During my first visit to Napa Valley in early 2009, Hall was one of the most memorable wineries of the trip. My husband suggested it after reading several great reviews of the wine in Wine Spectator and I couldn’t really argue with that! Situated on Highway 29 just south of downtown St. Helena, Hall Wines – owned by Craig and Kathryn Hall – has built a small “campus,” comprised of new and historic facilities. Signature red signage and accents direct guests to the tasting center, where they will be awed by an extensive collection of uniquely Hall-commissioned art installations.
On that initial stop, the wine did in fact blow me away. At that time, I remember enjoying tastes of nearly everything on the list – Sauvignon Blanc, “Darwin” Proprietary Red, “T Bar T Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley Merlot, “Jack’s Masterpiece” Cabernet and “Kathryn Hall” Cabernet. Each sip tasted better than the last. True to their style, several of the Artisan bottles also featured label art – some of which changes with each new vintage or comes with an interesting story. (For example, the Darwin tells of their experience nearly going down in a small plane crash in Australia.) The staff was also very friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable – I loved the Hall “vibe.”
On subsequent visits, we also tasted at their Rutherford location, an experience that begins with an estate tour, stories of Kathryn’s role as Ambassador to Austria, and look at some of the more notable art installations. It culminates with a relaxed tasting in their breathtaking cave. The most impressive element in the room is the rustic crystal chandelier, which looks like an upside-down grape vine, or the roots of a tree growing above. What’s really intriguing about the Hall’s properties is that they are impeccably appointed, “smartly” designed and built with a purpose. Trees outside the St. Helena tasting room look exactly like oversized grape vines. A large picture-window inside the Rutherford tasting room perfectly frames the Valley view below. Even the barrels that line the interior of the cave are painted to exactly the same shade of Hall red in stunning uniformity.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to find some Hall wine in Chicago but appreciate the opportunity to try more of their Artisan reds while in Napa.
That made the decision to pop-in on our recent visit an easy one. Lucky for us, Hall was two days shy of opening their state-of-the-art winemaking and tasting center in St. Helena and we were thrilled to have the chance to tour it. A short walk from the current tasting room (which will now become an employee lounge), the new, LEED Gold Certified winery is quite impressive. With an open concept and glass panel windows surrounding the entire façade it is bright, light and uber modern. Of course, art remains a focal point, infusing the signature Hall touch and a dose of character. The enormous circular sequin piece at the front entrance is impossible to miss and the “Birds” light display leading into the tasting bar was a favorite of my husband. As the Hall’s would do, their tanks are naturally red and art decorates the rafters above. But, none of this feels museum-esque like some other wineries that combine art and wine- and photo taking is allowed. It all just fits within the setting, like it’s supposed to be there.
The views from the tasting room would make any guest want to stay all afternoon. A stainless steel, glass-top bar continues the modern feel and glass doorways open out to vineyard seating. I really can’t wait to see it in full, “open” mode. I think the layout will also be more suitable for their growing guest count. The larger, rectangular bar provides four sides of visibility, which should make people easier to spot and help progress to the next glass. (This was my only issue with the increasing popularity of Hall over the years – I felt “lost” in the smaller room on some of their busier occasions.) I was able to try newer vintages of some of those original wine favorites, too, and was pleased that my high expectations were surpassed. One of the best discoveries this time around
was their new offering of Walt Wines, focused on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
If you have a chance during an upcoming visit, be sure to stop by the new Hall visitor center in St. Helena – there’s no appointment required! If time permits, it’s also worth your while to taste at Rutherford (appointment is required).
Hopefully, you’ll be just as delighted by the quality, variety and consistency of the wine as I have been and further entertained by the beauty of the art on display. Cheers!