Santa Barbara, California, USA
A Loire-inspired quest for purity, elegance, and balance
Both important figures of California’s vibrant wine & dining scene, Eric Railsback and Justin Willett decided to start Lieu Dit out of a shared passion for the indigenous varieties of the Loire and Santa Barbara’s terroir. The two believe that the soils and micro-climates of their home county is particularly suited for their favourite French region’s grapes and the production of pure, low intervention wines.
Eric Railsback and Justin Willett met when Eric was finishing college and Justin starting his winemaking career. They would both become prominent figures in California’s vibrant wine & dining community, one that has long promoted a European-driven approach to eating and drinking. After a stint as assistant at Arcadian Winery, Justin started Tyler Winery to focus on small production Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. His reputation as a specialist of the two varieties grew and he is now the consulting winemaker for a dynamic new planting in Santa Rita Hills, Wenzlau Vineyard. Eric, on the other hand, built a solid career as a sommelier and restauranteur. Stints at the Wine Cask, Hungry Cat and Osteria Mozza were followed by the coordination of the wine program at Gordon Ramsay Los Angeles and three years leading the somm team at Michael Mina’s RN74 – a renowned Burgundy-inspired restaurant in San Francisco. He eventually returned to Santa Barbara to open his own Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant which he ran until 2014.
Their friendship was built around a common interest in wine and all its mysteries. Many bottles and trips to France later Railsback and Willett decided to found Lieu Dit in 2011. The project solely in the Loire Valley’s indigenous varieties, to which they believe the varied micro-climates and marine based soils of Santa Barbara County are particularly suited. Their range is built around a core label of Sauvignon Blanc, with limited bottlings of Melon de Bourgogne, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Rosé of Pinot Noir. They work with minimum intervention in the cellar using spontaneous fermentation only and strictly o fining or filtering for a true expression of the varieties and terroir. Driving them is the continuous quest for purity, elegance, and balance.
Location: Santa Barbara, California, USA
Working with us since: 2020
Our favourite wine from Lieu Dit: Sauvignon Blanc
Interesting fact: When we tasted Lieu Dit’s Sauvignon Blanc we could not have been more surprised by its elegant restraint and soft texture. Far from any other new world expressions of the variety, there is a truly ‘Loiresque’ pour, reminding us of the minerality and precision of a great Sancerre.