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Purchasing Pinot: Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Buys Patz & Hall

Founding partners will stay involved at highly regarded winery; Washington company wanted a Sonoma Pinot Noir house
Patz & Hall winemaker and co-founder James Hall stands in a Sonoma vineyard, one of many top parcels he buys fruit from.
Photo by: Jessamyn Harris
Patz & Hall winemaker and co-founder James Hall stands in a Sonoma vineyard, one of many top parcels he buys fruit from.

Tim Fish
Posted: April 19, 2016

Pacific Northwest powerhouse Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has acquired Patz & Hall, a prestigious producer of California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The sale includes the brand, inventory and winery equipment. The purchase price was not disclosed.

The sale marks Ste. Michelle's first move into Sonoma County, and Patz & Hall is a plum. "Sonoma is a noble place for grapegrowing, and we have just lusted after it," Ted Baseler, Ste. Michelle's president and CEO, told Wine Spectator.

Although Patz & Hall owns no vineyards and leases its winemaking and visitors facilities in the city of Sonoma, it has long-term agreements with key vineyards in the region, including Hyde, Hudson, Dutton, Zio Tony, Gap's Crown and Alder Springs, as well as Pisoni in Santa Lucia Highlands. The wines frequently earn outstanding ratings from Wine Spectator.

The winery was not on the market when Ste. Michelle approached partners Donald Patz, Anne Moses, Heather Patz and winemaker James Hall. Ste. Michelle wanted to expand into Sonoma and believed Patz & Hall would be a good fit. The partners liked what they heard and agreed to stay on board after the sale.

"Everything about it will remain Patz & Hall," said Donald Patz. "[Ste. Michelle] doesn't screw around with the wineries they purchase. They want to maintain the flavor and sensibility of each of the properties."

Established in 1934, Ste. Michelle is among the largest wine companies in the United States. It owns more than 3,700 acres of vineyards in Washington and California. Its winery portfolio includes Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest in Washington, Erath Winery in Oregon, as well as Napa Valley wineries Conn Creek and Villa Mt. Eden. It is also a partner with Italy's Antinori family in Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and Col Solare.

Donald Patz and James Hall met in the mid-1980s, when they were both working for Flora Springs Winery. Along with their partners, they launched Patz & Hall with the release of a 1988 Napa Valley Chardonnay. Until 2006, they made wine at Honig in Napa Valley, where Hall was the winemaker.

Today the winery produces about 35,000 cases annually, relying on more than 30 different vineyards sources around California.

"We didn't really have an MBA-level business plan or anything like that. It was more like 'This will be great. Let's do it,' " Patz said. "We're excited about the future. It's going to be an opportunity for us to take the winery to a new level."

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