Issue: 45 / Sunday 28 October, 2018
A Lifetime Achievement Award
Written by Stuart McCloskey
(Descending with a broken leg: Photo taken circa 20,000 ft. Spantik, Karakoram, 2005)
I was invited (by our partners, Accolade wines) to the prestigious Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships (CSWWC Awards Dinner) which took place on Wednesday evening at the historic Merchant Taylors’ Hall. The Hall has been on this same site (Threadneedle Street, London) since 1347.
I arrived for the preview tasting of gold medal winning wines. Before I was able to pour my first sample, I unexpectantly bumped into my tent partner who I had not seen since 2005. We were part of a team attempting to summit Spantik, a 7,000-metre mountain, which stands proud in the Karakoram, a large mountain range spanning the borders of Pakistan, India, and China. Sadly, for him, he broke his leg on our first ascent to camp one and was physically carried out on the backs of village men from the remote and cut off community of Arandu. That must have been one hell of a journey as many crevasses had to be jumped, which is no-tall order with a twelve stone westerner on your back. For me, I had the benefit of my own tent for the next six weeks which was simply wonderful.
The self-pour table had an impressive line-up from Louis Roederer’s 2008 Cristal (40% Chardonnay 60% Pinot Noir). The ’08 was bottle-aged for 8 years but it needs many more years before it truly offers perfect drinking. Lots of tension and very precise. Taittinger’s 2007 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs was excellent and clearly a hit with many as the bottle(s) were being continuously emptied. Charles Heidsieck wines were all showing well – The ’04 Blanc de Millénaires richness was particularly impressive. There were many more Champagnes and sparkling wines on show however, I must say that many disappointed…
We were called through to the magnificent dining hall where the remainder of our dining table met. Ed Carr (Chief Wine Maker House of Arras, Tasmania) and his lovely wife had flown in specially for the event, Laura Jewell MW (Laura heads-up Wine Australia), Sue and Roger Jones from The Harrow at Little Bedwyn (both are great ambassadors for
Australian wines), team Accolade UK and several members of their PR team too…
Our host and founder of CSWWC, Tom Stevenson opened the awards dinner whilst we enjoyed our starter of cream of celeriac and pink lady apple velouté with a slow braised pork beignet and rosemary oil. There was a break between each course, which allowed the time to present the many awards of the evening and to enjoy the countless Champagnes and sparkling wines which were being poured. The main course of braised supreme of pheasant was a brave choice for a banquet of this size as it can easily be overcooked and dry out. A great fondant potato is one which is cooked in a copious amounts of butter and a little stock - golden brown with a melting interior. Sadly, and like the pheasant, a choice which was executed poorly. The cheese course was a success particularly the cloth-wrapped mature cheddar which offered a searing spike of acidity counterbalanced perfectly with the apple chutney.
Dessert of a warm apple tarte tatin was delicious but the thimble sized scoop of vanilla ice cream was rather miserly. I must add that magnums of Cristal which were being poured for guests was drinking beautifully however, the extroverted Piper-Heidsieck ‘Rare’ Champagne served en-magnum (I believe the ’98 vintage) was the standout wine of the evening.
10.00pm arrived and Tom Stevenson announced the Lifetime Achievement Awards which included the late Thierry Roset, the late Michel Salgues, Thierry Gasco, Jean-Paul Gandon, Herve Deschamps, Richard Geoffroy, Loic Dupont, Francois Dimi and our very own Ed Carr, the only non-Champenois to receive this prodigious award. In fact, Ed is the most decorated and prized winemaker outside of Champagne, which simply goes to prove how great House of Arras wines are.
I must thank Toby of Accolade wines for the kind invitation. A super night and a little more special to see Ed’s acknowledgment.
We have forged a pricing structure which we are confident will please you all. It is important to note that we are not offering these great sparkling wines at reduced prices, although it is a given that you will not be able to find these wines in the UK at such super-prices. What we can provide is a direct relationship from grower to customer with the added benefit of The Vinorium’s unique position in the Australian wine market.
House of Arras 2007 Grand Vintage
£26.50 per bottle
£109.00 per case (6x75cl) IB
97+ points Stuart McCloskey "Fruit (Chardonnay 78% & Pinot Noir 22%) for the ’07 Grand Vintage was hand-picked from cold climate Derwent Valley, Freycinet & Coal River Valley vineyards prior to gentle whole bunch pressing, from which only free run juice was collected. Primary fermentation was undertaken on light lees, followed by 100% malolactic fermentation. Disgorged after 8 years.
Served using Zalto’s Universal Glass (please do not use a flute!). Everything is sensational from start to finish with the level of richness juxtaposed with perfectly carved acidity. The nose is incredibly expansive with aromatics soaring from the glass, which gain in intensity with more air contact. The palate is deep, evolved, explosive with superb textural depth. My palate is washed with waves of red fruit, wild flowers and honeyed brioche, which are layered to perfection with minerals, a touch of citrus peel and nutty yeast autolysis character – Just divine. Without question, a very fine sparkling wine which offers sophistication and a wealth of pleasure. Thrilling and will continue to be so for a further 10+ years…"
House of Arras NV Brut Elite
£17.95 per bottle
£65.50 per case (6x75cl) IB
95 Points - Stuart McCloskey "Primarily based on the 2013 vintage with the fruit (57% Pinot Noir, 43% Chardonnay) sourced from Coal River Valley, Derwent Valley & Huon Estuary. The wine has gone through partial fermentation in oak barrels which has enabled Ed to significantly drop the dosage levels. Served in Zalto’s Universal glass and needs a little aeration to come alive. The ’07 Grand Vintage offers warmth whereas the ‘Elite’ comes to the fore with tension – perhaps a little reserved at first. Minerals, grapefruit, citrus and a touch of smoke. The oak influence is a masterstroke as this adds a layer of additional palate weight and complexity never found in wines of this extraordinary value. This is a great wine from House of Arras. Striking, brilliant and perhaps as no world equal for value. Disgorged after four years."
NEW & Exclusive to The Vinorium
Leasingham Classic Clare Riesling 2012
Royal Hobart International Wine Show 2016 - Trophy Best Riesling
Royal Hobart International Wine Show 2016 - GOLD
National Wine Show of Australia 2016 - GOLD
Decanter World Wine Awards 2016 - GOLD
Sydney Royal Wine Show 2015 - GOLD
Royal Adelaide Wine Show 2014 - GOLD
98 Points - James Halliday "A special cellar release wine. Luminous green-gold, the bouquet and palate an exercise in harmony. Meyer lemon and lime flavours lead the journey, hints of lightly browned toast in the background. The acidity is essential, but it is likewise simply part of the team."
£17.95 per bottle
Churton Special Blend Pinot Noir 2016
96+ points Stuart McCloskey “A fabulous mature nose of undergrowth, earth and balanced beautifully with a dash of spicy red fruits and rosehip, which could easily be interpreted as a high-class Burgundy. There’s lots to discover on the palate – time in the glass / decanter reveals a real depth and complexity rarely found at this price level. The palate is subtle, silky with a lovely sweet entry. Layers of fruit continue to build leading into blood orange, cranberry and a touch of warm spice. A beautiful wine with perfectly judged acidity and ultra-fine tannins. This is a model of pure sensitivity. Simply, a faultless joy. Served using Zalto Burgundy glass. Drinking window: Now to 2023”
Churton manage their vineyard according to principles of biodynamics and organics. Each parcel of Pinot Noir is hand-picked and kept separate in their winery. It is gently destemmed and tipped into fermenters. The fruit is handled very minimally until it starts fermenting. Fermentation is through indigenous yeast and once fermenting, must is plunged only twice daily. At the end of ferment the Pinot Noir remains on skins for up to another two weeks prior to pressing. Total time on skins is usually 28 days (a lunar month). The 2016 Pinot Noir was aged in used French oak barrels for 18 months.
Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz 2004
(2005 has sold out)
£11.75 per bottle
or take advantage of our
Special case offer (12x75cl) @ £8.75 per bottle
94 points Magda Sienkiewicz "Although Stonehorse Shiraz is an ‘introduction’ to Kaesler’s range before Old Vine, The Bogan and the flagship Old Bastard, this is by no means an entry-level wine. Deep plum in appearance with a beautifully fragrant nose of Asian plum, soy, sea kelp, leather, pen ink, cloves and star anise. The palate has a flattering sweet entry with the fruit flowing effortlessly across my palate. There is nothing cooked or overdone with the ’04. After spending over a decade in a bottle, the unquestionable power of Barossa Shiraz has softened into a smooth, well-rounded and generous elixir. The palate follows suit with soy, leather and an obvious nod towards complex Asian flavours, which is so pleasurable. Very impressive, super-long – the flavours carry on for minutes. Everything is just-right. Secondary fruit flavours have matured nicely, levels of acidity and filigree tannins are on-point. Clearly, superb value”.
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 produces. 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 of 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 extraordinary potential. Superb satiny texture and enough structure and acidity to see this through to 2030. Those of you who purchased the ’15. Forget about it 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) of 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 a 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.
My enthusiasm for Paul’s wines is obvious and come highly-recommended. Last years allocation sold-out incredibly quickly and despite an increase in numbers allocated this year, I envisage these will also sell-out swiftly too. I will re-sample each wine once they have landed and will print my full tastings notes. Until then, do not delay, and take my word for it – these are simply some of the best wines produced in the USA today. Mercurial brilliance!
Read our previous Paul Lato Article
* All wines are en-route from the US and will be available w/c 3rd December *
99 Points - Stuart McCloskey "A wine which offers a special level of purity from the outset and riveting from beginning to end. The nose is flamboyant, intensely perfumed and layered beautifully with plum, liquorice, asphalt, turning to roasted coffee with more aeration. The palate is seamless and washes sweet fruit across every facet with effortless grace. Sweet raspberry, cassis, violets with a touch of background spice. The tannins are fine with perfectly judge acidity, neither of which interrupts the super-long finish. This wine highlights Paul’s natural skill to understand the correlation between vineyard, grape to wine, which is often amiss. A captivating wine of ethereal grace, magical beauty opposed to a dense powerhouse. A US Syrah masterpiece for sure and will only get better over the next decade (sampled using Zalto Bordeaux glass)"
East of Eden Pisoni Chardonnay 2016
97+ Points - Jeb Dunnuck "Coming from a terrific site located at the southern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands, the 2016 Chardonnay East of Eden Pisoni Vineyard boasts phenomenal notes of ripe citrus and white peach fruits, white flowers, and freshly crushed rocks. It's clean, incredibly pure, and elegant on the palate, with a level of tension and vibrancy you don't find too often in the vintage. I followed this bottle for two days and it only improved with air. It's a brilliant Chardonnay from Lato that’s going to benefit from a year or two of bottle age and age gracefully for a decade or more. Don’t miss it!"
Suerte Solomon Hills Pinot Noir 2016
96+ Points - Jeb Dunnuck "Lato always makes the most of this great vineyard, which is located in the cooler, Pacific Ocean-influenced Santa Maria Valley. Black raspberries, red plums, violets, and hints of scorched earth all emerge from the 2016 Pinot Noir Suerte Solomon Hills Vineyard and it’s one of the more masculine, mineral-laced wines in the lineup. Nevertheless, it has beautiful purity and an undeniable elegance. Aged 15 months in 65% new French oak, give bottles a year or so and enjoy over the following decade."
Atticus John Sebastiano Pinot Noir 2016
96 Points - Jeb Dunnuck "From a site on the eastern side of the Sta. Rita Hills and aged in 50% new French oak, the 2016 Pinot Noir Atticus John Sebastiano Vineyard offers a very pretty, perfumed style. Red cherries, red plums, rose petals, and blood orange notes give way to a medium-bodied, ethereally textured, seamless 2016 that has some background oak, a layered, ultra-fine personality, and a great finish. It's going to age beautifully. Again, this is easily the most ethereal and seamless in the lineup and shines more for its nuance and elegance than power or richness. Drink it any time over the coming decade."
Le Souvenir Sierra Madre Chardonnay 2016
95 Points - William Kelley (robertparker.com) "From one of the oldest vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley, Paul Lato’s superb 2016 Chardonnay le Souvenir Sierra Madre Vineyard reveals attractive aromas of yellow orchard fruit, citrus zest, peach and honeycomb. On the palate, it’s medium to full-bodied, with more textural glossiness than the Belle de Jour, underpinned by bright acids and concluding with an intense, chalky finish. This is quite structurally tight-knit right now and will need a couple of years in the cellar to blossom."