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.