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Lateral Moves North

Lateral, an established brand, is making a new start in Napa Valley. Lateral began as a label of the Kathryn Kennedy Winery in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. The line was created in 2003 by Marty Mathis. He is Kathryn Kennedy’s son, has been head winemaker at her eponymous winery since 1981 and is it’s owner as well.

Until recently, Lateral bottlings were labeled as “California wine.” Mathis tells me “multi-county sourcing offers an economic advantage.” Good fruit from Santa Clara Valley, or even Sonoma County, costs a lot less than that from Napa Valley. However, there’s a branding disadvantage with the relatively generic California designation. “It was fine when we were only selling in California, but having a Napa Valley label makes getting on out-of-state wine lists much easier.”

2010-LateralTo that end, Mathis is instituting a number of changes to make Lateral Napa Valley-specific. As of the 2010 vintage Lateral will offer just one wine, a red Bordeaux-variety blend made solely from Napa Valley fruit. The winemaking is being done in Napa Valley too. That’s being handled by Chris Condos who has worked on the wine for 15 years but lives in Napa Valley.

Other changes are in the works. More French oak is being used. The physical label has been gotten a facelift. Soon, Lateral will be a distinct company as well. Due to the higher price of Napa Valley grapes, the price has gone from $30 to $42. Mathis jokes that Lateral is “a rich man’s Tuesday night wine.”

Both Mathis and Condos have strong commitments to organic practices in the vineyard and winery. Fruit for the 2010 vintage was sourced from six different organic vineyards, such as Robert Sinskey and Pat Garvey. Each is vinified separately. The winery is certified organic so bottles can bear a “Made with Organic Grapes” logo.

Mathis has a longstanding preference for a traditional approach to red Bordeaux blends in California, balanced and age-worthy wines that don’t pursue power and ripeness at the expense of elegance. Mathis’ and Condos’ interests in organics and balance have come together beautifully in the 2010 Lateral Napa Valley.

The dark ruby Lateral offers plum, dark spice, blackberry, trail dust and wood on the nose. The flavors are much more red-fruit focused with a core of raspberry and red cherry accented by spice and oak. I find the tension in this wine compelling. There’s great freshness on the palate, accentuated by the raspberry note, which is deftly balanced by light-grained tannins and medium+ body. The finish is lengthy and centers on that tangy red fruit. The wine doesn’t offer a laundry list of flavors now, but the purity of fruit and palate dynamics are special and suggest good capadity for aging. Drink now through 2020+. Highly Recommended+.

2010 Lateral Red Wine Napa Valley

Rating: Highly Recommended+

Drink: now through 2020+
Closure: Cork
Production: 2,000 cases
Retail Price: $42.00

Winemaker: Chris Condos
Blend: 76% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc

Origin: certified organic grapes from Napa Valley vineyards including, Robert Sinskey, Yount Mill and Pat Garvey
Fermentation: multiple yeast strains, six different vineyards vinified separately
Aging: 22 months in French and American oak, 30% new
Alcohol: 14.4%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: optional

Temperature: 58º - 64º F

Interpreting my wine ratings


Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

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