregon with the mind of Burgundy.” The name Lingua Franca represents the concept of universal language, of bringing people of different worlds to common ground – shared conversation, shared enjoyment. Lingua franca could be described as a conversation between Oregon terroir and years of traditional Burgundian winemaking.
If you were to make a list of what you would need to make a great wine, every box would be checked off on the list.
Not bad for the son of refugees.
His mother was a cheesemaker, and his father was a produce buyer at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Stone was always enamored with food and even making his own wine at age 14. At the UW, Stone was a National Merit Scholar who studied abroad in Montpellier, France, and Vienna. He pursued a doctorate in comparative literature, earning a Fulbright Scholarship to University of Tübingen in Germany.He never finished his dissertation.
He was one of Seattle’s very first Sommeliers’ at a restaurant called the Red Cabbage. Later working at the Four Seasons Olympic before heading to Chicago and Charlie Trotter’s.
Local boy does good, and then some.
By Lenny Rede