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 varietals 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 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.
NOTE: By mid to late 2019 Hall Wines will be opening a tasting room in the old Uncorked at Oxbow tasting room across from the Oxbow Public Market. We will visit soon after they open and will update this review at that time.
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
The Hall’s also own Walt Winery which maintains a tasting room just off of the main square in the town of Sonoma.
Walt Wines, Tasting Room Napa
Photos coming soon!
Hall Park, Frisco, Texas
Nonstop STS-DFW baby, AA. We will be on it. Photos coming soon!