You could be forgiven for feeling something of an underachiever following a trip to HALL, the ambitious state-of-the-art boutique winery on the outskirts of St Helena in California’s Napa Valley. Created in 2002 by serial entrepreneur Craig Hall and his wife Kathryn Walt Hall, the property is founded on the site of the old Napa Valley Co-Op. The centerpiece is a stunning new winery and tasting room, given an almost transparent air with floor to ceiling glass. In contrast, set beside it, is the renovated stone Bergfeld Winery established in 1885. Works of art are dotted about the gardens, including a giant silver rabbit that jumps Watership Down-like, out of the vineyard, as if making a bid for the St Helena Highway out in front.
Posts Tagged ‘Stag’s Leap District’
Shafer Vineyards in Stag’s Leap District
Out of all the Napa Valley’s individual viticultural areas, Stag’s Leap District, off the magical Silverado Trail, is surely the best known. The area, pioneered in the 1960s by Nathan Fay, the first to plant Cabernet in the district, shot to fame in the now legendary Paris blind tasting in 1976. The quality of fruit from Fay’s vineyard attracted Warren Winiarski to establish Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars on adjacent land beneath the rocky promontories known as Stag’s Leap in 1970. It was his 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon that French judges placed ahead of Mouton, Haut-Brion, Montrose and Léoville-Las-Cases et al in that tasting. Not bad for wine from vines then less than four years old, only in their second harvest. The importance of the Paris tasting can’t be overstated. It was an immediate statement that France didn’t have an exclusive right to the best terroir and emphasized that there were exciting vineyard sites the world over yet to be discovered. Clearly the district around Stag’s Leap was one of them.
Despite its big reputation, the Napa Valley’s a relatively small wine region, just an eighth of the size of Bordeaux. Given the acquisition of some pretty prominent names by big business over the past few years, it’s heartening to discover that 95% of the Napa’s wineries still remain family owned. These days it’s maybe not quite the beatnik, boho crowd of the 1960s – you’ll have needed a fairly healthy bank [credit] account to have opened shop in the Napa Valley in the past decade or so – but many of Napa’s founding families are still around too.
Napa’s close to my heart, where my wine bug began after visiting in the late 1980s, so it was good to see the Napa Valley Vintners Association back at the London Wine Fair last week. Heitz’s Trailside Cabernet ’05 immediately reminded me what’s exciting about the valley and of the fact that the old ones are often still the best. In this respect too there were good benchmark Napa Cabs from Grgich Hills, Chateau Montelena [actually tasted courtesy of Bancroft Wines], Silverado Vineyards, Cain and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.