As I stumbled around making coffee that morning, the announcer on the local classical music station mentioned that it was the birthday of Stanley Kubrick, the great film director. What an amazing artist Kubrick was! Who else could have created a comic masterpiece about nuclear war? Who else would have filmed a historical drama using only ambient light—including for nighttime interior scenes? (He obtained bright-burning, triple-wick candles and special camera lenses for the production.)
A few hours later I headed downtown to meet Donald Patz, co-founder of Patz & Hall winery (patzhall.com). I was thinking about Kubrick’s films as I drove. It didn’t occur to me to wonder whether July 26 was the birthday of any other major cultural figure. (I checked later. Kubrick shared a birthday with John Field, George Grosz, Aldous Huxley, Carl Jung and George Bernard Shaw, among other figures.)
Arriving a few minutes early at the restaurant where Mr. Patz and I were to lunch, I was shown to a prime window-side table set with many shining wine glasses.
Donald Patz founded Patz & Hall with three colleagues in 1988. James Hall was winemaker; Mr. Patz took charge of national sales; Anne Moses handled sales in California; Heather Patz managed administration and consumer relations.
The partners set out to produce Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines made of grapes from single vineyards. They developed relationships with some of California’s finest grape growers. Many wineries produce single-vineyard wines today, but Patz & Hall’s plan was unusual in the late 1980s. The strategy evolved as the winery gained repute. In order to meet demand, Patz & Hall now also produces what one might call “regional” wines, using grapes from multiple vineyards in Sonoma, Napa (Carneros region) and Mendocino counties.
In addition to lining up sources of top-quality fruit, Patz & Hall also adopted a program to obtain barrels of custom-seasoned oak from distinguished Burgundian coopers. As you know, barrels have a significant effect on the flavor of wines aged in them.
Mr. Patz arrived at the restaurant a few minutes after I did, and he was in a celebratory mood: It was Mick Jagger’s 73rd birthday! Somehow, I had missed that. But Mr. Patz had not, and in case he had, the restaurant owner (a longtime friend of Patz’s) had left a note to remind him: Mick Jagger’s 73rd birthday!
Although I was familiar with Mr. Jagger’s name, I hadn’t thought of him as a major figure outside the realm of popular music. I was not fully informed. Evidently, Jagger is a big deal both as a rocker and as a thinker. In a recent book review, John Gray, emeritus professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics, places Jagger firmly in the line of distinguished Enlightenment intellectuals—Niccolò Machiavelli Thomas Hobbes and Adam Smith—who believed that human fulfillment is something to be pursued, not achieved. Mr. Jagger appears to hold the same view, which he popularized in his well known opus—“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
We soon turned our thoughts from political economy and philosophy to Bacchic matters.
Mr. Patz presented several of his wines that July afternoon, principally from single vineyards. Of course, they were wonderful. I marked my notes from the lunch with several big stars, which is how I identify the wines that I really, really enjoy.
Regrettably, Patz & Hall’s single- vineyard wines are difficult to find beyond California and a few large cities. Fortunately, the winery’s other tasty wines are readily available in most of the country.
My wife and I sampled three Patz & Hall wines recently—two Chardonnays and a Pinot Noir. We loved them. I put big stars on my notes.
Despite the suggestive name, Patz & Hall Dutton Ranch Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2016 ($44) is not exactly a single-vineyard wine. Rather, it is made of grapes from several vineyards farmed by a single well-known family with which Patz & Hall has a long-term relationship. The Dutton Ranch Chardonnay is rich and satisfying— magnificent, to be precise. It is the color of mature wheat under the afternoon sun, a bit darker than the color typical of young Chardonnay. It emits a subtle bouquet reminiscent of peaches, pears, citrus and honeysuckle. In the mouth, its flavors of pears and peaches vie with patrician essences of ripe apples, orange-blossom honey and sweet oak. As time passes, minerality and gentle acidity gradually come to the fore.
The straw-colored Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2016 ($40) offers an elegant and intriguing bouquet of fruit, oak and crushed green leaves. It is creamy but tart, with flavors of pears, ripe apples, lemon rind, peach stones and fleeting vanilla.
Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2016 ($48) is a glowing garnet color tinged with violet. It offers a tart, fruity bouquet with supplementary elements of cinnamon, cloves and vanilla. Its flavor is juicy and grapey with subtle shades of raspberries, cherries and oranges to boot. You may note hints of pepper, charcoal and yeast as you sip it.
Despite his admiration for Mick Jagger, Donald Patz may not be fully committed to Enlightenment ideals of ever-deferred gratification. When I asked him about Patz & Hall’s philosophy of winemaking, he responded: “We’re not philosophical. We’re trying to make something that adds pleasure to people’s lives.” In other words, he and his colleagues want those who pursue human fulfillment actually to achieve it—by drinking their wines.
If you are in the mood to achieve satisfaction some evening, pick up a bottle of Patz & Hall wine. If you select a Chardonnay, you probably should get hold of Dungeness crab to serve along with it. As Mr. Patz notes, “Dungeness crab is as perfect as you can get with Chardonnay.”
Robert Calvert drinks and writes in Louisville. Questions or comments? Email Robert: RBCalvert@att.net.