Month: August 2018

Secret Door Winery

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Perhaps a “different name” for a winery, but not really. Donald Patz, of Patz and Hall Pinot Noir fame, moved back to Napa and has opened Secret Door Winery making exquisite and artisan Cabernet Sauvignon’s. So with this writing and few others, it is no longer a secret! What is a secret is what he has planned for the upcoming years. While we spent almost two hours discussing various aspects of what the future will hold for Donald Patz and a couple of projects he is working on, I think the real secret is the rejuvenation and vitalization of Donald Patz. Donald is energetic and bouncing with glee to get back to his roots (Napa and Cabernet Sauvignon) where he originally started his career. He is taking his years of experience and launching forward with a creative purpose to make his similar mark in the Cabernet Sauvignon world.


I asked what the differences were with this project verses the years at Patz & Hall. He noted three distinct entities that he is embarking on. The first being locations. He has acquired rights to various vineyards in hand selected areas he deemed fitting for his Cabernet. Each vineyard brings with it both challenges and stewardship of the vines to extract what he believes will be some of the finest juices for Secret Door Winery.

The second difference is his view on barrel fermentation and choices of barrels. Be it Cabernet or another varietal, he has experimented and now selected his barrels of choice. He is using Vicard G7 barrels. What was behind this decision was revealing on various fronts. First the “G” is the new generation seven barrel and process. Vicard send thru the staves for optical sorting for tannins. This allows him to select the correct staves for the wine as well as just the right amount of toasting required per the varietal.

The third difference was his goal to pick less ripe, which means lower alcohol. He believes this is a trend for both Millennials and Gen X/Y wine buyers of the future.

So without divulging too many secrets, the Secret Door Winery is but one of his ventures. Secret Door currently has two vintages out: the 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Lot: Secret 1Z and the other being Lot: Secret 1X. His next release will be the 2017 Stags Leap District “Hirondelle Vineyard” which has approximately 500 cases in barrel today. Along with this he will also be releasing Napa Valley “Sage Ridge Vineyard” with about 300 cases in barrel today.
Listen closely, the next two BIG secrets are:
1) Terminim Wines, a collaboration of Francois Villard and Donald Patz. The first is their 2017 “Cepages d’ Or” (grapes of gold) a 66% of Marsanne and 34% Roussanne from the “Alder Springs Vineyard” in Mendocino County with 135 cases. The name is derived from the “terminus” the Roman God of borders and boundaries. While not tasting it yet (soon however), it possess “lively textures and freshness” per Donald. Another varietal from this project is their Syrah. Donald along with Francois Villard of Rhone Valley developed and implemented some unique techniques to the traditional punching down the cap. This new “Methode Francois” allows them to make a wine “without searing levels of tannin and creates a smoother more rounded and elegant presence”. More details when I do the actual wine review.

2) Maritana Vineyards a project for developing and producing the highest quality of grapes for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Here Donald is implementing his strategy to develop a more balanced and “elegant and perfumed version to show through” with choices of grapes with selected aged barrels. On his Pinot Noir, he has secured three vineyards in the Russian River AVA. For this varietal he is using approximately 60% new oak barrels. The wines for Maritana Vineyards will be his Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2017, “Le Russe”; the Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2017 “La Riviere”; Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2017 “Dutton Ranch/Hansen Hill Vineyard” and his Russian River Chardonnay 2017 “Dutton Ranch/Shop Block 1967”. The last using vines planted in 1967 and using 50 year old vines in his Chardonnay production!

The specific goals for all his wines are to have beautiful floral aromas, stabilized and permanent bright coloring to the eye. Lofty and elegant goals to be sure but he is implementing creative and imaginative techniques to achieve his desired outcome.

As in the opening sentence, the real secret is not so much the door, but what and where this new door is leading Donald Patz to in his invigorated quest to produce something unique to the wine world.