A visit to HALL St. Helena

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One winery I can’t stop talking about is HALL St. Helena. Unveiled late last year, the “reimagined” winery and Visitor’s Center combines both the old and the new; a sophisticated tasting room, a historic Napa Valley building dating back to 1885, a modern art collection both inside and out, and, of course exquisite wines.

The first thing you’ll notice about HALL is its huge sparkling new rabbit sculpture on Highway 29.  “Bunny Foo-Foo” is one of the incredible works of famed artist Lawrence Argent, who also did a similar installation at the Sacramento Airport.

“Bunny Foo-Foo” is just the start of the HALL St. Helena art experience. When I was there yesterday I was amazed by the new “stick work” installation.  A collection of tree-sized houses made of sticks were designed for the winery by famed artist Patrick Dougherty and installed by local volunteers. Dougherty has built more than 230 “Stickwork” installations – from Scotland to Japan to Brussels, and all over the United States.

Modern, one-of-a kind sculptures are infused throughout the buildings and in the gardens.  On the lower floor of the main building is a state of the art winemaking facility, and was in fact the first LEED® Gold Certified Winery in the State of California.  If you look up above the fermentation vats, you’ll see red glass sculptures and large pinwheels that appear to float from the ceiling.

Inside their sophisticated glass-walled tasting room you’ll be greeted with a splash of Sauvignon Blanc, their “welcome wine” – followed by award-winning Cabernets (HALL has more than 30 wines rated 90+).  The winery produces 12 different Cabernets each from small lot vineyards, and each with remarkably different qualities. The 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet is full of luscious rich berries, soft notes of oak and smooth tannins.  I also loved the 2010 T-Bar-T Ranch Cabernet from Alexander Valley; jam-packed with baked cherries and red currants, spicy notes, and a minerality that makes it for a perfect pairing with a juicy steak.

This is a phenomenal place to visit for the exceptional wines, one-of-a-kind art collection and spectacular views of the vineyards.

Fun Facts

  • The Bergfeld Building was built in 1885 by a sea captain from New England.  It was completely covered by the Napa Valley Co-op building for more than 100 years until the building was taken down in 2011.
  • “Ellies” Cabernet Sauvignon is named after owner Craig Hall’s mother, who was the first woman deployed on a US Navy war ship.
  • Ninety-percent of the modern art collection at HALL is one-of-a kind commissioned works by American artists.

Expert tips:

  • Walk around the outside and take in all the sculptures before you start your tasting. There is much to see and it will give you a good sense of the works and you can get all your questions answered at the Visitor’s Center afterward.
  • Making a reservation is always worthwhile however it is not necessary if you just want to taste and are in a small group of less than eight.

WineryCritic Ratings

9/10 Overall visitor experience

9/10 Knowledge of guide

9/10 Location

10/10 Architecture and design, landscaping

8/10 Other experiences: Various tastings depending on wine interests

9/10 Knowledge of tasting room staff

9/10 Friendliness of staff

9/10 Signage & ease of access

10/10 Quality of the wines poured

Appointment required:  Reservations are encouraged.

Address:  

HALL St. Helena, 401 St. Helena Highway South, St. Helena, CA 94574

www.hallwines.com

Tasting fees & experiences:

Tasting hours: 10:00am – 5:30pm

  • $30 per person – Gallery 401 Tasting Salon
  • $30 per person – Wine Tasting 101 (Daily at 10am)
  • $50 per person – Bergfeld Tour & Tasting (On the hour between 10am – 4pm)
  • $75 per person – Demystifying Wine & Food (Saturdays at 11am, starting May 1)

(advance reservations required)

Good for:  Cabernet & Bordeaux fans, art & architectural lovers, history buffs

Wines produced: HALL produces 12 different labels of Cabernet Sauvignon, from both the Napa Valley and also the Alexander Valley.  The winery also produces Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Pinot Noir.  HALL’s Napa Valley estate vineyards are Certified Organic and employ cutting-edge vineyard technology to yield the highest quality grapes. HALL has over 30 wines that have been rated 90+ or above.

What’s nearby: St Helena, Clif Family Winery, Long Meadow Ranch

District/Appellation: St. Helena, Napa Valley

Contact for appointments:  (707) 967-2626 or book online through CellarPass

Date of visit: April 2, 2014

E-mail: mindy@winerycritic.com