The powerful wines of Paso Robles find a lot of fans in Santa Barbara, and many of them are members of Epicurean Santa Barbara. The food and drink society regularly invites the region’s celebrated vintners to town for intimate tastings and paired dinners. The next installment, which is open to non-members, is a five-course dinner at Hotel Californian featuring more than one dozen new releases and library wines from Law Estates on December 28.
The winery on Paso’s westside was founded in 2007 by Don and Susie Law, who sought a place to make Rhône- and Priorat-style wines. The property’s high elevation, steep slopes, and limestone-laced soils make that possible, and they’ve slowly expanded their lineup to 11 wines, including expressions of traditional Bordeaux and Rioja blends. The dinner will also feature the new Black Label wines, which are single varietal expressions of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre.
I asked winemaker Philipp Pfunder what sets Law Estate apart.
What’s special about Law compared to the rest of Paso?
Law is special compared to the rest of Paso because of our location. Our vineyards are between 1,400 and 1,900 feet, which is the second-highest elevation in Paso. Not only the elevation, but the steep aspects and various exposures and, last but certainly not least, our incredible soil. The vineyards sit on nearly pure Calcareous limestone with next to no topsoil, which allows us to achieve incredible ripeness and opulence while never having to sacrifice acid, which is retained beautifully in large part to the soils at Law.
Our hospitality also stands out. We were one of the first wineries in Paso Robles to open as appointment-only. The reason for this wasn’t to mimic Napa — it was to slow down traffic and make guests feel comfortable and relaxed. By being appointment-only, we are able to curate a flight format tasting experience so guests can taste our wines at their own pace with hosts that are welcoming, knowledgeable, and personable.
What’s the winemaking style?
Our philosophy when it comes to making the wines is minimal intervention and allowing things to happen as naturally as possible. The goal is to express a sense of time and place, letting the beautiful fruit that we grow express itself from year to year. We do not use commercial yeast or bacteria, and we allow the natural native populations present in our vineyards and winery to conduct our fermentations.
Do you look to other regions for inspiration?
Undoubtedly, there is some inspiration that we take from other regions, though the ultimate goal is to make wines that are distinctly different and distinctly Law Estate. Audacious is inspired by the wines of the Priorat, while Sagacious and Beguiling are certainly blends that you would more likely find in the south of France, while Beyond Category is a blend loosely inspired by the beautiful wines of Rioja. So, while there is inspiration from regions and wines that we love, the wines we grow and make at Law are always expressions of this beautiful AVA tucked into the hills of West Paso.
How are those rich Paso Robles wines aging?
I think that the wines we are making here at Law are indeed very age-worthy, in large part because of the beautiful acidity and tension that we manage to retain in our wines. That, along with a healthy tannin structure and incredible concentration, makes for wines that will certainly age gracefully.
(Matt Kettmann volunteers on the advisory board of Epicurean Santa Barbara.)