2019 Pinot Noir Release
ON A QUEST FOR GREAT CALIFORNIA PINOT NOIR
It has now been over sixteen years since I started Paul Lato Wines with a humble six barrels of wine. I defined myself then, and still do today, as a “Pinot Noir Guy.”
A quest for America’s great pinot noir led me to Santa Barbara County in 2002. As a former sommelier and forever wine lover, I truly enjoy and appreciate many different varieties and styles of wine. It has been my great luck to experience wines from the greatest and most renowned appellations of the world, like Rominee Conti, Corton or Petrus, as well as wines from obscure appellations in places like Egypt, Tunisia and India. (Some of the latter experiences I do not need or wish to repeat.)
As you all know, I am also a big fan of syrah, grenache, and of course chardonnay – which I consider a “white sister” to pinot noir.
From my very first fine burgundy, which I encountered as a twenty-one-year-old during my earliest sommelier studies, I knew I was in love with the pinot noir grape. It was a 1990 vintage of Comte de Vogue Les Amoureuses, one of the greatest epiphany of my young sommelier years. Later, thanks to the generosity of my friend and mentor Jim Clendenen, and a few wine collectors, I got to experience the Burgundies of Henry Jayer. Those were the wines that truly blew my mind.
With all the passion and enthusiasm of a young winemaker, I tried to re-create Burgundian flavors in my pinot noirs. It took me a few more years of evolution as a winemaker, as well as acquiring a more intimate understanding of the climate, geography, and culture of California, to realize that it would be not only impossible but – even more importantly – a stylistic and cultural mistake to keep trying to make my wines taste similar to those of Burgundy.
After gaining that insight I re-set my goal: I would make great California pinot noirs. The Santa Barbara appellations of Santa Maria and Sta. Rita Hills have such a unique geography and geology. They give me a chance to experiment with many different cool-climate terroirs with unique aspects. Over the years I have read many books on Burgundy and have drunk many fine (as well as rather disappointing) red Burgundies. Our California pinots might be occasionally less complex than their French counterparts, but they provide much better value and consistency year after year. Even though some wineries jumped on the pinot bandwagon after the movie Sideways, more for profit rather than real passion, bringing forth wines we should rather avoid, there is no question that California and Oregon have made very serious progress with this “holy grape” in recent years.
In my international travels to promote my wines, I often see that the more sophisticated the market and its wine drinkers, the easier it is to promote our California wines.
Truly experienced and educated buyers trust their palate more than the snob appeal of a mediocre wine with the name of a famous Burgundy vineyard attached. In fact, Paul Lato Wines are, as of now, featured on the wine lists of some of the finest restaurants in Lyon and Paris.
Even after sixteen years, in choosing vineyards to work with I still feel like a little kid in a toy store. California is filled with so many intriguing choices and possibilities. Someone born to a winemaking family in the Old World, and especially in Burgundy, would most likely find themselves working within a restrictive family tradition instead of enjoying the excitement of new opportunities and experiments. I am so grateful for being able to work exactly where I am, in Santa Barbara County, with rewarding side trips to Monterey County’s famous Pisoni Vineyard and (as of our 2018 vintage) the equally famous Hyde Family Vineyard in Carneros.
The wines being released to you today, our 2017 vintage of pinot noirs, make me feel like a parent sending his children off to find their path in the world. Almost invariably, at the time of release someone will ask me, “Which one is the best?”
It is always so hard to answer such a question. Like a parent, I love them all – each for its own constellation of reasons. From the old vines of Gold Coast, which make silky and perfumed pinots, to Solomon Hills with its luscious fruit and complex, exuberant personality, to the powerful and one-of-a-kind Pisoni Vineyard, each and every pinot possesses its own well-defined personality and expresses its unique terroir.
Many of you have bought all of them over the years, while some have chosen your favorites and returned to them year after year. Either approach is just fine. My goal is to provide you with the best of the best California has to offer, while keeping my passion alive and entertaining myself with all the exciting possibilities of the process. For example, just like the great Henry Jayer I am using an exuberant amount of new French oak to elevate my pinot, to give them structure and help them reach their highest potential. My accountant often disagrees with the costs of this investment. However, some vineyards simply love new oak, and greatly benefit from it. I am always willing to pay for the best of the best.
Occasionally, Paul Lato wines are compared to their counterparts in Burgundy. That’s OK, but comparisons can only go so far, and no matter what descriptive phrases anyone may choose, our goal remains the same. We are on a quest for great California pinot noir. It is our passion project. Every vintage gives us a new opportunity to define the many ways this magnificent grape can collaborate with this spectacular corner of the world to produce richly pleasurable, deeply satisfying wines.
I hope you will enjoy these new releases as much as we have enjoyed the challenges and rewards of making them ready for your table.
p.s. Lately I’ve had the privilege of taking part in a couple of weddings which were catered entirely with Paul Lato Wines. As I participated in the great ceremonies, my eyes teared up for my friendship with the groom and bride, and also for my pride in seeing our wines being a central part of such special ceremonies. For this, and for the support of all of you, I am forever grateful.
2017 Vintage Notes:
2017 “Duende” Gold Coast Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
With its own-rooted Martini Clone vines, we believe the Gold Coast Vineyard creates one of the most distinctive and unique Pinot Noirs in Santa Barbara County. Opening with raspberry, red beet, and wildflowers on the nose, its fresh and zesty palate reminds us of a fine Volnay. Despite being our lightest Pinot, it will age gracefully and stand up to a variety of fine cuisine. Try it with game or Japanese cuisine.
2017 “Prospect” Sierra Madre Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
Our Pinot Noir from Sierra Madre vineyard is a shining example of the elegance and balance that the Santa Maria AVA consistently creates. With its captivating deep ruby color to its powerful aromas of dark chocolate, stewed strawberry, and Bing cherry, this is a complex and opulent wine. It is voluptuous and rich on the palate with a touch of vanilla spice, leading into velvety tannins and great length on the finish. Great on its own in front of the fire place, or with a variety of classic French and Italian dishes.
2017 “Suerte” Solomon Hills Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
Solomon Hills makes our most pronounced and intense Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley. Its complex nose of black tea, violets, and forest floor is followed by a dark, full bodied, concentrated palate that is focused, lively, and dignified. Amazingly structured on the palate with plenty of fine textured tannins and a long toasty finish, this is one of the most intricate and mysterious wines in the lineup. It gives pleasure immediately, but it will reward you with further cellaring. Sip on its own if you like the big flavors, or try it with most sophisticated Chinese cuisine.
2017 “Atticus” John Sebastiano Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills
This is the most special vintage of Atticus to date. It was tempting to make it into a reserve blend, due to the use of 100% new French oak. Certainly, this is a special showing that may never be repeated. Layers of blueberry, spicy cherry and pomegranate showcase this wine’s beautiful balance between concentration and complexity. The palate is lush and velvety, with supple tannins adding silkiness to flavors of black cherry, plum and vanilla spice. Certainly, a one-of-a-kind vintage for this vineyard. For those of you that like big and flashy wines of Dujac or DRC, this is a must have. Cellar this for a couple of years, and then enjoy it for over a decade with sophisticated meat-based dishes.
2017 “C’est la Vie” Drum Canyon Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills– formerly known as “Contender”
Once again, Drum Canyon has delivered a structured yet elegant expression of Pinot Noir with crisp alluring fruit and stunning depth, the hallmark of Sta. Rita Hills. The nose opens with notes of boysenberry, black cherry, and mint. The robust dark berry flavors continue on the palate, where they are complemented by a firm, sophisticated structure that adds nuance and grip. Underscoring it all is an intriguing savoriness that carries the wine to a long satisfying finish. Seductive and sexy. This is a gourmet crowd pleaser wine. From the juicy chicken wings, to a mushroom risotto, this wine will bring you loads of pleasure.
2017 “Seabiscuit” Zotovich Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills
Sandy soils are the mark of this distinguished and exciting Pinot Noir. Last vintage, it was named top 50 wines of the year, and this 2017 vintage is more of the same if not better. Its bouquet, easily recognizable, is composed of violet, green tea, and small red fruits. On the palate, the core of red fruit continues with fresh acidity and dense texture, indicating it to be one of our most ageable wines. Enjoy it over the next 10+ years.
2017 “Lancelot” Pisoni Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands
Just like its most boisterous, wonderful, and one-of-a kind owner Gary Pisoni, this wine is bursting with excess of personality. Dark, juicy, exuberant and succulent flavors jump out the glass to impress you with its power. But then, it surprisingly caresses the palate with fine tannins and long sophisticated flavors. This is a classic American Pinot Noir, full of charm and vitality. Original cuttings from La Tache of DRC, paired with the unique terroir of the Santa Lucia Highlands, produce an orchestra-like wine, hitting all the high notes. Just like the Lancelot himself, this wine encompasses force and power with sophistication and nobility. One of the best we have ever made.
Orders will be shipped on Monday March 4,2019. *Note that an adult 21 and over must be available to sign for the wine upon delivery. Please contact Cynthia Segovia at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805.878.9141 for assistance in placing your order.