Paul Lato Wines and Bien Nacido Vineyard have announced a perfect 100-point score for Lato’s 2018 il Padrino Syrah — the first 100-point vineyard-designate wine from the iconic Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara County. The top score was given to Lato by wine critic Jeb Dunnuck.

The previous vintage of the il Padrino Syrah earned 99 points from Dunnuck and retails for $90, according to

Lato, owner and winemaker of the Santa Maria-based label, has a well-earned reputation for crafting world-class artisanal wines. He first learned of Santa Barbara County wines while living in Canada, and he opted to take a harvest internship in California during a break from his sommelier training.

In 2002, he relocated to the Central Coast for good, and launched his label.

Dunnuck applauded the wine for its “masculine, peppery and gamey” characters, and further described the 2018 il Padrino as “everything I look for in a great wine: richness without heaviness, incredible complexity, a singular character, and the ability to deliver both intellectual and hedonistic pleasure.”

Paul Lato’s 2018 Il Padrino Syrah from Bien Nacido Vineyard.

Paul Lato’s 2018 il Padrino Syrah from Bien Nacido Vineyard. (Courtesy photo)

Lato said he is “thrilled and humbled to produce a wine that represents what’s possible from this incredible vineyard. Once again, Bien Nacido syrah produces one of my most complex and intriguing wines, creating harmony between many worlds of flavor. It’s deep, rich, fabulously concentrated, and has notable precision and length. Whether it’s a few minutes in the glass, or several years in the cellar, this wine becomes increasingly layered with time.”

Lato also produces multiple versions of pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and grenache.

Bien Nacido Vineyard was planted in 1973 by the multigenerational Miller farming family, founders of The Thornhill Companies. Home to the first cool-climate syrah grapes on the Central Coast, Bien Nacido remains one of the most sought-after sources for both syrah and Burgundian grapes by some of California’s most esteemed producers.

“Paul has been a great supporter of our vineyards over the years, and we couldn’t be more excited that his syrah from Bien Nacido has been recognized with a perfect 100-point score,” said Nicholas Miller, vice president of sales and marketing of Bien Nacido Estates.

SB Vintners Decreases Proposed Assessment Fee to 1%

Earlier this month, the Santa Barbara Vintners modified its plan for an assessment fee, changing from 1.5 percent on just tasting room sales to 1 percent on all California sales, including those made to wine club members.

The proposed fee, applied as a Business Improvement District, would be used to raise more than $1 million annually for the organization, putting it on par with those in Paso Robles and Napa. The money would fund increased marketing for all of the region’s wineries, not just those that are members of Santa Barbara Vintners.

All Santa Barbara County wineries with direct-to-consumer sales would be assessed the 1 percent fee, according to details outlined by the Santa Barbara County Wine Preserve.

The Wine Preserve would fund the new district, and the assessed fees would be collected by a third-party accounting entity.

The next step? Santa Barbara Vintners plans to continue to educate winemakers, and targets October for a petition drive, according to the website.

New Restaurants Open in Los Olivos and Buellton

Outdoor seating at Nella Kitchen & Bar in Los Olivos.

Outdoor seating at Nella Kitchen & Bar in Los Olivos. (Courtesy photo)

Two new restaurants have opened in the North County — one each in Los Olivos and Buellton.

In Los Olivos, at the site of the former Bear & Star at the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn on Grand Avenue, comes Nella Kitchen & Bar, owned and managed by the team from S.Y. Kitchen in Santa Ynez.

The venture, headed by Luca Crestanelli, executive chef/owner of S.Y. Kitchen, offers a lengthy cheese list, charcuterie plates, and a wine bar featuring local and world wines in addition to craft and classic cocktails.

The eatery is located at the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn, 2860 Grand Ave., and is expected to be a collaboration between the restaurant and the Fess Parker family.

To reach the restaurant, click here, call 805.686.1359 or follow @nellakitchenbar on Instagram.

The second new restaurant, The Tavern at Zaca Creek, opened to the public in late August. The historic Buellton property will include six boutique inn suites, which opened along with the eatery.

Zaca Creek’s executive chef, Kaitlyn Paul.

Zaca Creek’s executive chef, Kaitlyn Paul. (Danielle Honea photo)

Leading the restaurant is Buellton native Kaitlyn Paul, executive chef, who has returned home after more than a decade in kitchens along the Central Coast and beyond. Most recently, Paul called Jackson Hole, Wyo., home, having worked for many years as a chef with the multirestaurant enterprise Fine Dining Restaurant Group.

The Zaca Creek property figures into Buellton’s history, with lineage dating back to the community’s founding. The site, originally a tavern and restaurant built by Jim Buell (as in “Buell-ton”), Zaca Creek is being resurrected after nearly 20 years of dormancy.

Stephen Villa, Zaca Creek’s general manager and wine director, is a Santa Barbara County native and has spent the past 14 years in the region’s cellars and vineyards.

The Tavern at Zaca Creek is located at 1297 Jonata Park Road. For information and reservations, call 805.688.2412 or email

Annual Ag Expo & Summit Plans Virtual Event

Registration has opened for the annual Sustainable Ag Expo & International Sustainable Winegrowing Summit, to take place virtually this year from Nov. 9 to Dec. 4.

Since 2003, the expo has provided world-class education for farmers, researchers and consultants, detailing the latest in technological advances.

The virtual format will allow access to more speakers and topics for four weeks, and will include about 25 hours of both live and recorded content. Registrants will have access to all content, creating a pandemic “silver lining” that will allow flexibility for students and professionals.

“Rather than having to compress all the presentations into three days, we can offer an even greater variety of course content with time to dig a bit deeper,” said Kris Beal, executive director of the Vineyard Team, the hosting organization. “In addition, our speaker pool comes from all over the world, including Tasmania, New York and Pennsylvania. We now have speakers who are able to attend the expo without having to fly across the country, and registrants will be able to access valuable content for an entire month at their own convenience.”

Among the topics to be addressed are climate adaptation, leafroll and red blotch, wine grape supply and demand, invasive insects, Pierce’s disease, irrigation technology, rootstock breeding, vineyard and hemp coexistence, and weed management.

The event will offer more than 15 Department of Pesticide Regulation CE hours and more than 20 Certified Crop Adviser CE hours. The cost for full access to all four weeks of content is $345.

Click here for information and registration, or email

Crown Point Vineyards Makes List of Top Winery Tours

Crown Point Vineyards, a winery specializing in Bordeaux grape varietals from its estate vineyards in the Happy Canyon AVA, last month announced its recognition as one of the 10 Best Winery Tours in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards 2020.

Finalists for the award included wineries throughout North America that were nominated by a panel of wine and travel experts and voted on by the public. After a four-week voting period, Crown Point took home fourth place. It is the only winery to represent Santa Barbara County and the Central Coast.

“We are filled with great enthusiasm and appreciation to have been named the fourth best winery tour in North America by USA Today’s readers,” Crown Point owner Roger Bower said.

Crown Point’s Discover Crown Point tour and tasting experience is a 90-minute private tour and tasting designed to help visitors learn and appreciate the winery’s evolution and commitment to excellence in all facets of winery operations. Click here for more information.

— Laurie Jervis tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via The opinions expressed are her own.