Hall Winery St. Helena is owned by Craig and Kathryn Hall; both are extremely accomplished individuals in a variety of fields. Kathryn was the Ambassador to Austria for several years under the Clinton administration. She is a successful businesswoman, community activist and an attorney. In addition, Kathryn’s family has been in the wine industry for several decades (grape growers in Mendocino County) – she and her brother managed their family property for 10 years.
Craig was born in Dallas, Texas and in 1968 created the HALL Group – a business whose specialty was originally apartment buildings. HALL Group operates Hall Park, a 162-acre, 17-building office park with more then 2.5 million square feet of office space in Frisco Texas (about a 30 minute drive from the airport in Dallas). Hall Park also features numerous works of art (both indoors and outdoors) and the Hall Sip Wine Lounge.
Craig continues to stay busy with real estate, venture capital, technology and hotels. He is an accomplished author, having penned several very well-known books about entrepreneurial practices, several of which are available for sale in the tasting room.
Both Craig and Kathryn are also prolific art collectors; this will be quickly evident once you are on the winery grounds.
Hall Winery is located along the busy “wine strip” (a part of Highway 29 that features some of the larger, historic and more well known wineries in the valley) located a few minutes drive south of the town of St. Helena. The actual winery and hospitality center are set back quite a ways from the highway and with such a large property, it never feels overly busy here. Pull in the long driveway, wave to the giant Bunny Foo Foo metal rabbit sculpture on your left (or pull over for a photo as thoughtfully, the entrance driveway conveniently widens opposite this statue). This 35-foot tall gleaming metal statue was created by the artist Lawrence Argent (died far to young at age 60 in 2017). The Hall’s were first introduced to his work when they saw one of his works at the Sacramento Airport.
Based on the clever raised landscaping near Highway 29 – it is very difficult to gauge the size of this winery, grounds and hospitality center from the highway.
A warm spring day complemented by all the flowers and blossoming trees makes for an ideal time to visit. Note the number of intriguing sculptures and other art (both indoor and outdoor). The Hall’s collect elective and upbeat works of art from artists who are typically not well known. Incidentally the paint on the prominent white camel near the entrance is industrial paint used in high-end automobiles. Don’t try to ride this camel (we were told that apparently some guests try to do this!).
After a major multi-year construction project Hall opened a contemporary and world-class hospitality center in early 2014 (of which there are only a few of this size and scope in the Napa Valley). By Napa winery standards this is a very large building – it houses part of the winery as well as the tasting room and an outdoor terrace overlooking west onto their vineyards. The historic Bergfeld stone ghost winery was also restored and is located next to the hospitality center.
This old winery building is historically rich with a number of owners over the years. Originally built in 1885 by a sea captain named William Peterson – he did not enjoy the fruits of his labor very long. Phylloxera destroyed his vineyard and he sold the property in 1894 to the second owner, a San Francisco based building contractor by the name of Robert Bergfeld. He soon changed the name of the winery, naming it after himself.
The next owner, Theodore Gier (used to own what is now the site of Hess Collection Winery). He operated Bergfeld Winery until the start of Prohibition. Immediately following prohibition in 1933, a select group of Napa based vintners founded the Napa Valley Cooperative Winery converting the site into a major production facility for some 60+ years. Members/vineyard owners would bring their grapes to be processed here – and then receive proceeds from the overall sales of the cooperative’s wine production. The Hall’s purchased this property in 2003.
Hall concentrates on growing Bordeaux red varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Franc which form what they call The Napa Valley Collection. The Hall’s own many vineyard acres in the valley including vineyards surrounding this winery (all valley floor land) as well as the well-regarded hillside Sacrache Vineyard at their other winery in Rutherford (near Auberge du Soleil Resort).
Hall offers several tasting and tour options throughout the year ranging from their Wine Tasting 101 (an introduction to wine geared towards new wine enthusiasts), the Bergfeld Tour & Tasting (a guided tour on this historic property), Demystifying Wine & Food (farm to table culinary workshop), Wine & Art Exploration, a “Sunset Cruise” – no water involved but definitely a sunset – and a tasting called the Ultimate Cabernet Collector.
A tasting typically includes a choice from two offerings; their standard wines and their reserve wines. The Hall’s also own a winery in Sonoma County (WALT Wines) which focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; these wines are available for tasting and purchase at their St. Helena winery.
We’ve been here several times and during our latest visit we sampled two of their high quality Cabernet Sauvignons under their reserve tasting. One can’t go wrong with either the 2005 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon or the 2005 Hall Bergfeld Cabernet Sauvignon. The Bergfeld is a well-layered Cabernet Sauvignon – yet structurally soft and supple with well rounded mouth; this wine drinks very well in its youth. Notes of cedar and baking spices are well-integrated into the finish.
There is a reason why when people ask us for our top Napa Cabernet Sauvignon wines, we invariably recommend some of Hall’s premium Cabernets. Most of their wines fit our palate like a glove, are sourced from carefully managed vineyards and in the winery are made with great attention to detail.
Hall is also known for hosting a variety of events throughout the year including probably the most well known event, the Cabernet Cookoff. Founded in 2011 this events features prominent chefs who create a variety of dishes – the top dish is voted upon by celebrity judges. All proceeds from ticket sales to this event are donated to Napa based charities and over the years hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised.
In July 2009, Hall Winery St. Helena received the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification, becoming the first winery in California to be distinguished as a Gold certified facility by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Green Building Rating System.
There are a number of requirements a winery must meet before becoming Gold LEED certified including radiant floors (allow for temperature control), solar energy (the cells are located on the top of the barrel cellar and fermentation building), local building materials (most came from within 500 miles of the winery), and water conservation (drought tolerant plants for landscaping and all water used in the vineyards as well as the landscaping is recycled).
The bathrooms in the hospitality center are not your normal Napa bathrooms. Perhaps they borrowed some ideas from Jean Charles Boisset at Raymond Winery’s Red Room. One color dominates inside – red!
As if they didn’t have enough projects to focus on, the Hall’s also operate a luxurious boutique hotel just north of the city of Napa (opened in 2014) called Senza. This has the classic ‘HALLmark’ with pieces of easily noticeable art in front of the hotel. For more information visit: www.senzahotel.com
In 2018 the BACA Lounge opened on site featuring BACA Wines (a California Zinfandel brand owned by the Halls with mostly non Napa Valley vineyard sources). This lounge offers a number of experiences in addition to wine tasting including a number of games including Jenga, bocce ball, dominoes and dice. It is a space carefully crafted to facilitate conversation and interaction among guests.
Walt Wines maintains two tasting rooms, one just off of the plaza in the town of Sonoma (about 25-30 minutes from downtown Napa) and a second tasting room which opened on June 22, 2019 at 605 First Street in the city of Napa. This tasting room is conveniently located in Napa’s Oxbow district – a short ride or walk from downtown crossing over the Napa River. Walt Wines is located almost across the street from the Oxbow Public Market and just down the street from the former COPIA property – now owned and operated by the Culinary Institute of America.
This is a very centrally located part of town for both food and wine experiences – with numerous tasting rooms within easy walking distance of WALT Wines. Their tasting room is located in a historic home that dates from 1900 (part of 3 tiny homes that were joined together many years ago). This house has been remodeled several times; the interior offers a fun and cozy tasting atmosphere.
Tastings are held in several spaces inside including a sit down side room next to the entrance and at the long bar. Walk in tastings are welcome – private tastings by appointment are held in the tiny tasting salon room in the rear of the home. Two special by appointment only tastings are offering including a chocolate pairing with select wines (partnering with Kollar Chocolate based in Yountville) and what they call a deconstructed wine + food pairing with small bites provided by Carpe Diem Wine Bar, based in downtown Napa. The focus of their tastings are the Walt wines but tastings are also available for Hall and BACA Wines.
WALT Wines was founded in 2009 by Kathryn Hall to honor her parents, Bob and Dolores Walt (long time grape growers in Mendocino County). WALT is known for their Pinot Noir but they also produce a several Chardonnay wines from select vineyard sources in Sonoma County. With a tagline of, “1000 miles of Pinot” they source fruit up and down the west coast of the USA from prime Pinot Noir growing regions from the Willamette Valley in the north to the Santa Rita Hills in the south with a number of vineyard sites in between including in Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties. WALT owns several vineyards but also works with growers to purchase additional fruit.
While most of their wines are not from the Napa Valley – the production for WALT Wines is at Hall Winery in St. Helena. The one Napa Valley vineyard they source from is the acclaimed 40-acre Brown Ranch Vineyard located on the Napa side of the Carneros District. This vineyard is owned by long time Napa Valley family, the Renterias (also vintners).
The WALT 2017 Brown Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir is ruby red in color; the wine initially offers some earth and spice notes including aromas of white pepper, truffle oil, hints of cedar and perhaps a floral nuance. More fruit is revealed after the wine has had some time in the glass. Shows a density of flavor without any harsher wood tannins that sometimes can disrupt the finish of wines from this variety. Well layered and nicely balanced with darker spices and just a hint of a wood spice on the lively finish. Red cherry flavors. A very supple finish.
BACA Wines. A tasting room for Baca Wines will be opening at 776 Westside Road mere minutes from downtown Healdsburg in neighboring Sonoma County in August 2019. This space was the former home of Uptick Vineyards. We will visit this tasting room as soon as it opens and will update this review accordingly.
Senza Hotel is located only about 10-15 minutes north of downtown Napa along Highway 29. The property was formerly a Bed and Breakfast called La Residence – Kathryn and Craig purchased the B&B and set about completely renovating the structure and making significant improvements to the property. Today it is a luxury hotel on 2-acres – a peaceful space surrounded by trees so close to the often busy nearby highway.
The rooms are spread among five buildings including the Parker Mansion which dates from 1870; there are good views of the nearby vineyards from some of the suites. Very pet friendly. A spa room (offering a number of massage treatments), a pool and hot tub are also on site. Like at both of the Napa Valley based Hall wineries, art is an integral part of the property with select sculptures placed throughout the grounds.
And one can walk to lunch or dinner at the nearby long time restaurant, Bistro Don Giovanni – or enjoy a tasting at Ashes & Diamonds, also within an easy and short walking distance of the hotel.
In the spirit of being a “green” winery, Hall was the first Napa winery to install an ECOtality electric charging vehicle station on site. For more information or to join one of their wine club membership offerings, visit: www.hallwines.com.
The Many Costumes of Bunny Foo Foo
Senza Hotel, Napa
WALT Wines Tasting Room, Sonoma
WALT Wines, Tasting Room Napa
BACA Wines, Healdsburg, Sonoma County
Photos coming by late summer or early fall 2019.
Hall Park, Frisco, Texas
Nonstop STS-DFW baby, AA. We will be on it. Photos coming soon!
Videos, Hall Wines
Video, WALT Wines