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2011 Paul Lato Wines: Report on Winery Visit and a Tasting of the Vintage

It has become an annual tradition for me to visit Paul at his winery at Central Coast Wine Services in Santa Maria each year before World of Pinot Noir in early March. Each time I visit, I discover that Paul has expanded his space and is gradually ramping up his modest production.

There is no need to go into detail about Paul Lato as I have written about him extensively in the PinotFile and have thoroughly enjoyed and praised his wines since the 2005 vintage. If you like your Pinots elegant with grace, nuance, vibrancy and balance, then Paul Lato is your guy. He is very modest about his accomplishments, but he has an uncanny knack for finding the “sweet spots” in vineyards and sourcing the best possible fruit. Paul doesn’t make a lot (about 2,500 cases of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah), and the wines are only sold through a mailing list and to select restaurants, but if you are fortunate to snag a few bottles, you will be very pleased. You can find Paul each year pouring his wines at the World of Pinot Noir.



The website, www.paullatowines.com, has been updated with a good description of Paul’s philosophy and vineyard sources. All grapes are 100% de-stemmed during vinification.

The first wines below were tasted at the winery and had only been bottled ten days prior. The final wines were tasted at home in September 2013 after 6 months in bottle (Paul had suggested that some of the wines needed time in bottle to make a proper evaluation).

The 2011 was a “wild child” according to Paul. “Some kids have tremendous possibilities, wonderful talents waiting to be nurtured, but need just the perfect guidance to express their potential. There was an early frost, a late frost, spans of unusually cool days throughout the growing season. Yields were low, yet it was necessary to drop more fruit. Every underachieving barrel in the winery was sold in bulk to protect the integrity of the vintage.” Paul did a commendable job with what the vintage dealt him.

Winery Tasting March 2013

2011 Paul Lato “le Souvenir” Sierra Madre Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay

14.3% alc., 250 cases, 60. 14-year-old Wente clone. 100% malolactic fermentation. Aged in 66% new French oak barrels. · Light golden straw color and clear in the glass.The nose is both floral and fruity featuring aromas of lemon, apple and blossoms. Delicate, but pleasing flavors of citrus, almond, vanilla, with bright acidity and a bone dry finish. Score: 90

2011 Paul Lato “East of Eden” Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay

14.5% alc., 100 cases, $65. Mostly Wente clone. 50% malolactic fermentation. Filtered. Aged in 75% new French oak barrels. · Moderate golden yellow color and clear in the glass. Very aromatically enticing with scents of lemon curd, baked apple, and Acacia blossom. Bright and crisp on the palate, offering flavors of citrus, baked pear, and vanilla with an underlying sea-brine minerality. A big, flamboyant wine, yet beautifully balanced. Score: 94

2011 Paul Lato “Duende” Gold Coast Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 75 cases, $60. Own-rooted Martini clone, old vines. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. The nose is classic Pinot Noir with aromas of griotte, raspberry, forest floor and rose petal. Flavors of purple grapes and plums drive the moderately sappy core, framed by gentle tannins and good acidity. Elegant and soft on the palate, with a juicy finish. Score: 90

2011 Paul Lato “Suerte” Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 175 cases, $70. 50% 115, 30% 667, 20% 777. 70% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Always one of my favorite Paul Lato Pinot Noirs and this vintage is no exception. The nose is quite shy, but aromas of black cherries and spice emerge with coaxing. The plush and creamy palate features intensely flavored blueberries and dark stone fruits wrapped in modest tannins. A sexy, wondrous wine that finishes with uncommon length and generosity and mouthwatering acidity. The wine shows amazing fortitude so soon after bottling. Score: 94

2011 Paul Lato “The Prospect” Sierra Madre Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 100 cases, $60. Dijon clones 115 and 667. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Beautifully perfumed with aromas of grapes, plums, forest floor and rose petals. Big-boned and flashy, with a sappy core of black plum and black currant fruit. Velvety with nicely balanced tannins and a big, and I mean big, finish. I really liked this wine. Score: 93

2011 Paul Lato “Seabiscuit” Zotovich Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 100 cases, $70. Dijon clones 115 and 113. Unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black raspberry and spice lead to a core of pleasing dark stone and berry fruits with an earthy underpinning. Satisfying and elegant with modest fine-grain tannins. Definitely needs more time in bottle. Score: 90

2011 Paul Lato “Lancelot” Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 125 cases, $85. Own-rooted Burgundy clone over 30 years old. 100% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple hue in the glass. Shy aromas of purple fruits and oak. Recognizably Pisoni, with muscular tannins and layers of copious dark fruit, yet offers a pleasing satiny mouth feel and admirable finesse. Needs time to integrate the oak and tannin, but this is one, big rich pussycat. Score: 93

2011 Paul Lato “C’est la Vie” Wenzlau Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 125 cases, $70. Clones 115, 667 and 2A. Vineyard is adjacent Sea Smoke. Only vintage. Unfiltered. · Dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Very pretty perfume of fresh black raspberry jam and rose petals. Juicy with good grip on the palate, featuring flavors of dark berries and plums with a smoky undertone. The signature Paul Lato silkiness is evident. Score: 88

Home Tasting September 2013

2011 Paul Lato “Atticus” John Sebastiano Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 125 cases, $65. Unfiltered. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Redder fruits are featured on the nose with hints of cardamom spice and earth. Relatively light and delicate, with shy flavors of dark red and purple fruits with a hint of oak. Seamless with a pleasing tangy cherry drop finish. Doesn’t excite initially, but offers more gifts over time in the glass. This is a wine that is still somewhat closed and needs patience. Score: 88

2011 Paul Lato “Seabiscuit” Zotovich Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 100 cases, $70. Dijon clones 115 and 113. Unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. Enticing aromas of fresh cherry pie glaze, raspberry jam, white pepper, oak and earth. Very soft in the mouth, with discreetly concentrated flavors of perfectly ripe black cherries wrapped in supple tannins. A juicy, charming wine that is the epitome of finesse. Score: 90

2011 Paul Lato “C’est la Vie” Wenzlau Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

13.8% alc., 125 cases, $70. Clones 115, 667 and 2A. Unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. This wine needs plenty of coaxing to reveal aromas of dark red cherries and berries, clove and oak spice. The leanest wine in the lineup with flavors of tarry dark cherries and raspberries. The fruit is caressed by soft tannins and underlain with a racy vein of acidity. Well-crafted, but doesn’t quite deliver the goods yet. Score: 88

2011 Paul Lato “Lancelot” Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 125 cases, $85. Own-rooted Burgundy clone over 30 years old. 100% new French oak barrels. Unfiltered. · Moderately dark reddish-purple color in the glass. A dreamy nose featuring bright aromas of black raspberry jam, violets and biscuit. Really delicious and highly expressive on the palate, with unctuous layers of dark red and black fruits, subtle oak spice, and a hearty savory note. The wine sports admirable balance of tamed tannins and juicy acidity. Finishes with an explosion of fruit goodness. Professional grade Pinot. Score: 93

Also available in 2011

2011 Paul Lato “Alegria” Hilliard-Bruce Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir $70.

2011 Paul Lato “Belle du Jour” Hilliard-Bruce Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay $55. Aged in 45% new French oak.


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