Sometimes, Napa gets a bad rap. No, really. The world-famous valley in California, notable for producing some of the world’s most exquisite Cabernets, is sometimes talked down upon. Recently I was in an off-the-beaten-path wine region of California and a local wine producer commented that you wouldn’t find him on a beach in Hawaii cashing in on his wine empire like some owners from the most famous valley. Ouch. It’s easy to target those who are fortunate to produce wine in one of the most premium wine regions in the world. To think that somehow they had an easy journey as a vintner is naive.
Just look at Craig and Kathryn Hall, the owners of HALL and WALT Wines in Rutherford. Their twenty-year journey in Napa was beset by challenges to their land use, opposition from neighbors for their art vision, devastation from a fire wiping out an entire vintage, and the list goes on. How they turned their vision to producing wine in Napa to receiving a rare 100-point score from Robert Parker is told in the book, A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery (Center Street).
Craig and Kathryn have an intense passion for creating world class wine, and a desire to balance wine-making with their love of art and nature. A Perfect Score gives you a glimpse into their lives, telling each step in their journey through the eyes of both Kathryn and Craig, as well as through a third-person narrative viewpoint.
Soon after the first chapter, you are hooked. There are definitely some glamorous moments of the book — from Kathryn’s time as the U.S. Ambassador to Austria — to their encounters with renowned architect Frank Gehry. The book details all aspects of the winery, from basic theories of viniculture and the daily routine of fermentation, to selling and marketing a sustainable wine.
For a book with just over two hundred pages, it provides an engaging and practical overview of what actually goes into owning a successful Napa Valley winery, without becoming too esoteric or technical in the details of the wine-making process. I found myself rooting for the Halls, wanting to see their lofty vision come to fruition; to jump in and become part of their team. Whether you are a first time visitor to Napa or want to learn more behind what it takes to earn a 100-point rating from Robert Parker, A Perfect Score is an entertaining read that will endear you to Napa, as well as to the Halls.
I for one am DYING to taste that 100-point wine, and will be reaching out to see if Kathryn needs another palate for the next wine blending session (I am available!). Or at a minimum, I will taste their Three Strings 2013 Cabernet ($55), close my eyes, and envision myself at HALL, high above the Napa Valley floor.