Lucius wines“Lucius is our space for experimental wines,” says Andrew Latta, owner of LATTA, Kind Stranger, and Lucius.

The winery name comes from Latta’s great grandfather. Though he never met him, Latta says the name always fascinated him. So did Lucius’ story.

Lucius was a blacksmith and a farmer by trade. Then, suddenly things changed.

“Blacksmithing stopped being a trade, so halfway through his life, he learned how to be a machinist,” Latta says.

Embracing change is very much what inspires the Lucius wines. “It’s about new grapes, new techniques, changing, and trying not to stay necessarily in the same lane,” Latta says.

Latta started the label in 2021 with a Mourvèdre and a Viognier. In 2022, the lineup expanded to four wines: a Mouvèdre, a Syrah, a Viognier, and an Albariño.

Latta uses carbonic maceration for the two reds. Whole grapes are put into a sealed fermentation vessel with dry ice, causing an intracellular fermentation within the berries.

“[The vessels] are sealed for 11 or 12 days, then I hop in there and foot stomp them to kick off primary fermentation,” Latta says. The fruit is subsequently pressed, and the wine is then aged about 11 months before bottling.

The Mourvèdre comes from Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain. The Syrah, meanwhile, comes from a site familiar to people who follow Washington wine closely: Stoneridge Vineyard.

Latta played a central role in putting Stoneridge on the wine map. When he was winemaker at K Vintners and Charles Smith, the winery’s 2006 Royal City Syrah from Stoneridge Vineyard received a 100-point review from critic Paul Gregutt at Wine Enthusiast. It was, at the time, Washington’s first 100-point Syrah. The wine also received a 97-point review from Wine Spectator. That was the highest score a Washington Syrah had ever received in the publication’s history. (Two Washington Syrahs have subsequently received 98-point scores from Wine Spectator.)

Visiting Stoneridge last summer, it seems like a remarkably unassuming, side-of-the road vineyard in the middle of nowhere eastern Washington. However, its rocky soils and elevation make wines that are remarkably distinctive.

“There’s a signature in that vineyard, particularly through the red wines,” Latta says.

This is Latta’s first time working with Stoneridge fruit since leaving K Vintners to focus on his own project full-time. The wine is, of course, an entirely different style than the Royal City Syrah.

“I wanted to do something really different, so that’s why we did this full carbonic treatment,” Latta says. “It definitely shifts the profile of the vineyard, but it’s still Stoneridge.”

Both of the Lucius red wines are vibrantly aromatic, bringing bright fruit that is reflective of the fermentation style. There is also the elegance and freshness of the 2022 vintage.

The Albariño, meanwhile, was fermented and aged in concrete, with skin contact on one third of the juice. The Viognier also saw some skin contact. As a result it has a coppery orange color. The two whites are both aromatically and texturally complex, dazzling wines.

Andrew Latta’s wines have always had a distinct voice. They smell and taste unlike any other wines in Washington. One sees the same on the Lucius wines, though the wines are taking Latta – and in some cases Washington – in an entirely different direction.

The results at Lucius are some of the most exciting new wines in Washington. Better still for wine lovers, the Lucius wines are accessibly priced.

“It’s a place for us to try some cool stuff,” Latta says. Cool indeed.

NB: Lucius wines are sold at PCC and select other retailers and restaurants. Image courtesy of Lucius.

The reviews below were published March 22nd.

Lucius 2022 Skin Contact Viognier Columbia Valley $25
93 points, Critic’s Choice
This wine was given three days of skin contact, was whole cluster pressed, and then aged 11 months in neutral barrels. It’s golden in color, with some orange colors as well. The aromas show notes of tangerine rind, herb, peach, and crushed flower. The palate is richly flavorful, full of layered stone fruit flavors. It shows truly impressive balance. The finish sails into the distance and just keeps on going as long as you care to follow it. It’s an exquisite wine, unlike any other offering of the variety in the state. 13.7% alcohol. TCA-free micro-agglomerated cork. 343 cases produced.

Lucius 2022 Upland Vineyard Carbonic Mourvèdre Snipes Mountain $25
93 points, Critic’s Choice
Lucius is a new label from winemaker Andrew Latta (LATTA). This is a fascinating wine, with perfumed aromas of red fruit, olive, brown stem, coffee bean, flower, and pepper. Silky-soft, achingly pure fruit and savory flavors follow. It undulates across the palate, with the enjoyment as much about feel as flavor. The extraction is dialed back while the purity is way up. It’s shockingly delicious. 13.7% alcohol. TCA-free micro-agglomerated cork. 189 cases produced.

Lucius 2022 Lawrence Vineyard Concrete Albariño Royal Slope $25
92 points, Critic’s Choice
This wine had 24 hours of skin contact, was whole cluster pressed, and was then aged 11 months in concrete. It’s aromatically expressive, with notes of apricot and peach. A full-bodied, richly flavorful, textured palate follows, speckled with mineral notes. There’s plenty of length on the finish. It’s gorgeous, hitting high notes throughout. 13.1% alcohol. TCA-free micro-agglomerated cork. 626 cases produced.

Lucius 2021 Stoneridge Vineyard Bojo Cru Syrah Royal Slope $30
91 points, Critic’s Choice
Stoneridge is one of the more distinctive sites in the Columbia Valley. This offering was fermented 100% whole cluster with 12 days of carbonic maceration, 18 days on skins, and 20 months in neutral French oak. The aromas bring notes of smoked meat, blue fruit, herb, and crushed rock. Medium-bodied, initially top-weighted flavors follow, balancing out with time open. There’s captivating purity and freshness. It has a lightly grainy feel. Decant. 14.1% alcohol. TCA-free micro-agglomerated cork. 168 cases produced.

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