It’s no secret we’re big HALL fans (we’ve talked about them before here and here), but this is the first time we’ve visited their Rutherford location. It’s been on our wish list for a while now. There’s always something so exciting about finally getting to experience something you’ve been building up in your mind, and this experience was everything we expected and more!
The Rutherford location is a bit smaller than I anticipated, but it made for a more personal experience. Which is always a good thing. The tasting rooms are in what looks like an old guest house, with a beautiful outdoor terrace. It’s perched on top of a hill with beautiful views of the valley. Beneath the guest house sits the cave, and probably the most beautiful part of the property. At the far end of the cave is a tasting room with the most epic chandelier. The chandelier is designed to look like the roots of a tree coming through the ceiling. It includes 1,288 crystals, one for each day Kathryn Hall was the US Ambassador for Austria (and apparently people love to try and steal the crystals, don’t be that person if you visit. Leave the chandelier and it’s beauty alone haha). It is stunning! This property is a must add to your next trip to Napa.
Now for the wines! John was our host for the day, and he was so knowledgeable and SPOT on with his tasting notes. We tasted three cabs – 2017 Stags Leap District Cab, 2017 Howell Mountain Cab, and 2017 Montagna Cab. We started with the Stags Leap cab and were so surprised by how lean and smooth it was. Generally we’re not huge fans of stags leap cabs given the peppery notes, but this one converted us! The Montagna (meaning “mountain” in Italian) cab was our favorite, and to no surprise the appellation Montagna is part of the prestigious Pritchard Hill (one of our favorites!). Which sits 1,800 feet above the Rutherford valley floor. The elevation and soil is what makes this wine pure elegance. This cab was the most decadent wine we tasted the entire trip. Although we didn’t bring a bottle home with us, we will definitely be ordering some!
This one hurts to write a little bit because it was one of the ones we were most looking forward to visiting. We always want to give you our honest opinions, especially when we know its a popular spot that a lot of people have on their wish lists. We’ll start by saying this property is beautiful in person – the lush ivy, beautiful gardens and architecture make this so memorable and instagrammable. We’ve traditionally loved their wine when we buy it in the store and have seen the pictures from others who visited and we thought yes this is going to be soooo amazing!! Ultimately we were disappointed.
There were a few reasons why this one was so disappointing and we would probably recommend visiting another winery during your stay. First, they taste all of their wines in the same wine glass – silly to be upset about but honestly having a clean glass every time allows for a more true tasting. Next was that they served all of their brands in the tasting, Emmolo, Sea Sun etc. and you don’t get to their famous Caymus Cabernet until the very last two pours. Now we thought maybe our pallets are shot from the other wineries earlier in the day but everyone in our group had the same comment – the wines are SO SWEET. Like not your typical red wine but that bad cheap bottle of wine you used to pick up in college. When you ask your host about anything off their script – like cases produced or anything more specific – they are not trained to answer these questions. We have never visited a winery in Napa Valley where your host couldn’t answer the most basic of questions – let alone one that has been there as long as our Caymus host was. The last thing that we didn’t really care for was the seating – as soon as you get there they sit you at a table for your tasting and you don’t really feel as though you can explore their property – it just wasn’t overly welcoming.
A few things that we did like – you don’t pay for your tasting if you buy $50 worth of wine (which is easy to do) and if you don’t buy that in wine it’s a standard $50 tasting fee…. so you might as well walk out with a bottle. We had a rather large group with us (8 people, which when we went we were days away from California lifting its COVID restrictions) and booked two groups of four – they were originally going to sit us on other ends of the property but were super sweet about combining our group together. We love that the family that owns the winery is so family oriented, always support each other and each others wines – that to us is so incredible and something this world needs more of. What we loved most was the property though – it truly is a beautiful property – we just wish that we felt more comfortable exploring it.