Well, there could be if you visit Hall Winery, in St. Helena, and stand in the vineyard, admiring a 3.5-ton, stainless steel sculpture called “Bunny Foo Foo.”
The sculpture is only part of what’s new at Hall, which dazzles guests with its modern, new Visitors’ Center, staffed by extremely friendly wine folk.
“Bunny Foo Foo,” designed and crafted by British artist Lawrence Argent, was commissioned and named by winery owner Kathryn Hall who used to read a poem of the same name to her children, David and Jennifer, at bedtime.
(Bunny Foo Foo was a rabbit who hopped through the forest, scooping up field mice, bopping them on the head.)
Today, the 35-foot-tall, shiny, Swiss-cheese-aerated, Bunny Foo Foo is an object of beauty - as is the visitor center and the wines showcased inside it.
The new Hall Visitor Center.
I can’t recall having been so impressed by a winery upgrade in Napa Valley in years. The Halls have knocked this one out of the park and I will insist that friends who visit over the next year add Hall winery, in St. Helena, to their MUST-DO list.
(There’s also a Hall winery in Rutherford, but today, we’re strictly speaking about the St. Helena venue.)
After tasting a dozen wines, I couldn’t agree more. Crazy good...
There are as many wines to taste here as there are art installations on the property – I stopped counting at 30 of each.
The wines are glorious expressions of balance and rectitude (now THAT’s a word I haven’t seen ascribed to wine recently!). There’s a purity of production here and it shows in the glass.
I visited Hall twice this month to research this story. I scored all the Cabernets and Pinot Noirs I tasted in the mid 90s and I was gob-smacked by the 2011 red label “Kathryn Hall” Cabernet, which I scored 96 points.
On my second visit, I joined a group of Canadian businessmen for a two-hour, property tour-and-tasting led by Hall wine educator Paul Dugoni.
I liked Paul’s casual manner, and the Hall story he shared. He knowledgably answered every question posed by the group.
Paul Dugoni leads a tour through the winemaking process, encouraging guests to taste wine while learning about the winery’s colorful history.
Paul related that the Halls acquire grapes from 70 different vineyard sites to make their various branded Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.
Paul led the group out into the vineyards to let members pluck ripe Cabernet Sauvignon from the vines to learn about grape ripeness.
But first, a word about the art...
The art at Hall is Craig Hall’s doing. He believes, like Margrit Mondavi does down the road at Robert Mondavi Winery, that art nourishes the human spirit and can make a profound difference in one’s life.
Throughout his business career, Craig has placed some of his favorite personal art on display for public enjoyment.
Art installations placed around the grounds bring as much joie to your eyes as Hall wines do to your palate.
I’d walk a mile for a camel... especially one standing outside a winery as welcoming as Hall.
Not only does a giant, stainless-steel rabbit jump out of the vineyards, but a life-sized, fiberglass, aluminum, stainless-steel camel stands guard at the door of the visitor’s center.
Albino Camel Contemplating Needle is a 2013 work by Californian artist John Baldessari.
The 83-year-old artist has been featured in more than 200 solo exhibitions and in more than 1,000 group exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe. Which means his work is well respected, highly collected and we’re lucky to have such a piece in dreamy old St. Helena.
The work is called Red Rooms, completed in 2013 by American artist Peter Wegner. It is a masterful accretion of nearly 500,000 die-cut index cards mounted with their cut end exposed to the viewer.
Asked about the installation, the artist said, “The edge of a piece of paper doesn’t amount to much. You might miss it if you weren’t looking for it.”
And yet, when you put enough of these potentially overlooked index cards together, they can make a statement. Even a colorful one.
This is not a painting. It’s not a classic “art installation.” It has the mass of sculpture but is not one. It is also not architecture. Whatever it is, or isn’t, I sure do like it.
There is a sensual element to Jaume Plensa’s marble-and-lead head, called Sanaa, that I find compelling, mysterious, even alluring. I could stare at it for hours and not be bored.
The Barcelona-born sculptor’s works are known to evoke emotion while stimulating thought. Sanaa sure does both, though I do not understand the name choice.
Is the name a paean to the award-winning Tokyo architectural firm Sejima, Nishizawa and Associates, colloquially known at “Sanna,” or is it a reference to the capital of Yemen, Sana’a?
The wine here is an art form too...
The wines are Kathryn Hall’s doing. She developed a passion for wine growing up in her family’s vineyards in Mendocino County.
The couple’s desire to create one (actually two!) of the top wineries in Napa Valley were put on hold in the late 1990s, when Kathryn was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Austria (1997 through 2001).
With the couple’s return to Napa Valley in 2002, the Halls embarked on a path to create some of the most compelling properties, wines, and vineyard sites in Napa Valley. Olympic judges might score it this way:
Winery Intention 10
Execution of Idea 10
Overall Form 10.
In my mind, the Halls have earned a Gold Medal in Winery Construction.
The visitors’ tasting bar.
The tasting room, designed by local architect Jarrod Denton, of Signum Architecture, is an original, one-of-a-kind visual statement. The private salons for tasting are linear and gorgeous. Art highlights many corners of the winery.
My favorite Cabernets in my two tastings here were from the 2011 vintage, to which many wine writers have given the cold shoulder; their story is that 2011 was a wet, cold, crappy vintage and they’ve suggested that wine drinkers hold off for the more robust, exotic, fruit-bomb vintages of 2012 and 2013 (as yet unreleased valley-wide).
To this, napaman says NONSENSE!
I am one of the lone voices in the wilderness: I am advising readers to load up on 2011 Napa Valley Cabernets. For the most part, these are wines of extreme beauty and lower alcohol. This makes them food-friendly, (or Foo-Friendly, if you like serving them with rabbit).
The three 2011 Hall Cabernets below are elegant, balanced, filled with ample fruit, and gorgeous poise; you can drink them early, or set them away in a corner of your cellar for seven to 10 years and you will love them all along the journey.
2011 Hall “Kathryn Hall” red label
How do I love thee? Craig watch out! I love thee in innumerable ways; on the lips... on the swallow ... on the finish – long, focused and with a gorgeous finish. No one would ever guess in a blind tasting that this is one of those “2011 wet-vintage Cabernets.”
I scored this wine 96 points, one of my top-scoring 2011 Napa Valley Cabs so far this year. $135.
2011 Hall “T Bar, T Ranch” from Alexander Valley
Similar in style to the red label K. Hall above. No one tasting this blind would ever guess that it is a 2011 Cab because there are no pallid flavors, or missing top notes, which many wine writers erroneously attributed to this vintage. A stellar wine. Easily 93 points. $60.
2011 Hall “Ellie’s” cuvee
A blend of 91 percent Cab, 6 percent Cab Franc, and 3 percent Merlot.
Gorgeous plum top notes and a hint of tobacco on the finish. A generous expression of fruit, a superb example of impeccable winemaking.
Want to visit? Make an online reservation. Go to hallwines.com. Located at 401 St. Helena Highway South, at the southern end of St. Helena.