patz & hall

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

I hate to use the word jaded, so I won’t. But in the spirit of true confessions, let’s just say that palate fatigue can get to be a real issue when you taste thousands of wines annually, as I do. Though many in the trade taste as many wines as I do, and some taste far more, they are usually looking for wines to purchase, or wineries to add to their portfolio, or judging at some slam-bam competition.

It’s different when you are writing detailed tasting notes and putting scores on wines. The right note, even without a score, can make a big difference to a winery, as the Garagiste offerings of the J. Bookwalter wines (written up on this blog last week) has shown. The point is, I spend a lot of time tasting and trying to come up with the right note and an accurate score for every wine I review.

At the end of the day, my palate is searching for a wine I can simply drink and enjoy, without having to critique it. That’s easier said than done. The other evening, for example, at the conclusion of a very satisfying three days of wine tasting and touring through the Walla Walla Valley, I returned home with my houseguests, looking simply to pop a bottle or two of something we could sip on while we had our supper. I found a box of wines from around the world that I’d been meaning to taste through, and started pulling corks. There were wines of all descriptions, at price points ranging from $10 on up into the $80’s. The wines mostly just tasted flat to me. Palate fatigue? Jaded palate? A little of each? Whatever.

At the bottom of the box I came upon a selection of new releases from Patz & Hall (small suggestion - lose the corny music on the website open). This 20+ year-old winery specializes in small lot, single vineyard chardonnays and pinot noirs from a variety of California AVAs. I have only rarely tasted their wines, though I’m well aware of the excellent reputation they enjoy. So I approached these new 2007 releases – two chardonnays and three pinots – with more than the usual interest.

I’m pleased to say that the wines really delivered. Despite my fatigue, and the A-B-C bias inherent to almost anyone tasting California chardonnay these days, I was delighted by this lineup. The 2007 Zio Tony Ranch and 2007 Hyde Vineyard chardonnays were distinctive and precise; the Hyde in particular was sensational, with depth, texture and balance, across a flavor spectrum of peach, pear, marmalade, hazelnuts, almonds, honeycomb and caramel.

The pinots – 2007 Chenoweth Ranch, 2007 Hyde Vineyard, and 2007 Pisoni Vineyard – nicely displayed the characteristics of both vineyard and AVA. Not too surprisingly, the Pisoni stood apart. From the original “old field” plantings, it was a detailed mix of fruits, tobacco, pepper, rock, baking spices and barrel toast.

Prices ranged from $55 (for the Hyde chardonnay) up to $80 (for the Pisoni pinot) – not cheap, but unlike many of their peers, these wines delivered the goods. My jaded palate thanked them.

1 comment:

Peter Rosback said...

I'm with you on Patz and Hall! Love their wines, especially the Pisoni. They are first rate people, also.

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