Our friends at Artisan Wine Depot invited us over for a tasting of Hall and Walt wines. We’ve written about Walt before (and consumed several bottles of their pinot noir) so we immediately accepted. Prices quoted are from the winery websites. Artisan’s prices are considerably lower, but those may be day-of-tasting specials. Check their website for current pricing.
It turns out that these two wineries are both projects of Kathryn Walt Hall. Walt is in Sonoma County and features chardonnay and pinot noir. Hall is in St. Helena (Napa Valley) focusing on sauvignon blanc, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. The tasting featured sauvignon blanc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon from Hall. Walt offered a chardonnay and two pinot noirs. In an interesting side note, Hall’s Twitter hashtag is #crazygoodcabernet.
The 2014 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($24) opens with pronounced aromas of grapefruit. The palate is creamy with more grapefruit and a hint of apricot. We liked this, but would have liked it better at half the price.
Walt’s “La Brisa” 2013 Sonoma County Chardonnay ($40, not listed on the winery website) was next. High levels of butter on the nose followed by more butter flavors with a hint of honeysuckle. We felt like we needed a shot of Lipitor™ after tasting this one. We never thought we’d say this, but a bit of oak and/or more acid would have given this wine some balance.
“Blue Jay” 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($40) was Walt’s next offering. Aromas of huckleberry and lavender give a clear signal of what’s coming next. With more berries and toffee on the palate, this pinot exhibits the lighter characteristics of many Anderson Valley grapes. Very nice.
“La Brisa” 2013 Sonoma County Pinot Noir ($40) was Walt’s second pinot. This wine is dark and brooding. Aromas of blackberry jam and spice are followed by a lush, mouth-filling mid-palate. Maraschino cherries with a hint of spice round out a very nice wine.
The Hall 2013 Napa Valley Merlot ($33) is about as good as a merlot can get. Cherry and raspberry aromas with a hint of pepper on the nose. Flavors of cherries and blackberries on the palate. If the price had been around $20 we would have bought a couple of bottles. If you’re a merlot lover, you won’t go wrong with this one.
Hall’s 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) had a hint of our favorite off-putting chemical, methoxypyrazine. But if you can handle that, this is a pretty good cab. Plum, coffee, and licorice are the featured flavors. (Artisan’s tasting notes quote Antonio Galloni describing one of the flavors as “menthol.” We think Mr. Galloni got this wrong.)
Kathryn Walt Hall
Ms. Hall has been involved with the California wine industry since her family first purchased a vineyard in the 1970’s. We should all be happy that she returned to California after her time in Texas. She has had a distinguished and varied career as a successful businesswoman, attorney, and as the U.S. Ambassador to Austria. From the Hall Wines website:
Kathryn and her brother managed the family vineyard from 1982 to 1992, selling grapes to other wineries, as well as producing Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon under the label WALT Vineyards. Kathryn began her public career as assistant city attorney in Berkeley, California. Later, she joined Safeway Stores, where she was responsible for developing and administering one of the nation’s first and largest affirmative action programs. Subsequently, she worked as an attorney and businesswoman in Dallas, Texas, where she was president of an inner city development company and partner of Hall Financial Group, Inc.
From 1997 to 2001, Kathryn served as the United States Ambassador to Austria. Since her return to America, she has resumed her role as proprietor of HALL Wines along with her husband Craig. Continuing upon her experience promoting American agriculture in Austria, in September 2001 she was appointed to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC) for international trade and to Texas One, promoting international investment in Texas.
Kathryn serves on the Napa Legal Aid Board of Directors and is fluent in French and German, earned a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, a joint MBA from UC California, Berkeley & Columbia University and a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of Law. Together with her husband Craig, they have four children.
Support local winemakers with long family traditions. These folks are making pretty darn good wines.