JAMES HALL – OWNER/WINEMAKER, PATZ & HALL
At Patz & Hall, our approach to winemaking champions quality at every stage of the process. From our partnerships with the finest vineyards to the custom-made French oak cooperage used to age our small-lot Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, we bring together an array of artisan and cutting-edge techniques to create benchmark wines. In our state-of-the-art winery—which was designed exclusively for producing Chardonnay and Pinot—we apply a consistent winemaking style that allows us to find the voice of each vineyard and vintage, while achieving exceptional quality year after year.
For over 25 years, we have remained committed to handcrafting small-lot and single-vineyard wines, with an exclusive focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Produced using grapes from storied vineyards in the Napa Valley, Russian River Valley, Mendocino County, Sonoma Coast and Santa Lucia Highlands, these benchmark wines embody our passionate approach to winemaking, and the diversity of world-class California winegrowing.
ABOUT JAMES HALL
Since 1988, founder and winemaker James Hall has guided the Patz & Hall winemaking program, instilling it with his own boldness, imagination and trademark perfectionism. Combining a belief in great viticulture, traditional winemaking practices, and the judicious use of innovative techniques, James has earned a reputation for crafting dramatic benchmark Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that balance vibrant power with vineyard-inspired depth and sophistication.
The son of an English professor, who was also a wine enthusiast, James developed an early appreciation for fine wine during travels with his family to Europe in the late 1960s. While studying liberal arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz, James met Anne Moses, and together the two began exploring their shared interest in wine. Though not part of his curriculum, James started studying winemaking textbooks in his spare time. Inspired, he transferred to the University of California, Davis, to study viticulture and enology. Eager to experience the hands-on work of winemaking, James took his first winery job at Felton-Empire in 1981, where he was able to learn from renowned winemakers Leo McCloskey and Patrick Mahaney. “Leo was the scientist, obsessed with unraveling the mysteries of wine, Pat was the craftsman, meticulously working with the raw materials. It was a remarkable experience learning these complementary approaches.”
In 1983, James joined Napa Valley’s Flora Springs Winery and Vineyards as assistant winemaker. There, he spent four years developing his expertise crafting barrel-fermented, small-lot Chardonnays. While at Flora Springs, James struck up a close friendship with sales manager Donald Patz, and the two soon discovered that they shared a similar philosophical approach to wine and winemaking. In the spring of 1988, while working as the winemaker and estate manager for Honig Winery, James teamed up with Donald and Heather Patz, and Anne Moses to make and release Patz & Hall’s inaugural Napa Valley Chardonnay.
As Patz & Hall’s winemaker for over a quarter century, James has built lasting relationships with such renowned growers as Larry Hyde, Charlie and Bud Chenoweth, Gary Pisoni and Lee Martinelli to create an acclaimed portfolio of single-vineyard wines. At the same time, he has designed and implemented cutting-edge equipment and procedures, including a custom punch-over device, in an effort to constantly enhance quality. A master of his craft, and a widely respected veteran winemaker, James is regularly asked to speak about artisan winemaking.
DON SCHROEDER – WINEMAKER, SEA SMOKE
Our Pinot Noir vines are planted on south-facing hillside bluffs, in ‘transition zones’ characterized by rich clay soils, aiding us in our quest for quality. This is where Pinot Noir finds its most sublime expression.
Our entire vineyard is farmed biodynamically, because nurturing the soil and vines without harsh chemicals is the right thing to do for the land and for our customers. Sea Smoke’s unique combination of sun, fog, soil and meticulous farming results in wines that are lush, elegant and expressive.
While our small team would love to take credit, if there’s a star in the Sea Smoke story, it’s not a person, but the rare and magical property that for years local vintners coveted for its potential to grow great Pinot Noir. In 1999, this land in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Santa Rita Hills AVA became Sea Smoke Vineyard. Located on south-facing hillside bluffs, our Sea Smoke Estate receives plenty of sunshine – but then, so does most of California. What makes our vineyard truly special is its shallow clay soils, south facing slopes, and the layer of marine fog (sea “smoke”) that travels up the Santa Ynez River canyon each evening, cooling our vines. This cooling influence makes extended ‘hangtime’ possible prior to harvest – allowing flavors and tannins to fully mature, while still maintaining lovely acidity. This results in wines that are lush, elegant and expressive.
Because we are an estate winery and the California equivalent of a ‘Monopole’, we do not buy or sell grapes. Our obsession with Pinot Noir has its roots – literally and figuratively – in our estate vineyard, and our obsession is apparent in the way we farm. We strive for low crop yields and small grape clusters, so our vineyard is planted with ten top-quality Pinot Noir clones on vigor-reducing rootstocks. Every one of our vines receives individual care and handling from our vineyard crew at least eight times a year – every single vine. Since our estate vineyard will hopefully outlast us all, we decided to be good stewards of the land: we have been farming sustainably for over a decade, and in 2013 we went beyond organic and began farming our entire vineyard biodynamically.
Because lab tests never tell the whole story, we ultimately rely on our taste buds to decide when to begin harvesting individual blocks. The east and west sides of each block are usually picked at different times, for example, and after hand harvesting, grapes are chilled overnight, pre-sorted, de-stemmed and then carefully table sorted. Meanwhile, we evaluate the clonal characteristics and tannin profile of each and every harvested block, tailoring our corresponding fermentations accordingly. We keep each block and clone combination separate throughout fermentation and aging. This helps us develop a deep understanding of the characteristics of each vineyard block, observing how each responds to specific barrel profiles in our cellar, and ultimately gives us an array of flavors and characteristics to draw upon during blending.
Since our wines are made in limited quantities and can be difficult to find, Sea Smoke allocates to members through our List. The List is fair and uncomplicated. Joining The List guarantees an allocation once activated. Unlike wine clubs, we require no minimum purchase commitment or cost to join.