Articles from: June 2013

Hall Winery Rutherford Tasting & Tour May 11, 2013

Napa Valley is a place where wine lovers can happily get lost. Stray off the familiar path of the Silverado Trail or CA 29, and you can find yourself in unfamiliar, yet exciting places. Hall Winery, in Rutherford, is truly off the beaten path – and definitely a good place to find if you’re looking for a small, intimate wine tasting experience. 

Hall Rutherford, unlike their larger production winery in St. Helena, is dedicated to creating rare and single vineyard wines. The main building sits far above sea level, offering spectacular vistas of Napa Valley. Hall Rutherford boasts 14,000 square feet of caves (which were designed by Friedrich Gruber of Gutenstein, Austria). Making our way into the tasting room we noticed a rapid temperature drop (from near 90 degrees to 61) and the striking handmade reclaimed Austrian brick walls and ceiling.  We were told that the Austrian government had one stipulation for Hall Winery repurposing the bricks; that the Habsburg name and family seal, which are etched into each individual brick, could not be displayed and therefore were installed backwards. Of note is the fact that Kathryn Hall served as the US Ambassador to Austria under Bill Clinton. The Vienna Boys Choir performed live at the grand opening of the winery!

Once inside the tasting room, the first thing you notice hanging magnificently over the large tasting table is a chandelier designed by Donald Lipski and Jonquil LeMaster, comprised of hundreds of Swarovski crystals, that simulates the roots of a tree coming through the ceiling of the cave.  When we began the Hall experience touring the vineyards, our host pointed out a Meyer lemon tree at the top of the hill and told us to keep it in mind.  It turns out that the sculpture sits directly below the actual tree.  We didn’t ask how much this hanging artwork cost, because if you have to ask, well…never mind.

Then it was on to the wines! The first Hall wine we tasted was the 2012 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc (a crisp, refreshing SB with hints of citrus and green apple – excellent) which was given to us upon our arrival.  As we waited for other guests we were able to wander the main building and terrace.  For the tasting itself, we were treated to some of Hall’s signature Cabernet Sauvignons, including the 2007 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon; 2012 Jack’s Masterpiece Cabernet Sauvignon; and as a special treat, the 2009 Segassia Vineyard Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. All are deeply complex, fruit-forward Cabs that taste amazing now, but can be cellared for a few years to soften the tannins a bit, according to our host. Hall wines are lush and delicious, and if you have an opportunity to experience any of these high-end bouquets, do so.

Sure, there are many other large-production “mega wineries” in and around Napa Valley, but if you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone and lose yourself, you’ll be rewarded with an incredibly rewarding wine tasting experience. Hall Winery, in Rutherford, is a pretty good place to end up.

 

Bottle Rock Festival Napa Valley May 10, 2013

It’s not often when you can say you were a part of music history. So, when we heard about the first-ever Bottle Rock Napa Valley 2013, a four-day festival of music, comedy, wine and food taking place May 9-12 at the Napa Valley Fairgrounds (bottlerocknapa.com), we jumped at the chance. They had us at Napa, really, but when we found out that Vintage Trouble and Alabama Shakes were going to be there we knew we were all in.

We made our way to Napa Friday morning. The drive from our hotel in Petaluma to Napa was spectacular. The hills and mountains leading from Sonoma County into Napa Valley are lush, fertile and dotted with wineries large and small. Getting to Napa was half the fun. Once in town we decided to get some lunch at the famous Oxbow Market. We shared a freshly baked bread, burrata and prosciutto at an Italian eatery called Enoteca Ca Momi. Everything was fresh and delicious. Then it was time to park the car and head into the festival. Speaking of parking: To ease over-crowding in town, festival planners set up a large parking area outside of Napa. Shuttle buses took concertgoers to and from the event throughout the day and evening. This was a minor inconvenience logistically, but understandable given the amount of people expected to attend the festival over the four-day period (over 100,000). We purchased tickets for the day both were performing which was the second day of the event. Of the 16 acts performing that day we our goal was to see the blues rock quartet Vintage Trouble; Alabama Shakes; The Shins, The Black Keys and The Flaming Lips.

Let the music begin! Vintage Trouble went on around 2:15 and rocked the house, though at this point people were still filing in. At around 4 p.m. Alabama Shakes took the stage and really got the crowd involved. Once their set was finished, The Shins took the stage just after 6 p.m. and played for nearly an hour. The headline act that Friday were The Black Keys. In between, we wandered to the one of the other stages to see The Flaming Lips. By the time The Black Keys came on stage at around 8:30 (it went from very warm during the day to chilly as soon as the sun went down), the field was packed with people. Speaking of people, Bottle Rock was an eclectic mix of young and old; hipsters and tree huggers – and, scores of “patients” who brought their medical marijuana to the festival. People watching was just as interesting as the bands themselves. Throughout the day we also managed to visit several (many, really…) winery booths, the shopping village and the local stage where an impressive local band, Buttercream Gang, was playing. Bottle Rock was a large event, but it had an intimate feel to it.

The food and drink choices were plentiful. Over 30 restaurants and eateries as well as over 40 wineries in the Napa Valley area took part to give concertgoers a wide array of eclectic menu options. The short-rib and arugula pizza we ate from Travigne was delicious, as were the sticky ribs from Morimoto, definitely several notches above typical festival choices. We expected as much as Chef Cindy Pawlcyn (Mustards Grill) was involved. A perimeter of tents was set up around the grounds to allow easy access to wine and beer; food was available in a dining area close by the three stages with plenty of picnic tables available and a video screen showing the main stage. Winery partner booths that we visited included Gloria Ferrer, Grgich Hills, Priest Ranch and Silver Oak. Prices for the food were reasonable but some of the wines by the (small) glass were exorbitant. Because of the warm weather during the day we ended up drinking more of the sparking and white selections. The reds were perfect when the temperature started going down, though.

All in all Bottle Rock Napa was a lot of fun, and a tremendous success for the town of Napa and the first time organizers. Bottle Rock Two is scheduled for the same time next year, so we’re seriously considering attending this amazing festival again. Our only knock, and it really is a minor one, was the parking situation. Next time we’ll take our private helicopter.

 

Wanderlushes

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