Kathryn Walt Hall has had a busy life: assistant city attorney, community activist, successful businesswoman and U.S. Ambassador to Austria. She has also had a parallel career as a grape grower and winemaker. Her family, the Walts, had been tending vines in Mendocino since 1972, and Kathryn managed the vineyards from 1982 to 1992.
In recent years, along with her husband Craig Hall, she has been the proprietor of Hall Winery in Napa. The enterprise actually encompasses two separate facilities. Hall St. Helena is housed in a historic building dating to 1885, a structure once known as the Napa Valley Co-op that served as one of the major winemaking facilities in the Valley for nearly a century. This is a high-volume winery that crushes, vinifies and ages the grapes for Hall’s Napa Valley Collection. Hall Rutherford is a dramatic, state of the art facility completed in 2005, dedicated to the production of the winery’s small batch Artisan Collection.
Most consumers get to know Hall through their Napa Valley Collection, which contain blends of fruit from the various Hall vineyards in the region. The entry-level wines are the Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet. Scents of black cherry and wild plum perfume the nose of the 2008 Merlot ($30). In the mouth, it exhibits excellence ripeness, very good balance, and flavors of spicy black fruits. This is a big wine with a rich and unctuous texture, but one that is kept in line by acidity; the finish is long and satisfying. Drink this with red meats, stews and game dishes.
The Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon ($95), flagship of the Napa Valley Collection, has a fragrant nose marked by aromas of cedar and red raspberry. It is medium-bodied, fresh and vibrant on the palate, with mouthwatering acidity and pure, concentrated flavors of red fruits. It’s actually lighter and crisper in the mouth than the Merlot, a wine of elegance and style. Hints of cinnamon, clove and cocoa emerge on the finish. This would go well with game fish, robust white meat dishes and red meats---and, like most Napa classics, it’s pretty good on its own.
Mark Spivak is the author is Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, which will be published on November 6 by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to www.iconicspirits.net.