Paul Lato was a sommelier at some of Toronto's best restaurants when Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat invited him to the Central Coast to help with the 1996 harvest. Lato returned to Toronto, but he'd been entranced with the idea of making wine. In 2002 Lato packed up and moved permanently to the Central Coast, where he worked as a cellar rat and made small amounts of his own wine on the side. His first vintages were praised by Robert M. Parker Jr. and other reviewers, and since then he has continued to make small amounts of Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay in Santa Maria from grapes sourced in Santa Rita, Santa Ynez Valley and the Santa Maria Valley. Though he makes only about 500 cases a year, Lato has earned a reputation for excellence. Robert M. Parker Jr. has generally rated Lato’s wines between 90 and 95 pts and notes that “Lato’s passion and impeccable attention to detail have resulted in some outstanding wines.” Lato's wines are usually available only by mailing list.
Arroyo Grande Valley AVA is a 42,880-acre appellation within the Central Coast AVA. The appellation surrounds the town of Arroyo Grande, and is located southwest of San Luis Obispo. Located within four miles of the Pacific Ocean, the 16-mile long valley includes several microclimates, such a cooler lower one on the west end, where Pinot Noir is grown, and a higher, hotter microclimate inland, where Zinfandel thrives. Arroyo Grande was officially recognized as an AVA in 1990. Many grapes are grown here, including Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Tempranillo. Like most of the Central Coast, this AVA has a long tradition of farming. Most of the ever-growing number of wineries here have sprung up in the last 30 years and they tend to focus on Rhone varietals.
This white variety originated in Burgundy, but is now grown around the world. Its flexibility to thrive in many regions translates to wide flavor profile in the market. Chardonnay is commonly used in making Champagne and sparkling wines.