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Paul Lato 'Senza Freni' Tocai Friulano, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara Co., CA 2022

  • $45.00

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Bien Nacido is one of the most historic vineyards in California, and this wine is made in tribute to winemaker Paul Lato's close friend and mentor, the late Jim Clendenen.

  • Winemaker: Paul Lato
  • Farming: Organic
  • Variety: Friulano
  • Terroir: Bien Nacido Vineyard (200-300m), south-facing, cool temperatures, loamy clay soils. 
  • Vinification: Natural fermentation in Concrete
  • Tasting Note:  Aromas of delicate citrus fruits with honeysuckle and almonds transcend into an elegant palate of white peach, crisp green apple, and orange peel. The finish has a mineral quality with notes of lemon, chamomile, and kiwi.
  • Production: 75 Cases 

From our 2024 Bottle of the Month Bottle Cult Notes:

Paul Lato Senza Freni Tocai Friulano, Bien Nacido Vineyard,
Santa Barbara Co., California 2022

Sometimes a wine behaves like anything but a bottle of fermented grape juice. To me, a wine’s story can be as unique as any person’s. And people, as you know, are the most unique things there are, insofar as uniqueness can be quantified. So I ask you, dear reader: If a Polish refugee meets a legendary winemaker from California in a restaurant in Toronto, what kind of Italian variety do you think they will make in Santa Barbara County?
Jim Clendenen of the famed Clendenen Family Vineyards and Au Bon Climat met a much younger Paul Lato in the early '90s while selling his wines in restaurants abroad. Taken with Paul’s demeanor and talent as a sommelier, he invited the young Pole to California to learn more about making The Stuff. After working closely with Jim, Paul deepened his knowledge at the Talley Estate’s sprawling operation in Arroyo Grande. Some 20 years later, the Paul Lato label comprises 40+ different wines, each with a specific inspiration and point of view.
The Friulano grapes are grown in the beautifully diverse and meticulously maintained Bien Nacido vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. Clendenen Family Vineyards bottled this variety after the Friulano block was planted in Bien Nacido exclusively for Jim in 1994. The events that would lead Paul to bottling this wine in honor of Jim after his passing in 2021 would all swirl around the glass in the next few years. Senza Freni, or “Never Stopping,” happens to display nearly every key element of Bien Nacido’s unique terroir.  The wine is lithe and slight on the palate with taut and firm acidity that lasts through the wine’s finish. This titillating texture results from the trifecta of Bien Nacido’s delicately balanced elevation (200-300m), its south-facing positioning, and its dramatically cool temperatures. These conditions, atop loamy clay soils, make Bien Nacido a coveted site with decades of provenance. Good winemaking helps, too.
The peony and pear aroma of this wine is tantalizing enough without any of the backstory. The wine was fermented in a concrete pyramid, dammit. And it will never be made again. Had enough intrigue?
If you’ve read any of my musings on wine before, you’ll know my pairings can be unconventional and sometimes entirely unrelated to cuisine. I’m going to continue that tradition and suggest you drink Senza Freni while reading (or listening to) Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives (1998). Paul’s story of grapes and globetrotting reminded me of this zoomed-in, heart-wrenching soliloquy by the South American giant of fiction. Perhaps Paul is truly channeling Jim Clendenen from beyond the grave with this wine.  — Parker Story, June 2024