In a post earlier this month, I wrote about my stay at SENZA Hotel, while covering Festival Napa Valley. SENZA Hotel is owned by Vintners Craig and Kathryn Hall, who also own the internationally known HALL Wines in St. Helena and WALT Wines in Sonoma.
Kathryn Walt Hall and her family have been growing grapes in Mendocino since 1972. In 1995, she and her husband, Craig, bought their first vineyard in Napa Valley and have produced premium cabernet sauvignon under their HALL label ever since. Four years ago, the Halls began producing pinot noirs from vineyards along the west coast under their WALT label.
During my stay at SENZA Hotel, I had the opportunity to experience the HALLmark tour at HALL Wines. Today I want to share some highlights from the tour and also tell you about my tasting experience at WALT Wines earlier this summer.
Bill and I arrived at HALL Wines for our scheduled tour. Once our group was assembled we were given a glass of HALL Sauvignon Blanc and our tour began. Our tour guide and HALL Wine Educator, Amanda, started by telling us about the Hall’s love for contemporary art.
We paused by Camel (Albino) Contemplating Needle, a sculpture by John Baldessari, which stands near the entrance to the tasting room. As I mentioned in my SENZA Hotel post, Kathryn and Craig Hall have a vast contemporary art collection. There are 35 works of art at the HALL Wines property alone!
Standing prominently on the HALL property is the the Bergfeld Building, built in 1885. It is named after Robert Bergfeld who hailed from one of the first winemaking families in Napa Valley. Kathryn and Craig Hall had the structure restored in 2006 and it was completed and ready for use in 2013. Now it is used for special events and private tastings.
Throughout the 33-acre property, which sits at the base of the Mayacamas Mountains, there are gardens, many works of art and plenty of places to relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the sunshine.
And there are vineyards too, of course. Amanda showed us the grapes which were just starting to change colors, a stage known as verasion, in the Bergfeld Vineyard.
One of the most stunning parts of the property, in my opinion, is this seating area. Several Adirondack chairs, shaded by the sun with white umbrellas, face a long rectangular fountain. So peaceful and relaxing. I would have been happy sitting there for an hour or so but we had places to go and wine to taste!
With the outdoor portion of our tour complete, we went into the main building, first to the tasting room which was so colorful, open and airy thanks to lots of windows letting natural light in, a high ceiling and a vibrant work of art by Spencer Finch called Painting Air.
Next we were taken to the production area and shown a video about the grape growing and wine making processes at HALL. Even the behind-the-scenes areas feature fantastic works of art. This installation is by Graham Caldwell and is called Red Rain.
It was now time for the final – and tastiest – portion of our tour. Time to try out the Cabernets!
We each found a seat in the private tasting room and Amanda began telling us about the wines she’d be sharing with us during our guided tasting.
We sampled several Cabernet Sauvignons and a WALT Wine Pinot Noir. HALL Wines is known for its world class Bordeaux varieties, particularly their highly rated Cabernet Sauvignons.
It was too difficult to pick out just one wine to call my favorite. They all offered something different and wonderful to the palate. This Ellie’s Cabernet was one of my top picks. And I adore the label!
Once our tasting was complete, we bought some wine to take home with us and explored a bit more of HALL on our own. Garden Plot is a quilted medallion by Nick Cave and can be found hanging on the wall in the lobby of the main building.
It’s made with vintage costumes and bedazzled sweaters. Isn’t is fabulous? I could hardly take my eyes off of it!
Earlier this summer Bill and I were invited to visit the Hall’s newest wine label, WALT Wines. The WALT tasting room is located just steps from the Sonoma Plaza. WALT Wines celebrates Kathryn Hall’s parents, Bob and Delores Walt who were dedicated to viticulture. In fact, it’s Kathryn’s parents who are the inspiration for the Hall’s passion for winemaking.
WALT Wine’s newly remodeled tasting room, a converted home from the 1950s, is both charming and elegant.
Bill and I experienced their ROOT 101: A Single Vineyard Exploration in their private room. ROOT 101 showcases wines from five different vineyard locations, spanning the 101 corridor from Willamette Valley in Oregon to the Santa Rita Hills just north of Santa Barbara.
We were led through this educational tasting experience by our Host and Wine Educator, Melissa Crosby. What a lovely experience to learn so much about these premium Pinot Noir wines – our favorite red varietal – and the vineyards they came from.
Melissa was full of interesting information about these single vineyard wines. For instance, Melissa told us that rather than crushing and pressing the grapes from the Shea Vineyard in Oregon just after harvest, then transporting the juice to California, the Pinot Noir grapes are harvested and left whole. They are immediately loaded into two refrigerated trucks and driven down the 101 to be crushed and pressed in Napa Valley. Careful attention like this is what makes the WALT and HALL wines so special.
Wines in the ROOT 101 tasting experience are paired with delicious bites from The Girl & The Fig, one of Wine Country’s most popular and well-established eateries, which also happens to be across the street from the WALT tasting room.
My favorite nibbles were the Mushroom Flan with Smoked Shitake Mushrooms and the Hot-smoked Salmon with Crème Fraiche and Chives.
Along with a newly remodeled tasting room, WALT Wines also have a new look. These modern labels are stylish and color-coded. Each region has its own color.
Bill and I decided that these two bottles needed to come home with us.
Along with ROOT 101, WALT Wines also offers a seated tasting of their current releases which take place in their indoor tasting room or outside on their beautiful patio which is shaded with tall Redwood trees.
To book your ROOT 101 or Current Release Tasting at WALT Wines in Sonoma, visit their website or call (707) 933-4440.
The latest buzz around the Hall’s is all about Craig and Kathryn’s new book! A Perfect Score will be released in a couple of weeks.
From the HALL Wines website:
“Craig Hall and Kathryn Walt Hall recount their twenty-year climb from amateur winemakers to recipients of an elusive perfect score from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. The Halls launched themselves head first into Napa Valley 20 years ago with the purchase of their first vineyard and never looked back. Since then, their critically acclaimed HALL Wines and WALT Wines have become fixtures of the California wine industry, winning numerous accolades including now, two coveted 100-point “perfect scores.”
A PERFECT SCORE weaves a vibrant tale of the HALL brand’s rise to success, Napa Valley’s tug-of-war between localism and tourism, and the evolving nature of the wine industry as a whole. Readers who love a good glass of wine will find much to savor in the Halls’ expert account of the art, soul, and business of a modern winery.”
There will be a release party at HALL Wines on September 10th that looks like it will be a blast! Get ticket information here.
If you can’t make the HALL Wine celebration, Craig and Kathryn will be touring across the U.S. discussing and signing books. Check out the calendar of events here. They may be coming to a city near you!
I hope you have enjoyed my highlights from the HALLmark tour at HALL Wines and ROOT 101 at WALT Wines. I highly recommend both tasting experiences while visiting Wine Country.
Make it a rich day!
Disclosure: Both the ROOT 101 tasting and the HALLmark tour were complimentary. All opinions expressed here are my own, as always.