After 12 years making Pinot Noir in Northern California, Larry and Shirlee Londer of Londer Vineyards in Anderson Valley have decided to close their winery's doors and exit the business at the end of May. The Londers, who turned a passion for wine into a second career, had been pulling back from the business in recent years.
The couple made their midlife move into winemaking in 2000, arriving in rural Anderson Valley via Albuquerque, N.M. Larry was a retired ophthalmologist who had been fascinated by wine since his days working in a store while attending medical school. The Londers decided that the coastal reaches of California were calling them from the desert, and with help and advice from vintner friend Dan Duckhorn, who founded Goldeneye Winery in Anderson Valley in the mid-'90s, found a property at the end of a twisting dirt road among towering redwoods.
The Londers planted 17 acres of Pinot Noir, 1 acre of Gewürztraminer and 5 acres of gardens, which Shirlee put to good use, making homemade raspberry jam and cured olives. Londer's wines debuted with the 2001 vintage, made from purchased grapes; the 2004 vintage was the first to include estate fruit. The tenacious couple went door to door trying to sell their wines, and thanks to winemaker Greg LaFollette's contacts, landed numerous placements throughout the Bay Area.
"It is great to be dumb, stupid and naive about the enormous risks involved when you make this life change into the wine business," Larry told Wine Spectator in 2005. "We made it based on a passionate desire to make great wine." Their passion showed in the glass—Londer Vineyards received two dozen classic and outstanding scores from Wine Spectator during their 12-year run.
In recent years, however, the couple stepped back from the business. They sold their vineyards in 2011, relocating to their native Colorado to be near family. The Londer brand was retained and they continued making wines, sourcing fruit from the new owners. General business manager Joe Webb, who had been with the company since 2007, oversaw management and winemaking, but the couple remained actively involved from afar.
The Londers will keep the winery open through May and plan to throw a farewell party for their fans.