Donald Patz continues to amaze the wine community with his innate knowledge with Pinot Noirs! Last evening, a side by side comparison of two of his premier wines was held. Initially it was not planned but as I will explain it developed during the meal.
First for those who do not know Maritana Vineyards or Donald Patz, here is a quick recap. Donald’s career has spanned some 35+ years making wine. After selling the iconic Patz & Hall Winery, Donald embarked on setting up three separate wine entities. The first, Secret Door, is producing exquisite and sought after boutique Cabernet Sauvignon’s. Why “Secret” as a name? In a face to face meeting, Donald while known for his Pinot Noirs, told me he actually started his career making Cabernet Sauvignon! They have already won national acclaim and are actively sought out. I think the other “secret” is that Donald is rejuvenated and energized with creativity in this venture.
The second wine label is called Terminim Wines. This is a collaboration of Francois Villard and Donald, with small lots of artisan wines called Cepages d’ Or (grapes of gold), a mix of Marsanne and Roussanne from a vineyard in Mendocino County. The name is derived from the “terminus” the Roman God of borders and boundaries. Syrah is also in this lineup of wines. Together they have 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”.
The third is Maritana Vineyards and this is for his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay line of wines. Maritana Vineyards is 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, “elegant and perfumed version to show through” with choices of grapes with selected aged barrels. On his Pinot Noir, he has secured four vineyards in the Russian River AVA. They are Le Russe, Jenkins Ranch, Martaella Vineyards and Moonshine Ranch. For this varietal he is using approximately 60% new oak barrels.
The Two Wines and Food Pairing
The two wines tried last evening were both 2018 from Jenkins Ranch and Martaella Vineyards. The first, Jenkins Ranch, started out paired with a slow cooked seasoned pot roast for eight hours. Served with broccoli and mashed Idaho potatoes. The Jenkins Ranch vineyard is located in the hills southwest of Sebastopol. Loam soils provided a soft and layered Pinot Noir. On the eyes this wine was light colored brick with an almost translucent quality. On the palate, Bing cherries, strawberries and airy minerality abounded. The medium finish provided a gracefulness of spirit with a trace of sweetness. While a great wine for sipping and enjoying with the right food, unfortunately this was too light with the meal.
Thus the second Pinot Noir was introduced. This was the Martaella Vineyard which is located west of Santa Rosa in the Russian River Valley AVA. Some of the best Pinot Noir grapes are grown in this valley, with the cool fog from the ocean advancing along the meandering river. The Dijon clone 943 grapes were the majority used for this production. I immediately “fell in love” with it as I had back in June 2020 in a previous story. This 2018 Pinot Noir has enough power and kick to entice and win over any Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers. A bold statement, but Donald Patz has once again provided a “knock out” Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley, specifically the Martaella Vineyard. This is not your “delicate, light and feathery” Pinot Noir. First on the eyes you can see an enchanting purple hue with a deep crimson color. On the nose and palate, this wine wins you over immediately with notes of Bing cherries, cranberries, strawberries and a hint of rhubarb. Spices delightfully dance in the mouth with nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. The interplay between the sweet (fruit berries) and sour (cranberry & rhubarb) was spectacular. Noted was that the wine provides a structure for soft tannin, not typically shown in most Pinot Noir’s. The finish, was chewy and mouth filling, which provided an earthiness, almost a damp forest floor flavor (mushrooms). A strong hint of licorice was also noted on the finish. This wine can be enjoyed immediately or one to age for 5-10 years.
For the meal last evening, both wines were spectacular in their own right. The Jenkins Ranch Pinot was a great wine for introducing Pinot Noir to non-Pinot Noir drinkers with its softness and gentle characteristics. The meal however demanded the Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir. The tasting once again highlighted the differences of “terrior” (soil, weather, vineyard layout, etc.) and the impact on the grapes. Donald is no one trick pony or “one size fits all” winemaker. His wines are distinct and unique from vineyard to vineyard. Can’t wait to taste his other two Pinot Noir vineyards!