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2008 HALL "Kathryn Hall" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

hall_cabernet_07.jpgThe pleasures of childhood call to us as adults. The tug of nostalgia is so great that we so often find ourselves indulging in little things that remind us of our early years, and in some cases we throw ourselves passionately into the pursuit of the things we have lost.

Kathryn Hall lost the vineyard that was her childhood playground. Despite having managed the vineyard for nearly a decade, letting it go after her father's death was the right thing to do. But her memories of growing up among the grape vines in Redwood Valley, coupled with her enduring love of wine, meant that was not the end of her career in the wine industry, it was merely the tantalizing beginning.

Hall grew up in Albany, California. Her pharmacist father had dreams of a more agrarian sort, and purchased a vineyard and weekend home in Redwood Valley, north of Ukiah in Mendocino County. Hall grew up loving the time she spent in the vineyards and redwoods, and would return often, even as she went away to college and then law school.

Hall went on to have a very successful career as a corporate lawyer, and while she was working for Safeway, she transferred to Dallas in 1991 -- a fateful move that would launch her into a career of politics and into the love of her life.

Craig Hall grew up in Michigan, and might be the textbook example of a compulsive serial entrepreneur. He quickly moved from lemonade stands and newspaper routes to owning his first apartment complex at the age of 18, and dropping out of college as a sophomore to buy more. After that, there was no stopping him. By the age of 35 he was the second largest owner of apartment complexes in the world, the veteran CEO of several companies, and on the way to becoming a billionaire.

Shortly after meeting Craig, Kathryn Hall made her first foray into politics around that time, and quickly became part of the political scene in Dallas. In 1992 she both made an unsuccessful bid to become Mayor of Dallas, and worked on the 1992 Clinton Presidential campaign. Hall continued to be active in politics, maintained ties to the Clintons, and together with her new husband, she became a major donor in the 1996 re-election campaign, setting her up for an appointment as ambassador to Austria the same year.

Before leaving for her 5 year stint in Austria, the Halls purchased a parcel of land and vineyards on the Eastern hills of the Napa valley in the Rutherford appellation, and began construction of a home and a winery. When they returned from Austria in 2002, Kathryn dove headfirst into the winery, launching first the Kathryn Hall brand, and then a few years later the HALL brand.

In 2002 real estate values slumped a little in wine country, providing the opportunity for the Hall's to snap up some additional vineyard land in both Napa and Sonoma, including the site at which they are currently building their estate winery, with the help of world-famous architect Frank Gehry.

The HALL portfolio has continued to grow, and is resolving into two tiers of wines, their Napa Valley Collection, which makes up the bulk of their 25,000 case production, and the Artisan Series of wines, made up of smaller, mostly vineyard designated wines.

This wine is sold in the Napa Valley Collection, even though most of the fruit comes from the Sacrashe vineyard that sits above the winery's Rutherford facility. The Sacrashe vineyard, like most of the Hall's vineyard properties is organically farmed, and has been ever since they've owned it. It is planted mostly to Cabernet, but also contains some Cabernet Franc and Merlot, all of which struggle in an incredibly thin layer of pulverized volcanic topsoil that very quickly gives way to solid bedrock.

Winemaker Steve Leveque (formerly of Mondavi and Chalk Hill) makes this wine as he does the rest of HALL's higher end wines in their Rutherford gravity-flow winery, including using native yeasts for fermentation and leaving the wines unfiltered.

Full disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample.

Tasting Notes:
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry fruit and black licorice. In the mouth deep black cherry fruit is enrobed in velvety, sweet tannins with notes of cassis and black licorice. Darker, faint earthy and leather notes sit underneath the powerful fruit, and linger in the finish with hints of cedar. 14.8% alcohol.

Food Pairing:
I would love to drink this wine with the juicy caramelized meat of a pot roast.

Overall Score: between 9 and 9.5

How Much?: $80

This wine is about to be released. You can purchase previous vintages online, and should be able to get your hands on the 2008 shortly.

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