Issue: 30 / Sunday 24 June, 2018
A wonderful few hours
spent with Paul Lato
Written by Stuart McCloskey
Valentines Day, 2001 was Paul’s final service as a sommelier. With few possessions and life savings of thirty-five thousand dollars, Paul left Canada and headed south to California’s Central Coast to start a new life as a winemaker. 2002 marked Paul’s first vintage with a humble six-barrel production. By chance, Robert Parker tasted his 2002 vintage about a year and a half into its making. “The wine was bottled, but I had neither a label nor a name for my winery.” Paul explained to me that he could not afford a trademark hence the simplistic use of his name, which remains on the bottles today.
To me, Paul has a natural gift which and believe it or not, alludes many of the world’s winemakers. Science produces many wines whereas Paul’s wines are made from a unique and rarely seen understanding of each barrel he producers. He listens to his wines during their maturation / life cycle prior to bottling. Paul explained “some wines ask for more time and some have had enough” and “that’s when I know it’s time to leave or remove them from the barrel”.
Paul is not a vineyard owner. Instead, he sources fruit from some of the most blessed spots in California, Pisoni, Larner and Zotovich. He also sources some of the best Syrah from the Hillside Block of Bien Nacido and Pinot Noir from the Gold Coast Vineyard.
I met with Paul on Wednesday and spent some of the most enjoyable hours I have experienced in a very long time. Being in the presence of a great winemaker, a man so humble, is a wonderful experience. I have met and tasted with many winemakers, many of the very best from Bordeaux however, and in countless cases, felt it was more of a show. This is not the case with Paul as he talks with much integrity, often a trait lost by many winemakers.
The tasting was held in the City, Brigadiers restaurant to be precise. I arrived prompt, 10.00am as I hate to be late. The small side room was simply laid out with two tables. One for Paul’s white wines and one for his reds. Current vintages were available as well as some mature vintages from his own cellar, which would be a fascinating test of time and for me, to see how and if Paul’s style has changed over the years. It was great to see Zalto Burgundy glasses being used however, and if I were to give one smidgen of advice, I would have opted to serve his white wines in Zalto Bordeaux glasses rather than the Burgundy.
First up, the 2015 "le Souvenir" Chardonnay from the Sierra Madre Vineyard. To highlight Paul’s super-talents his 2011 le Souvenir was voted by Robert Parker as one of the top six Chardonnays in the world placing his tiny production Chardonnay on-par with Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Montrachet and California’s Marcassin. We quickly sold-out of the ’15 "le Souvenir" therefore, it was nice to reacquaint myself again. Delicate, layered and multidimensional. Tight-knit and a wine which has extortionary potential. Superb satiny texture and enough structure and acidity to see this through to 2030. Those of you who purchased the ’15. Forget about for 6-8 years and please invite me over.
I moved onto the current vintage (2016) which was chalk and cheese. Full-bodied, more exotic and densely layered. Minerality, judicious use of French oak and a fine line of acidity keeps everything perfectly in check. Incredible length and I cannot wait to enjoy a full bottle to myself.
The 2016 East of Eden Pisoni Chardonnay from the famed appellation of Santa Lucia Highlands followed. Again, another powerful example with mouth-coating waves of honeyed minerals. The nose was mesmerising and the palate sensational – Well, beyond sublime. It’s one of those rare wines which overwhelms the senses.
The next wine, 2016 Batana Larner Vineyard Malvasia Bianca was nothing short of a shock sensation. In fact, I went back and sampled four times as it was utterly captivating. Paul explained he produces one solitary barrel as it’s a serious labour of love. Everything is done with Paul’s own hands from de-stemming to hand massaging the grapes in the barrel. Utterly brilliant, fun and I am desperately hoping for a tiny allocation. Full tasting note to come if I decide to share a little!
I moved on to the small production (4 barrels) 2008 Lancelot Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir which showed endless layers of the sweet, intensely perfumed red berries which covers the palate from start to finish. Lifted acidity with a little savory herb coming through after time in the glass. There is astonishing focus here and a real shame that I will not able to taste it again.
The incredibly youthful 2009 Solomon Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir was a joy. The palate was animated and flowed with layer upon layer of dark fruits. For all of its obvious delights I noticed a green / slightly unripe finish? I kick myself for not going back and re-sampling. Bloody annoyed with myself.
The current (2016) Solomon Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir was superb. The nose was heavenly scented with sweet raspberry and rose petal. The palate is immensely concentrated and profound. Utterly superb and must be tasted to be believed.
The 2016 ‘Atticus’ John Sebastiano was the final Pinot Noir, which certainly did not disappoint. More Burgundian with earth / forest floor / fern notes coming to the fore. A wine which certainly needs time and aeration as each swirl of the glass unveiled more and more complexity. Filigree tannins, incredible finesse and a wine I cannot wait to drink in 2028. Simply superb.
To my favourite wine of the tasting, the utterly mesmerising 2008 ‘Larner’ Syrah. This must be quite honestly, one of the most profound Syrahs I have ever sampled. Black raspberry liqueur / framboise, black cherry and crème de cassis dominate the nose. Utterly seamless, not a hair out of place and unashamedly a brilliant Californian Syrah. Ripe tannins support all the fruit and the finish is quite honestly as long as the Pan-American Highway. Something as banal as a number will have to do – 100 points any day of the week. Stunning.
The 2009 Il Padrino Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah followed and did not disappoint. Thankfully, the smoky / roasted meat characteristic took this closer to Cote-Rotie than the previous. Although concentrated, there’s a real sense of elegance and weightlessness which is admirable. Perfectly polished tannins and wine which will put a smile on most faces however, my mind kept wondering back to the perfect ’08 Larner. Sorry!
The (2014) Il Padrino followed. A pure, primary sense of Syrah handled beautifully. Elegant, super-long and a wine that all Syrah lovers need to taste. Just a joy for me.
From start to finish, Paul’s wines demonstrate his natural, intuitive ability to create beautiful wines. There’s an honesty and sensitivity which is in play with each varietal he works with. I wonder if Paul’s previous work as a sommelier has shaped his natural understanding of harmony, balance and flavours? For me, and to bring this short article to a close, Paul Lato wines represents some of the best wines coming out of the US today.
Paul’s currently in Burgundy but left an encouraging note “I will be thrilled to work with you and will give you a special allocation” which of course we will share with you soon.
Read our previous Paul Lato Article
A note to all customers who purchased 2015 Bordeaux En-Primeurs: Our final lading reports arrived on Friday, which provides the green-light to start releasing the wines over the course of the next 1-2 weeks. There is an enormous amount of wine / releases to get through therefore, please bear with us. Natalie and Jody will be
contacting you next week.
All wines are offered ex-LCB Global. Onward delivery charges to all
UK bonds will be charged at cost.
Home delivery service can also be arranged.
for outdoor feasts
Schwarz Wine Co is firmly placed amongst our customers’ favourites wines and there is no doubt about the reasons why. One of only six wineries forming a niche circle called Artisans of Barossa (read our full article here), Schwarz uphold the culture and traditions of Barossa producing wines that excite, inspire and delight. Moreover, and unlike many wines from boutique Barossa producers, Schwarz wines remain sensibly priced, which reinforces them as our choice for wines to share during those long summer evenings.
Australians enjoy Jason’s newest releases, 2016 single vineyard wines at $43.00 (circa £24.00), whilst we tuck into our beautifully aged collection at cracking prices…
Schwarz Wine Company
Nitschke Block Shiraz
Jason Schwarz – “Located in the quaint township of Bethany, this special block was planted with Shiraz vines by my parents in 1968 and has been hand tendered by them ever since. Low yielding and dry grown it produces fruit of great intensity and depth. I hope you will enjoy this wines as much as I enjoy making it.”
“Intense purple-red; floods the mouth with full-on confit black fruits, sufficiently luscious to largely carry the alcohol; heroic style, but a good one, particularly in 20 years or so.”
£17.95 per bottle
94 Points - Jay Miller (erobertparker.com)
”The 2006 Nitschke Block Shiraz was aged in neutral French oak for 20 months. Opaque purple-colored, it exhibits a classic bouquet of smoke, mineral, bacon, blueberry, and black cherry. Fat and sweet on the palate, this opulent, layered effort has tons of flavor, great depth, and a fruit-filled finish.”
£18.95 per bottle
Schwarz Wine Company
Thiele Road Grenache
(Serve slightly chilled for a great twist.)
Jason Schwarz – "My family first planted Grenache vines here at the end of World War II. With over 60 years of generous attention these beautiful gnarled vines continue to produce fruit of deep character and complexity."
17.5 Points - Julia Harding
“Made by Jason Schwarz, the son and grandson of pruning champions, based at Bethany. Dry-grown fruit. Sweet meaty aromas. Big and bold with bags of character but manages to remain fresh even with 15% alcohol. Juicy, even a little bit wild and herbal.“
£17.95 per bottle
“The 2006 Thiele Road Grenache was sourced from a parcel planted in 1946. Fifty percent stems are used and the wine is aged for 20 months in seasoned oak. Dark ruby-colored, it has an enticing nose of lavender, earth notes, black cherry, and black raspberry. Layered, concentrated, and with serious old-vine character, it may well evolve for several years but can be enjoyed now.”
£17.95 per bottle
Schwarz Wine Company
The Dust Kicker Shiraz 2006
Jason Schwarz – “I have spent many hot vintage days walking the rows to select the perfect parcels of fruit to make this wine. This wine is a blend of premium varieties selected from more than 7 individual sites around Barossa Valley.”
“The 2006 Dust Kicker is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Grenache, and Mourvedre that spent 18 months in seasoned French oak before bottling without filtration (as are all the Schwarz wines). Purple-colored, it offers up a complex nose of cedar, spice box, tobacco, earth notes, black cherry, and blueberry. Layered on the palate, this easy-drinking, pleasure-bent wine has gobs of flavor, a lush palate feel, and a fruit-filled finish.”
£12.50 per bottle
2017 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc
95 Points - Stuart McCloskey
Hand-picked grapes from eight of Dog Point's own vineyards within the Wairau Valley. The fruit is whole bunch pressed, cold settled before fermentation and 2-3 months aging in stainless steel tanks. A portion of this wine is fermented using indigenous yeast and bottled without fining. A wonderfully deep and mineral nose with white and yellow stone fruits with a tinge of herbs. The palate is positively electric with stone fruits and minerals. Extremely pure, shows finesse and elegance as well as a touch of sweetness, but the overall balance is perfect. A wine which straddles New Zealand and the Loire, which is most pleasing as many Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc are too overtly pungent and unappealing. An exceptional Sauvignon Blanc for the price and
an utter joy when the sun shines…
£15.25 per bottle
Superior Sauvignon Society
Written by Bob Campbell MW
A handful of Marlborough wine producers have launched an initiative that they hope will highlight the fact that all Marlborough sauvignon blanc is not equal. You will soon see the “Appellation Marlborough Wine” logo appearing on bottles of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc at a wine store or supermarket near you.
Eventually, they hope to protect the integrity, authenticity and brand value of wines produced in Marlborough, although the initiative is primarily aimed at sauvignon blanc, by far the region’s most important variety.
You will soon see the “Appellation Marlborough Wine” (AMW) logo appearing on bottles of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The group already has 36 members, with many others expressing interest.
Sauvignon blanc producers can use the AMW logo on their labels if they satisfy the following criteria:
• The producer must be a paid-up member of AMW
• 100% of the grapes must have been grown in vineyards that are
part of the sustainable viticulture program.
• 100% of the grapes are grown in Marlborough and the wine
has been bottled in New Zealand.
• The wine is made from grapes “grown at an appropriate cropping level”
to enhance quality and the Marlborough name. A maximum cropping level will
be set for each vintage.
• If cropping levels exceed the allowed maximum, producers can submit samples
to a tasting panel that will decide whether the wine can be certified.
It’s an ambitious scheme with the potential to raise the quality, and probably the price, of top-end Marlborough sauvignon blanc. If successful, the AMW could become a template for producers in other regions to spotlight “superior” wines.
Rescued From Playground
Written by The Drinks Business
A pair of hedgehogs had to be rescued from a playground in Germany and taken to a zoo to sleep off a hangover after unwittingly lapping up the contents of a broken
bottle of booze.
The two hedgehogs were found motionless by a concerned resident in Erfurt, central Germany, on Sunday, as reported by local newspaper Thuringer Allgemeine.
Close by was a broken bottle of advocaat that had been left in the playground, that the pair had seemingly stumbled upon and overindulged in the egg-based liqueur.
Police were called to their rescue, and the hungover hedgehogs were taken to
Thüringer Zoo Park to recover.
Animals of all shapes and sizes are periodically caught hitting the bottle, usually after stumbling upon carelessly discarded bottles. But it seems animals have a particular fondness for advocaat – a 20% abv liqueur made with eggs, sugar and brandy.
In 2014, another hedgehog was found passed out in a gutter after guzzling the contents of a discarded bottle in Arnhem, Holland, while in the UK a pair of spaniels snaffled their owner’s bottle of advocaat and were found “staggering and swaying” in the garden.
In case you missed Fridays
Pinot Noir offer...