An Impromptu Tasting of Paul Lato Wines. With Paul Lato.

Posted July 22, 2016

Stephen Fahy, DWS


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This just happened: an impromptu tasting of Paul Lato's wines with the man himself. Yes, a tasting of Paul Lato with Paul Lato.

In case you are wondering, we love our jobs.

While it’s not everyday we get to taste wines with their winemakers, we go out of our way to take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves.  We pry ourselves away from our desks, grab our glasses and spit buckets (unfortunately), and prepare for an amazing learning experience. 

Our Buying Team already adored Lato’s wines, so we were thrilled to meet Paul. In this unplanned tasting, we were reminded of how gorgeous his wines are. Lato's expressions of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah from California’s Central Coast are simply to die for. If you haven’t been keeping up with Central Coast wines, it's wroth catching up. This cool-climate region, under the moderating influence of the Pacific Ocean, is making waves. Big ones. 

While Paul Lato is not a viticulturist himself, he is committed to sourcing premium fruit from the best vineryards of the Central Coast. Each of his wines is an expression of an individual site. Lato's goal is not to make wines reminiscent of great Burgundy, or Napa-style Chardonnay, or even Cote-Rotie-esque Syrah. Rather, he crafts wines that speak of California, of the Central Coast, of the vineyard itself and the vintage. His wines are richly styled. As he noted, "There is no hiding the weight." Rather than fighting that luscious, ripe California fruit, he brings opulence into balance with uplifting acidity.

Lato says of his wines, these are wines of pleasure, vins de pleasir. We could not agree more.

For many years now, wine has been both a source of pleasure and a line of work for Paul. Lato started in the industry on the other side of the cellar door. For 10 years, he worked as a sommelier in Toronto. When the market went under, so did many jobs in high-end wines and fine dining. Lato knew it was time to make a change.

Inspired by his reverence for the incredible sites from which he sources his fruit, Paul Lato started his winery in 2002 with a chance meeting and subsequent apprenticeship with famed Santa Barbara producer winemaker Jim Clendenon.  Developing an approach to winemaking that was at once heart-felt and technical, Paul's vision was brought into focus to make world class, vineyard-designate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.

As the last of our team members pulled themselves away from their computers, Liz, also a former Clendenon apprentice, reminisced with Paul. They remembered the hour-plus lunches Clendenon cooked for all the cellar workers. At these group meals, the team would sit down, enjoy each other's company and taste through nearly a dozen wines. Lato admits he has had difficulty implementing this same practice at his own winery.  It's hard to take that time to really break away from work in the middle of the day. But it's so, so important.

Which is precisely why we all joined Paul for this unexpected tasting. This experience catapulted an already prestigious brand to new heights here at the Wine Library.  Our Buying Team was, simply put, stunned by the class and complexity of each offering, from the 2014 Belle du Jour Chardonnay and the 2014 Le Souvenir to the 2014 The Prospect Pinot Noir and concluding with the 2013 Cinematique Syrah

Marrying the caliber of these fruit sources with Paul's culinary background resulted in a series of wines that launched with some of the best restaurants in the business, including The French Laundry, Spago, Rubicon, Meadowood, just to name a few.

Today, Paul Lato's cool climate, culinary-inspired cuvees have virtually re-defined the balance between fruit and terroir, making wines that are instantly pleasurable and remarkably old-world in an ancient, sacred way

Product Label.

Paul Lato Cinematique Syrah Larner...

95 Jeb Dunnuck - Robert Parke...

Item: 94039

750 mL

Retail: $110.99

$74.80 per btl

Item: 95648

750 mL

Retail: $84.99

$64.99 per btl

Product Label.

Paul Lato Belle Du Jour...

95 Jeb Dunnuck - Robert Parke...

Item: 95653

750 mL

Retail: $81.99

$62.70 per btl

Item: 95654

750 mL

Retail: $96.99

$73.95 per btl