Hall makes tasty Napa Valley wines

Hall Napa Valley currently produces about 120,000 cases of wine per year. They have been making wine in Napa since they opened their winery in 2005. Just this spring, the Halls launched a new facility in St. Helena. This new winery and tasting room was built on a site that has a 150-year history in Napa Valley wine making. The Halls still maintain their original, intimate location in Rutherford and continue to make some wines there, but the new facility allows them to host a variety of events as well as have more people visit and taste wine on a daily basis. On a recent trip to Napa Valley I stopped at Hall St. Helena, toured their new facility and grounds, and of course tasted through their current portfolio. Here are some wines from their Napa Valley collection that I enjoyed. These selections are widely available all over the country.

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Hall Napa Valley 2013 Sauvignon Blanc – All of the fruit for this wine was sourced within Napa Valley. It’s composed of entirely Sauvignon Blanc. Fermentation and aging took place in stainless steel; there was no oak influence on this offering. It has a suggested retail price of $24. Bright, ripe gooseberry aromas practically explode from the nose of this Sauvignon Blanc. Citrus and stone fruit aromas abound as well. The palate is rich and refreshing with both tropical and citrus zest flavors playing big roles. Hints of crème fraiche, white and green peppercorn and a touch of grass mark the finish, which is clean and crisp with racy acidity. The Hall Sauvignon Blanc will work equally well paired with light summery foods or all by itself as an aperitif.

Hall Napa Valley 2011 Merlot – The fruit for this wine was sourced at two vineyard sites within Napa Valley. In addition to Merlot (95 percent), it contains some Petit Verdot (5 percent) as well. After fermentation, it was aged on French oak for 20 months; 45 percent of the barrels were new. This Merlot has a suggested retail price of $33. Bright red cherry aromas are supported by bits of spice on the highly engaging nose of this Merlot. The palate is stuffed with both red and black cherry, as well as chicory and black tea characteristics. Kirsch liqueur interspersed with hints of sweet chocolate are in play on the above average finish. This is a fine example of Merlot that is loaded with varietal character and has terrific structure. It’s delicious now and will drink well over the next five years.

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Hall Napa Valley 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – This offering is composed of fruit sourced throughout Napa Valley. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (91 percent), some Merlot (8 percent) and Petit Verdot (1 percent) were blended in. After fermentation it was barrel-aged over 18 months in exclusively French oak; 55 percent of the barrels were new. This Cabernet has a suggested retail price of $50. Roasted coffee and berry aromas are prominent on the nose here. Blackberry, cherry and wisps of mission fig make up the substantial palate. Earth and gingerbread spices, along with a bit of brown sugar, all emerge on the persistent finish. Napa Valley Cabernet comes in all shapes, sizes and price points. This is a substantial one for the $50 category. It’s delicious now and will evolve and drink well for six to eight years.

The most important thing to me about these wines it that they are each a fine and genuine reflection of Napa Valley. Each individual offering speaks not only of the grape variety in question, but also of the place the fruit was grown. To varying degrees these are varieties Napa Valley is well known for. Cabernet Sauvignon is king there, and this selection is made in a classic style. Sauvignon Blanc has been hugely popular in Napa for years, but still it’s on the rise. Where most every tasting room seemed to once have a multitude of Chardonnays (many still do of course), it’s increasingly common to see multiple expressions of Sauvignon Blanc at one winery. Merlot — when done right, like this example — can be as well structured and complex as good Cabernet. These wines from Hall are also fairly priced for the quality they represent. And their wide availability helps make them solid go-to choices. In addition to these wines, Hall produced a range of selections in what they call the Artisan Collection. This higher end tier features vineyard designate as well as proprietary wines. So if you’re looking for genuine Napa Valley Wine, Hall should be on your radar.

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Picture of the Day: Sydney in thigh-high stockings

Here’s an incredibly sensual photo of Sydney as she lays back in her lacy panties and thigh-high stockings. Wow!

Sydney in thigh-high stockings

  

Picture of the Day: Jessica Barton in the shower

Here’s the lovely Jessica Barton is a super-sexy side boob pose showing off her soft and beautiful figure and killer smile in the shower.

Jessica Barton 42

  

Coming Soon: “Sonic Highways” on HBO

Starting on October 17th, HBO is broadcasting a new mini-series called “Sonic Highways” featuring Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters as they travel around the country recording a new track in various cities. They’ll visit New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Nashville, Austin, Seattle, and Washington D.C. and feature artists like Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Buddy Guy, ZZ Top and Joan Jett as they dive into the music scenes of each city. Have just been in Nashville this sounds like a real treat for music buffs. I’m not a huge Foo Fighters fan but I suspect I will be by the end of this series. The trailer above even teases an interview with Grohl talking to President Obama. Put it on your calendar!

  

Drink of the Week: The Hemingway Daiquiri (a la Selvarey)

Selvarey Hemingway Daquiri.It’s a good drink, a true drink, an honest drink. Okay, I’ll skip the lousy Hemingway parodies from now on, but you should be nevertheless be prepared for a bit of extra exuberance as this week’s selection is a genuine treat, which is no surprise as it’s one of many versions of a true cocktail classic. It also comes with a dandy free bottle of very good rum for yours truly.

In case you out of touch with the latest in the booze world, fine rums are all the rage right now and Selvarey white rum is one tasty example. (DOTW already featured its delicious sister chocolate-infused cacao rum a couple of weeks back.) Moreover, just as Avion tequila benefited from an endorsement from the fictional movies stars of “Entourage,” Selvarey has a little bit of star appeal of its own, courtesy of the involvement of singer-songwriter Bruno Mars.  Don’t think for a minute, however, that this is just a matter of so much fake alcoholic tinsel. As Oscar Levant would say, underneath the fake tinsel you’ll find the real tinsel and Selvarey is the real deal, a flavorful but straightforward and smooth white rum that’s definitely at least one or two cuts above what you’re probably used to.

As good as the booze is, this week’s cocktail is even better. I’m actually pretty new to the Hemingway Daiquiri. A regular daiquiri — made with fresh juice, a little sugar, and no blender — is a delight. A Hemingway daiquiri is, however, something else. I can see why the great novelist might have dug this drink when it was first made him for him by Havana bartender Constantino Ribalaigua. At least in the Selvarey version, it’s a terse rhapsody in a glass.

The Hemingway Daiquiri (a la Selvarey)

1 1/2 ounces Selvarey white rum
3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 grapefruit slice or decent maraschino cherry (desirable garnish)

Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake as vigorously as Mr. Hemingway searched for just the right words, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass (coupe or martini style). Toast your favorite Hemingway novel or film adaptation. (In my case, I guess that would probably be “A Farewell to Arms” for the book and “To Have and Have Not” for the film adaptation…even if Hemingway himself hated the book and I’ve never read it, it’s damn fine movie.)

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If you’ll look online you’ll see that the basic ingredients of Hemingway Daiquiri almost never vary, but the proportions are constantly in flux. It’s a great excuse for me to revisit this drink later on so I can try messing with the proportions myself.

Nevertheless, this time around I stuck with the Selvarey basic recipe, but I messed around a bit with the brand names. For starters, I was so bold as to try a couple of very well known Brand X rums — one a super-reasonably priced big name and the other a premium brand, beloved of cocktail classicists. Predictably, the latter was somewhat superior to the former, but I’m sure the Selvarey people will be delighted to hear that their rum really did produce the best result of all, smoother, more complex and flavorful.

The really interesting result, though, was when I switched out the brands of maraschino liqueur…which I once again remind you is in no way to be confused with the red syrup in a bottle of supermarket maraschino cherries. Luxardo is the brand of choice these days for the wondrous very sweet, slightly bitter cherry liqueur and it works just great in a Hemingway. However, since I also have a bottle of value-priced Maraska maraschino on hand, I was duty bound to give that a whirl. It was even nicer when I departed from Selvarey’s recipe and substituted the grapefruit slice garnist for a much better than average maraschino cherry (Tillen Farms Merry Maraschino).

Though the consensus among cocktail cognoscenti appears to be strongly in favor of Luxardo, I’ll be damned if the version with Maraska wasn’t notably superior. It was already a highly refreshing, almost perfectly balanced bittersweet beverage, but now there was something more. I’d say it added a lovely, slightly sweet, indescribable sheen that took the Hemingway daiquiri to a whole new level. Not bad, considering I purchased my Maraska, which is admittedly not always easy to find, for about half as much as the $30+ you’ll usually pay for Luxardo.

Life, as Hemingway might, say is full of surprises. Actually, it’s possible he’d never say that but, in this case, it would be true.