On November 30, 2023, we had a chance to interview Tom Rinaldi. Tom is the winemaker for Patent Wines and Pellet Estate. In our Zoom interview, we covered three of his new-release Patent wines and five of his Pellet Estate wines. We also had a chance to learn about Tom’s storied history as a winemaker. Check out what we learned from Tom.

Before we get to the wine reviews, I thought I would share a few new tidbits we learned this year during the tasting with Tom.

  • 2023 was Tom’s 48th harvest in CA. His is 12th in Washington state.
  • He has also made wine in China, Russia, and Bulgaria.
  • The first wine Tom ever loved was a Beaulieu Vineyard 1963 “Georges de Latour Private Reserve” priced at $3.
  • After graduation from UC Davis, his first internship was at Freemark Abbey under Jerry Luper.
  • That was in 1976. His first vintage in Napa.
  • Next he worked at Rutherford Hill in the cellar. He worked with winemaker Phil Baxter. Phil was a mentor to Tom.
  • Ric Foreman of Sterling Vineyards recommended that Dan Duckhorn meet with Tom. Ric was also a mentor to Tom.
  • 1978 was the first of 22 vintages at Duckhorn.
  • After Duckhorn he worked at Hewitt and Provenance Vineyards. While there he was a mentor to the current BV winemaker Trevor Durling.
  • In 2014 he officially retired, but not really. Today still continues to consult on small winemaking projects in Napa and Washington state.
  • Today his California wines are made in a custom crush facility at Madrigal Family Winery in Calistoga.
  • We talked about his famous barrel rating system. -, x, +, and ++.
  • Tom makes an awesome Chardonnay (oaked & un-oaked) from the Sunchase Vineyard. You should buy some before my Tasting Panel grabs it all.
  • The Pellet Estate label image is from a $5 bill of US currency. This silver certificate currency is from 127 years ago (1896). It depicts “Electricity as the Dominant Force in the World.” Because the image was from currency, the label got approved despite its risqué images.

Pellet $5 bill

  • Henry Pellet (From Switzerland originally) was one of the original pioneers of the Napa Valley in 1859. He was part of the an exciting time in Napa Valley’s history along with contemporaries Charles Krug, John Patchett, HW Crabb (To Kalon), and Dr. G.B.Crane. He purchased land and planted vineyards (Pellet Vineyards) in St. Helena next to his neighbor, Dr. Crane.
  • The “Henry’s Reserve” blend comes from barrels of “++” (Double Plus) scored wine.
  • The 2021 vintage is the last of the Pellet Estate wines. The Pellet Vineyard grapes are now going to Nickel & Nickel.
  • The Patent Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Miller Ranch in Yountville. Silverado sources from there as well.
  • The Patent Rose is made using the Saignée method.
  • We will see Patent Cabernet Franc in the future.
  • Tom is certainly open to new Merlot sources.
  • If you want to read more about Tom’s history – Check out this article about Tom from the Pressreader.
  • Another fun article his Patent Wines project with Eric Risch is this one from the Napa Valley Register.

Below is a summary of the three Patent wines and the five Pellet wines that we covered with Tom. The links below are to our full reviews. If you are interested in ordering and trying these wines, you will find many of these wines via your favorite fine wine shop or on top quality wines lists. You can also purchase the Patent Wines directly from the Patent website. The Pellet Estate wines can be purchased on the Pellet website.

Patent Wines Logo

1. Patent 2022 Sauvignon Blanc (Yountville) $36 (KWGTP 90)
2. Patent 2022 Rose (Oak Knoll) $33 (KWGTP 92.5)
3. Patent 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon “Oak Knoll” $75 (KWGTP 93)

Pellet Estate Logo

  1. Pellet Estate 2019 Chardonnay “Un-Oaked Sunchase Vineyard” (Petaluma Gap) $42 (KWGTP 92)
  2. Pellet Estate 2019 Chardonnay “Sunchase Vineyard” (Petaluma Gap) $68 (KWGTP 94.5)
  3. Pellet Estate 2021 Merlot “Pellet Vineyard” (St. Helena) $80 (KWGTP 93.5)
  4. Pellet Estate 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Pellet Vineyard” (St. Helena) $110 (KWGTP 94)
  5. Pellet Estate 2019 Red Blend “Henry’s Reserve” (Napa Valley) $150 (KWGTP 95)

You can find reviews of past and future Patent wines that we cover on the KWG Patent Wines page and the KWG Pellet Estate winery page on our website. We hope you enjoy these terrific wines as much as we did. Cheers! – Ken

By Ken

Ken launched KensWineGuide.com in November 2006.