The Paul Lato Origin Story

The King of Santa Rita

This was going to a more ambitious tale of how amateur wine know-it-alls and cognoscenti – aka Dotore and tBoW – discovered Paul Lato at the 2004 Santa Barbara Wine Festival where he was tucked in a corner with just about the worst table possible at a premier tasting where tasters/buyers thronged like a Killer Whales pod on the hunt. Before looking – NSFWL!

There are dozens of links to reviews of Mr. Lato that fawn over his wines; even after he lost his focus on low alcohol and restrained fruit and went B-I-G in a very Santa Maria way. Here are a couple of links fyi with tBoW’s quickie evals.

“We’ve heard there is an epidemic outbreak on Clavius.”

2018 Santa Maria Sun “Ingratiating recycled history, writer’s creative tie-in how 911 (twin towers) influenced Paul’s reassessment, dated 2018 but obviously dates closer to 2005.” There goes my timeline.

2014 wakahawka wine reviews (online) “He’s a terrific cook, young life in Communist bloc countries, nice photo where his resemblance to Paul Giamatti in Sideways is evident; origin of Spanish word Duende which is difficult to translate but best pairs with “dream” and is what he named his early wines.”

2015 KCET coverage “Lato is anointed by Parker, Paul’s preferred vineyards,an upcoming dinner (long gone), Santa Barbara is home.” Thud.

“I’m sorry I am not at liberty to discuss that.”

FRESH POV FROM TBOW: The scene is the 2004 Santa Barbara Futures Wine Fest located in Santa Barbara’s magnificent El Paseo. Great place to get stoned. This is our third go-round where winemakers can only show if they agree to cut the market price by 20% for the “futures” sale. The Pinot Noir market is steaming in the Central Coast, especially Santa Rita Hills. All the Big Names are represented: Sea Smoke (6 deep at tiny pouring table), Clendenen, Tolmach plus Santa Rita wannnabes like Jaffurs, Babcock, Melville and many many more.

We are already tired of the high alcohol overbearing fruit style that plagues the region. Curse of Parkerism. We wander into the rear room where access to shrimp and mussels and cheese is only 1 or 2 slackers deep. At the eastern end of the buffet, next to the kitchen entry/exit, waiters and busboys moving in and out like a late night ride to Vegas – vroom, whoosh, scuze mee – is a single table where a balding guy with a slight paunch stands patiently. No crowd here. Did he sneak in? Was there one table left?

“All we know is it was buried here 4 million years ago.”

Paul pours his 2003 Duende Pinot Noir. Nice. Thirteen percent. Radical. Delicious. So not Santa Rita. Fruit is clear as a mountain spring filled with fairies. We head to the buyers table and grab half a case each. That’s the story. Next year Dotore and I had to get past Clendenen and Tolmach to snag a pour. WORD. Alcohol was already creeping up past 14%.

Last time tBoW purchased Lato Wine it was half a case out of Paul’s trunk in Calabasas; the 2006 Cinematique Syrah at $60. 15%. Thick and ornery as Trump’s White House staff. Undrinkable early on and over several years. Saved one to see if it would come around. We cracked it recently. Past a decade this wine is lovely. Clearly New World but not clearly Santa Rita. And it tasted pretty good. Color rich, flavors in balance. Just needed some time. Paul will always be cool. Even when faced with a bottle of Merlot.

2 Comments

  1. Wavatar
    doctore says:

    Cue music…..”Mem’ries light the corners of my mind….” Those were the days! Still, if I were looking to spend $60. on a Syrah, then or now, this wouldn’t be the place I would be looking. Especially in vintage 2006.

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