In the winery, Patz & Hall applies both traditional and cutting-edge techniques, including a unique, custom barrel program, where stave wood is air dried and seasoned for three years to Patz & Hall’s specifications by the François Frères and Seguin Moreau cooperages in the heart of Burgundy. To reveal the distinct identity of the legendary sites it works with, Patz & Hall applies a consistent winemaking approach that has been refined to underscore the finesse, depth and complexity of each vineyard.
Our grapes are hand-harvested in the cool of the early morning and immediately sorted in the field. Leaves, imperfect fruit and under-ripe clusters are discarded. These hand-harvested and selected grapes are taken to the winery, where they are meticulously sorted again. The remaining fruit is immediately "whole cluster" pressed. This process produces juice containing very little tannin and preserves the delicate aromatics and full flavors of the Chardonnay fruit. While we end up with less wine this way, the quality and age-worthiness make it worth it.
After pressing, the juice, with all of the lees, is racked into 100 percent French oak barrels, where, after several days, it begins to ferment. The barrel fermentations typically progress very slowly, often finishing in early winter. This extended fermentation gives rise to wines with great depth of flavor and roundness. During this period, the wines are stirred weekly to extract the toasty, roasted aromas from the grape solids and yeast remaining in the barrel. At the same time, we top the barrels weekly to protect the wines from oxidation. All Patz & Hall Chardonnays undergo malolactic fermentation and then develop in barrel for eleven months before being bottled without filtration. The yeast particles that remain further guard the wines from oxidation, so they continue to age favorably in bottle. Gently transferred from barrel to bottle, unfiltered wines do not undergo "bottle shock," consequently, Patz & Hall Chardonnays are delicious upon release and continue to evolve in bottle over time.
After hand picking, the grapes are sorted both in the vineyard and at the winery. The small vineyard lots are put into open-topped fermenters designed specifically for Pinot Noir. We let the fermentation begin slowly in the cool conditions under which the fruit arrives at the winery.
All of our Pinot Noirs are produced using "whole cluster" additions. Usually, 20 percent of the clusters go directly into specially designed fermenters with no de-stemming or crushing at all. The remaining 80 percent will be carefully de-stemmed only. In this way, we allow the intricate fruit flavors and aromas of Pinot Noir to begin developing during fermentation. To further extract color and flavor components, we use a proprietary "punch-over" device to thoroughly break up the cap two to three times per day. Then, when fermentation is complete, we empty the tank with care to capture just the free run juice. The press wine is only incorporated after James evaluates it, rejecting it if it is coarse or overtly astringent.
The new wine is racked into French oak barrels where it undergoes malolactic fermentation. Oak is an important component of the finished wine, but must not overwhelm the delicately layered symphony of flavors and aromas we work so diligently to create. The percentage of new barrels varies between 50 and 70 percent and is arrived at with great deliberation.
We love making Pinot Noir! Perhaps no other wine expresses such a range of flavors—from fresh ripe berries and cherries to intriguing earthy, meaty flavors and dozens in between, all depending on the vineyard, the grower and the clone.