Find wines and prices




Tasting notes from California

text and photographs © 2013 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on California.


the Halls The Patz & Hall story begins in the late 1980s when partners, winemaker James Hall and Anne Moses, teamed up with David and Heather Patz. Anne and the Patz' look after the business side, and Anne joined us when I met up with James for tasting at their Sonoma facility. James has 30 years of experience at estates including Flora Springs and Honig.

Although there is a posh tasting salon in Napa, the Sonoma facility is a fairly unglamorous but totally functional warehouse unit in a large industrial estate. OK, it's not a cottage with roses round the door, but it does bring wide loading bays and perfect temperature controlled facilities for the hundreds of maturing barrels. And Patz & Hall does make a lot of wine: "We didn't start out with a grand plan to have 26 different wines hitting all the styles," says James. He points to a newly installed Nespresso machine sitting on the counter-top "It's a bit like this new machine: it comes with a dozen different coffee pods, each a different profile. We just take great fruit and we make what it gives us - it's unpredictable, we just find vineyards with a certain profile and see what they give us. If we like it we'll make it."

James says 2011 was "a notorious vintage," cold and wet at harvest with huge rains in October. "There's no sense of schadenfreude," he says, "but I have to say we were so happy to be standing in the winery knowing all of our fruit was in as the rain poured down."

Many of the vineyards from which Patz & Hall buy fruit also bottle their own wines. "We're very happy for our growers to also be bottlers," says James. "Other people who buy fruit don't always like that." Presumably that's because they fear the growers will siphon off the best fruit for themselves, but James doesn't see it that way: "It is a sign these people really know and care about what they are doing in their vineyards," he says.

There are notes on a fairly speedy barrel-tasting of wines from the 2012 vintage below, followed by a more considered, sit-down tasting of several bottled wines. I did not taste through enough of the 26 different cuvées from different years to form a strong opinion of whether there are 26 convincing expressions of place and vintage, but this is a determined and focused operation with an obvious attention to detail in what it does.

the wines

See all stockists of Patz & Hall on wine-searcher.

Patz & Hall, Dutton Ranch Russian River Chardonnay 2011, California
Patz & Hall started working with this ranch in 1997. Nice touch of green bean and Terpene quality, a touch of smokiness, a touch of tropical fruit beneath. On the palate it is on the big side, a touch of Botrytis maybe, but rounded and quite a phenolic feel, quite big and rich, yet still has pedigree. 91/100.

Patz & Hall, Zio Tony Russian River Chardonnay 2010, California
The oak seems a little more obvious here, but then the spiciness and nuttiness of the fruit comes through, that touch of something mineral too. Juicy stuff on the palate, the fine acidity plays again, the sweet touch of vanilla just enough to soften this with enough broadening character against that tight and powerful core of acidity and alcohol. 91-92/100.

Patz & Hall, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2011, California
Intention is to take vineyards that are worthy of single vineyard status, but blend them and use economies of scale to make "a great bottle at an affordable price." Lovely aromatics here, very nice hint of creamy strawberry, gentle briar and earth character, lovely floral elegance to this, the core of intense fruit is superb, with great palate sweetness and intensity. It spends time in 55% new oak. 91/100. $35 locally.

Patz & Hall, Jenkins Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2011, California
From the Sebastopol hills this has fresh, wheaty, raspberry aromatics. Lovely sense of gentle but full ripeness. Very tight and firm palate, but delicious fruit expression and deliciously ripe too. Well balanced, firm tannins, but long and most enjoyable. 92/100. $55 locally.

Patz & Hall, Pisoni Vineyard Monterrey Pinot Noir 2008, California
Delicious big wine, confiture, grapey and full, that really big style again, with a bucketload of sweet, ripe fruit and deliciously long and chocolate rich. 92/100. $85 locally.

2012 barrel samples

Patz & Hall, Duck Ranch Russian River Chardonnay 2012, California
Delicious fruit, with a huge, sour lemon and grapefruit grip and juiciness. From unirrigated, old vines this has delicious weight and structure.

Patz & Hall, Hyde Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay 2012, California
From Carneros in the Napa Valley where James started buying the grapes in 1989. Delicious nutty quality but also that touch of Burgundian cabbage and nice phenolic 'seriousness'. Natural yeast, full malolactic, no filtering.

Patz & Hall, Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay 2012, California
Big, Burgundian nose, a bit reduced bit Jim says this will clear after two years. Plenty of smoky notes.

Patz & Hall, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2012, California
Lovely juicy stuff made from various carefully selected vineyards. A touch smoky, but fruit-forward and delicious.

Patz & Hall, Jenkins Ranch Russian River Pinot Noir, California
From three Burgundy clones on sandy loam soils. Jim says this is his favourite soil, with a water-retentive clay layer beneath. Plenty of tannins, but the quality is ripe and deliciously sweet fruit.

Patz & Hall, Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, California
Single selection of a "Californian heirloom," clone. "It could it be fro Josh Jensen's time at Romanée-Conti," says James. Lots of juicy black cherry, plenty of oaky spice and tannin. Long. Delicious.

Patz & Hall, Burnside Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2012, California
Briary, reedy, has those lifted aromatics. Jim says it will take bottle age.

Patz & Hall, Pisoni Vineyard Monterrey Pinot Noir 2012, California
From Santa Lucia in Monterrey county. Delicious smokiness and lovely red berries, there is an aromatic freshness and lift. Big, but very fruity Pinot.

See all stockists on wine-searcher.

return to California Dreaming