Tasting Report: Hall Cabernet Sauvignon

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hall Wines, a Napa producer of a portfolio of wines ranging from $20 to $150 a bottle, has recently received some very big numbers from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast for their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignons.

Some interesting quick facts about Hall:

  • Hall sources most of its fruit from about 500 acres spread across 6 vineyards in Napa Valley.
  • They have tasting rooms in St. Helena and Rutherford.
  • All of their vineyards have been organically farmed since 2007.
  • They offer two levels of wines: The Napa Valley Collection and the Artisan Collection. One of each is featured in this review.
  • David Ramey [Chalk Hill, Dominus, Rudd, and Ramey Wine Cellars] is a consulting winemaker at Hall.
  • Kathryn Hall, proprietor of Hall Wines, served as US Ambassador to Austria from 1997 to 2001. "Exzellenz" is the Austrian word of "Ambassador".
I was fortunate enough to receive pre-release sample bottles of the Kathryn Hall and Exzellenz Cabernets which presenting me with the enviable decision: How should I enjoy these wines? Do I geek out and drink them on a week night analyzing them to the last drop? Or should I crack them open with friends over dinner?

I chose the latter, and we had some of our favorite neighbors over who happen to be wine lovers as well. We paired the wines with an assortment of Italian small plates made from ingredients procured from Tutto Italiano. We had a great time enjoying these wines with wonderful conversation, delicious food, and four energetic kids running around the house.

Since the wines were so young (2006 Napa Cab and not yet released) I was a little concerned that these wines might be austere and closed. Those fears were quickly allayed with the first taste of the first wine.

2006 Kathryn Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
$75/3,040 cases produced
Release Date: September 12, 2009
96 Points Wine Spectator
95 Points Wine Enthusiast
Aged 24 months in 65% new French oak barrels
14.5% alcohol

This wine screamed Napa Cab on the nose. It was very expressive aromatically, filling the glass with blackberry and black currant along with savory components which are a hallmark of some of my favorite big red California wines.

This wine floods the palate with gorgeous dark berry fruit. Imagine a spoonful of warm mixed berry pie filling on your tongue. Perhaps most notable was the chewy, fleshy tannins. Not harsh tannins- soft ones. And definitely enjoyable.

The finish went on for a mile, and in a good way [as opposed to an aftertaste kind of way]. For me, not a hint of excessive heat.

Probably one of the most enjoyable wines I've ever had.

96 Points/WWP

2006 Exzellenz Red Wine Sacrashe Vineyard Rutherford

$150/200 cases produced
Release Date: February 1, 2010
95 Points Wine Spectator
97 Points Wine Enthusiast
Aged 22 months in 60% new French oak barrels
14.5% alcohol

This was the second bottle we tried. Compared to the Kathryn Hall, this wine was similar, but it seemed just a bit more bashful aromatically at this point in time. Still a wonderful nose, but just not quite as obvious as the Kathryn Hall.

On the palate- oh my. This wine was even denser and with even "chewier", sweeter tannins. Wonderfully mouth filling, it too was a truly delicious wine.

Perhaps with some time, as the tannins soften a bit, this wine will rise to a level even higher than the Kathryn Hall, but if you're wanting to find a wine to enjoy immediately I think the Kathryn Hall would be the better play (especially given that it costs half as much as the Exzellenz).

I was thrilled and honored to get a chance to try such a limited production, high quality wine as this one.

93 Points/WWP

Ironically, though the Exzellenz is labeled as a "Red Wine" it is 100% Cabernet whereas the Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon is 99% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc. According to Alder Yarrow of Vinography, this was to allow for future flexibility in blending in other varieties into this wine. Read Alder's piece on the Exzellenz here.

Try a bottle a bottle of the entry level Hall Napa Cab for around $40, or try it by the glass at The Capital Grille. If you like what you see there, consider stepping up to the $75 Kathryn Hall -or- the $70 "Jack's Masterpiece" (also 96 WS/470 cases made).

Plugging a 96WS/$70 Napa Cab into the wwpQPR Calculator (What's that?) with a $45 baseline for outstanding Napa Cab, we get 2.57: Very Good. Gotta love a $70 value play.

What to do next:
Buy this wine on Wine.com:

Question of the Day: Have you tried Hall wines in the past? If so, what did you think?


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