I walked in to our local wine store and had no idea what I wanted. I did know that I wanted something new that I hadn’t tried before. I was pointed in the direction of the Paul Lato Pinot Noir and was told it was a small batch vineyard and a “can’t miss.”

I did some research on Paul Lato and his story is a good one. A native of Poland, Paul Lato landed in Toronto and worked his way up in the restaurant business and finally made it to sommelier. In 2002, he decided to leave Canada and intern with Au Bon Climat vineyard and he quickly began making his own wine. By “a stroke of luck” famous wine critic Robert Parker tasted one of his wines and encouraged him to create a label and make more. He had little money, no investors or partners but he leveraged the contacts he made as a sommelier, and rapidly got his wines on the menus at some swanky Los Angeles restaurants like Craft. Wolfgang Puck is such a fan he asked for 100 cases from Paul Lato to serve at his son’s wedding.

But how does it taste? I enjoyed a 2011 bottle of the Matinee Pinot Noir. The scent was sweet cherry, licorice (both black and red) and it smelled like an older wine, despite being only 5 years old. It was cloudy in the glass too, also reminding me of an older wine.

The palate definitely has that luscious cherry that I smelled, but also some smoke and tobacco. It certainly had a rich flavor and could stand up to steaks, Italian meals and stinky cheeses.

At $35, I thought it was a good value and the wine maker has a great backstory to tell when you bring this wine to a dinner party or your next BYOB dinner with friends.