Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Patz & Hall: Palate or Points?

Patz & Hall put on a focused tasting tonight at Patricia Hook's Firecliff Restaurant in Palm Desert. Three Chardonnays, three Pinot Noirs – all different enough to challenge a roomful of palates.

Founded in 1988 by four wine-dedicated friends Donald Patz, James Hall, Anne Moses and Heather Patz, Patz & Hall winery turns out single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Their wines are sourced from fruit grown in diverse terroirs centered in Sonoma yet tapping into bordering Napa with its Hyde Vineyard releases, Mendocino to the north and, with its Pisoni Vineyards wines, Monterey County's Santa Lucia Highlands to the south.

Anne Moses kicked off the tasting by introducing the premier of the winery's 2008 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, an easy-drinking cool-climate chard with fresh stone fruit aromas and flavors braced by crisp acidity and minerality. Think fresh and food-friendly.

Next came our tasters' favorite: 2007 Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard. Rich with exotic fruit yet refreshing for its minerality and cleanliness on the palate, we enjoyed its elegance without overkill. As it turns out, wine critic Robert Parker agreed. He awarded this wine 94 points, the highest of all the Chardonnays tasted.

The last white was their 2007 Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard, a richer, more full-bodied chard with toasty oak and candied fruit. Not our style but still a Parker 93-pointer. Patz & Hall cognoscenti advised us to hold on to this one at least another year or so to enjoy it even more. We believe!

On to Pinot Noir after a bite of Patricia Hook's mushroom crostini that kept us going. We started off with the 2007 Hyde Vineyard, the Carneros vineyard site that delivered our favorite Chardonnay. Once again, it was Hyde: a deliciously full-bodied wine with dark cherry and wild berry fruits laced with cinnamon, spice and a savory finish. What, only 92 points? Who cares, we thought.

Next, the 2007 Pinot Noir Chenoweth Ranch. This beauty from the Russian River Valley was deep, with more brooding fruit and a spiciness that pushed this taster's envelope. The Spectator gave it one more point than the Hyde.

The closer was the complex 2007 Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard from Monterey's Santa Lucia Highlands. The full-on mouthful was rich with chewy black and red fruits, definitely the power-Pinot. The Wine Spectator agreed with its 94-point anointment.

Blind to prices and points, this taster favored the Hyde Vineyards' Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but knew the Pisoni would win out when served with a perfectly paired pork tenderloin dish. Other tasters compared the spicy Hyde and Chenoweth Pinots to Zinfandel – Zinfandel?! Ouch. Goes to show it's all about your palate, your taste – points and tasting notes be damned.

Thanks to all who made this happen: Patz & Hall, Patricia Hook and her Firecliff staff, Patrick and the gang at LA Wine Company and all the interested wine lovers who took the time and pleasure to taste, compare notes and share.

You'll find Patz & Hall wines on better wine lists around the valley. Seek them out, try them all. There's not a mediocre offering among them. Treat yourself.

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