Great Tastes

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Hall Wines

Author: Julie Fadda Powers
October, 2014 Issue
Hall Wines
401 St. Helena Hwy. South
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 967-2626
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily
Fees: $30 and up (non-active military members get free tastings)
Wines currently offered: Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the winery’s Walt label are also available)
Appointment necessary: No for the St. Helena location (unless for groups of eight or more or for guided tours and tasting experiences); yes for Rutherford
Picnics/pets: Yes; kid- and dog-friendly
When Craig and Kathryn Walt Hall (U.S. ambassador to Austria from 1997-2001) came to Napa Valley in 1995, their goal was to develop a great wine estate. Here we are, almost 20 years later—and they have not only one, but two estates (the original, in Rutherford, which is adjacent to the family home, and the second, in St. Helena, each of which has its own tasting room)—as well as a tasting room on Sonoma’s square under the couple’s second label, Walt.
Today we’ll focus on Hall St. Helena, which houses its state-of-the-art winemaking facility that was recently awarded LEED Gold certification for the second time (the first time, in 2009, it was the first winery in California to obtain this certification). In addition, all five Hall estate vineyards are CCOF certified organic.
Purchased in 2005, Hall St. Helena sits on the historic Bergfeld property, which sits at the base of the Mayacamas mountains. It’s a blend of old and new in several ways, in that the historic 1885 Bergfeld Winery building (the winery’s original winemaking facility) has been restored to its former glory, and its new winemaking facility, overseen by Steve Leveque, director of winemaking, uses Old World methods but with modern, sophisticated technology. It’s truly the best of both worlds.
When you arrive, the first thing you’ll notice is the huge, metallic “Bunny Foo-Foo” sculpture at the driveway entrance. Next, you’ll be greeted by the hospitality staff in the reception area, which is at the entrance to the modern building where the wine is made and where the main tasting bar is located. You’ll also begin to see the more than 30 pieces of collected and commissioned artwork throughout the property (Craig is an avid collector and supporter of the arts).
A tour of the property reveals all sorts of wonders. The Bergfeld building, now used for events, is a two-story, stone structure with a cellar featuring a king’s table on the bottom, and an open space upstairs that overlooks the property. The property as a whole can hold up to 1,500 people and entertains 400 to 500 visitors per day on weekends. But don’t worry, it doesn’t feel crowded, as there’s plenty of space to move about.
There’s also an organic vegetable and herb farm; an artistic installation of woven willow branches (by San Francisco artist Patrick Dougherty) featuring several structures you can wander into and around; a flower garden; a great lawn surrounded by inviting furnishings; a long, rectangular reflection pond by Jesus Morales, which is lined by Adirondack chairs facing the vineyard and mountains beyond; and a demonstration kitchen and workshop, where you can sign up to work with Chef Corrie Beezley (and use items from the garden) or explore the world of cheese with Janet Fletcher (the first Tuesday of each month).
Upstairs in the main facility, you can enjoy a flight of current releases in the Gallery 401 Tasting Salon (on your way there, check out the Mezzanine, where pop art meets gravity-flow winemaking). The salon has a large, central bar as well as tables surrounding and a balcony where you can enjoy the wine outdoors. For an initial fee, you can taste four of the eight wines offered that day (including Walt wines—don’t miss the lush La Brisa Chardonnay). The lineup when we visited was stellar. Other standouts for us were the approachable 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (cocoa, leather, earth, spice), the 2011 Jack’s Masterpiece Cabernet Sauvignon (dark fruit, leather, hint of anise—a fine young buck of a Cabernet) and the not-to-be-missed 2011 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon (classic Rutherford Cabernet profile; dark and thick with an elegant body and long finish).
Wine club members (there are more than 8,000, including some in Hong Kong, Japan, Bulgaria and London) enjoy free tastings and tours as well as loyalty programs; their own event space; custom-built shipments (sizes and types of wine vary depending on what people want); membership in “Gems of Napa Valley” group, where people can visit other wineries (in Napa and Sonoma counties) and get member benefits at each one; preferred pricing at Senza Hotel (a Hall Wine Country Inn); and, of course, all sorts of events and parties. It’s one of the fastest-growing wine clubs around and is truly personalized and focused on giving people a great experience. How could you go wrong? That’s right, you couldn’t. Take some extra time and spend an afternoon at Hall, where the wonders never cease.

Did You Know?

The historic 1885 Bergfeld Winery building is rumored to be haunted.


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