Kathryn Hall and her husband Craig dove headfirst into Napa Valley wine making more than two decades ago developing first HALL Wines and then WALT Wines. They've learned a lot and had a great deal of fun on their road to success, and as the industry and Napa Valley community has continued to evolve, so have they. The Hall's achieved one of highest accolades for any winery, a perfect score from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate for their 2010 HALL Excellenz Cabernet Sauvignon, and that served as inspiration for the title of their book, A Perfect Score. We asked Kathryn Hall to share a few insights into the business and her experience:
Seira Wilson: What is the most important technological change you’ve seen in the wine industry since buying your first vineyard?
Kathryn Hall: The optical sorter. The advantage of technology in general is that it affords us more precision in the winemaking process. The optical sorter identifies with far more accuracy than the human eye what grapes should be discarded from the process. In addition, the process is faster than if done by human sorting. During fermentation, time is always of the essence. We want the grapes to be in the fermentation tanks and temperature controlled as quickly as possible. So not only does the sorter optimize the quality of grapes but significantly reduces the amount of time involved to do so.
SW: What do you love most about being in the wine industry?
KH: The people. People who love wine tend to be people who enjoy life. These are the kind of folks I enjoy spending my time with, either at work or at play,
SW: What is been the hardest lesson in wine making?
KH: Just as you can’t hurry a grape to ripen without impairing it’s quality, you can’t force wine in the bottle to age more quickly just because there’s a market to sell it.
SW: Tell me about the moment you found out you’d received the perfect score from the Wine Advocate?
KH: I was in the car driving when I received a call from Matt Mumford at the winery. I felt so much emotion I should have pulled over to the side of the road, but didn’t. I just kept on driving thinking about how happy all of our team would be as I knew they were also hearing the news at the same time.
SW: Is there a wine you think is most overrated? Underrated?
KH: Any highly scored wine that you do not enjoy is overrated. Similarly, if you enjoy a wine it does not matter at all what any critic says. The idea of scores is to guide us towards wines we will enjoy. There is no substitute for your own palate. Also, beware of trends. Merlot has been overlooked in recent years (remember the movie Sideways?) and it can be a beautiful, round, lush red wine, often priced at a good value because it is not as in style as it once was. I think our HALL merlot, for example, is one of the best values in our portfolio.
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