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by Eric Anderson

Eric first became interested in wine in 1983, after sampling some of the 1982 Bordeaux vintage. Once bitten, he spent the next several years attending as many tastings and wine seminars as possible. Since 1990, Eric has visited over 600 wineries in the U.S. and Europe. His interactions with winemakers and/or proprietors has further enriched his life as well as his interest in wine. Eric is also part of GrapeRadio, the James Beard award-winning podcast series

Visit with Paul Lato -

Notes from a visit and tasting with Paul Lato of his 2011 wines - Thursday, February 28, 2013.

Impressions: I first met Paul Lato at the 2005 Santa Barbara Futures tastings, one of the "original" tastings held at the Wine Cask restaurant in Santa Barbara. I'd been attending the Futures Tasting since 1997 - its 8th annual event. (As an aside, this series of "Futures" tastings met an untimely end, largely due to the sale of the Wine Cask restaurant which apparently included its various events. The program's original concept of finding unique local wines and wineries became an unfortunate casualty of that transaction.)

Anyway, at the 2005 event, a friend at the tasting passed on a tip - try Paul Lato's table, where he was pouring a 2004 Pinot (Gold Coast) and 2003 Syrah (Bien Nacido). Both were amazing, and I came to discover that he was a local sommelier (via Poland and Canada) who had a huge desire to make his own wine. He'd already interned with Jim Clendenen, and was now sourcing fruit and making his own wine. Although these wines he was pouring were not the first vintages he'd made, he felt they were a quantum leap from his previous ones. Everyone I knew at the tasting concurred!

Fast forward to today. I'd always maintained contact once or twice a year with Paul - visiting his vineyard sources and tasting with him, running into him at various events, etc. Over that time, I have noticed an increase in his...well, his confidence - maybe daring - at winemaking. Most winemakers will tell you that they never learn it all - even with an unlimited amount of time to do so. But, I think Paul's journey (as he's always called it) appears to be coming to its fruition.

Rusty Gaffney (aka, The Prince of Pinot) and I met Paul at Central Coast Wine Services, a large custom-crush facility near the Santa Maria airport, just before the 2013 World of Pinot Noir in Shell Beach, and tasted through 8 wines - each bottled just 10 days prior. Paul's a huge Jayer fan (who isn't), and uses no whole cluster fermentation on his Pinots. He does, however, try to bring that Burgundian sensibility to his vineyard care as well as his winemaking.

In regard to the current "pursuit of balance" movement, Paul unabashedly says he's "already found" his balance, and thus is "no longer pursuing it." These wines were from the 2011 vintage; and if they're any measure, he has indeed found his balance. Paul compares the 2011 vintage to Audrey Hepburn; and says the 2012 vintage is more like Marilyn Monroe. Eh! Sommeliers and winemakers; always comparing!

Tasting Notes

2011 Paul Lato Chardonnay " le Souvenir" - Sierra Madre Vnyd, Santa Maria Valley.
Wente clone, replanted by Mondavi after their purchase. Very nice lemony scent, with light citrusy notes and a faint hint of toast. Fabulous fruit in the mouth, with a very juice sensation through the long finish. 14.3% alc. 10 barrel lot.

2011 Paul Lato Chardonnay "East of Eden" - Pisoni Vnyd, Santa Lucia Highlands. Combination of the Wente clone and another "unknown" (wink, wink) clone. Much more pear and stone fruit than the previous bottle. Much rounder on th palate as well, though still plenty of juiciness in mouthfeel. 75% new oak, and went through 50% ML. 14.5% alc. 4 barrel lot.

2011 Paul Lato Pinot Noir "Duende" - Gold Coast Vnyd, Santa Maria ValleyMartini clone. Slightly earthy strawberry aroma, with a nice floral note. Smooth and seductive on the palate, and long finish. 50% new oak. 3 barrel lot.

2011 Paul Lato Pinot Noir "Suerte" - Solomon Hills Vnyd, Santa Maria Valley. 50% 115clone; the other 50% 667 & 777 clones. Smokier aroma and taste, with blousy darker fruit and a meaty texture/flavor. 70-90% new oak. 14.3% alc. 7 barrel lot.

2011 Paul Lato Pinot Noir "The Prospect" - Sierra Madre Vnyd, Santa Maria Valley.
Clones 115 & 667. Lost of earthy forest floor aromas, with almost a whole-cluster scent (though he uses none). Fresh and round, with a nice fruity almost blood orange taste on the back end. Juicy acids, excellent balance with no overt sweetness. 50% new oak. 14.4% alc. 4 barrel lot.

2011 Paul Lato Pinot Noir "Seabiscuit" - Zotovich Vnyd, Sta. Rita Hills.
Clones 115 & 113. Very perfumy aromas in this beautiful nose. Slightly tight fruit on the palate, with a lovely fade-out on the back end
. Paul's been working with this vineyard, and expects there is lots of promise here. 14.5% alc. 4 barrel lot.

2011 Paul Lato Pinot Noir "Lancelot" - Pisoni Vnyd, Santa Lucia Highlands. Big and sinewy in aroma and mouthfeel, with lots of dark fruit notes. Very chewy on the palate, and very long finish. 80% new oak. 14.5% alc. 6 barrel lot.

2011 Paul Lato Pinot Noir "C'est la Vie" - Wenzlau Vnyd, Sta. Rita Hills. Clones 115, 667, and 2A. A much leaner wine than any of the other Pinots. Very nice balance and flavors. This vineyard turns out to be a one-off by Paul, as they will be keeping all the fruit in the future. 13.8% alc. 5 barrel lot.


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