Hall ‘Platinum’ wine earns perfect score

Hall Napa Valley sources fruit from choice estate and contract vineyards throughout the valley.

Since 2008 — when the winery purchased fruit from only five growers — Hall has expanded its inventory of grapegrowers to 70, says Steve Leveque, the veteran director of winemaking who spent 11 years with Robert Mondavi and Opus One operations before signing on at Hall.

Leveque said the economic downturn afforded Hall the opportunity to expand production — hence the explosion of growers’ contacts and the ability to make more wine.

Purchasing grapes from exceptional sites also allowed Leveque to put together what the winery is calling its Platinum Collection.

“It’s all about sourcing fruit from tiny, exalted vineyards, allowing us to capture expression vine by vine, shoot by shoot, cluster by cluster,” says Leveque. “We are intimately involved with every aspect of this process and feel this series represents a beacon of qualilty.”

The focus for all three Platinum Collection wines is mountain or hillside vineyards.

The project kicked off last year with only 90 cases of two wines — a cabernet sauvignon from the eight-acre Rainin family vineyard on the rugged volcanic slopes of Diamond Mountain and a red blend named Bishop, the English translation of the winemaker’s last name.

With the 2013 vintage, a third wine — made from the best blocks of the Hall-owned Sacrashe Vineyard located above Auberge du Soleil — joins the other two. And total production has increased, but not so that it will satisfy the expected demand.

Leveque said he engaged in “no-holds-barred vineyard and cellar practices” in vintage 2013, a “balanced” approach in both vineyards and cellar that included canopy management (shoot separation, leaf removal) and focused irrigation that would not only slow down sugar accumulation but also result in lower yields.

Native yeast starts fermentation, a cold soak is employed for two to 10 days, gravity feed negates the need for pumping the freshly pressed wine. “There are no pumps in the inery — that forces me to do things with the utmost integrity.”

Leveque rarely adds press wine to the blend of any of the Hall wines. “So my staff is really overworked,” he sheepishly adds. “We put the wine in the bottles without fining or filtration — it keeps you honest.”

Here are some statistics on each of the three Platinum Collection wines:

Hall Napa Valley 2013 Rainin Vineyard cabernet sauvignon — the fruit comes from a particular block of the eight acre Rainin Vineyard at the 1,200 foot level on Diamond Mountain. It’s all cabernet sauvignon, aged for 24 months in new Taransaud oak, the alcohol is 15.6 percent. The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker gave the wine 100 points, calling it “provocative as well as prodigious cabernet sauvignon that’s as good as it gets …” This spectacular cabernet offers a big mouthful of black fruit, with an underlying layer of blueberries. It’s lush, exploding on the palate, and delivers a pleasant, long finish. It’s a decadent cab, or as Leveque says, “it’s the Sophia Loren of the lineup. A voluptuous wine.” I couldn’t agree more — it’s Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon at its best. I can only imagine what it will be like with a little more age.

Hall Napa Valley 2013 The Bishop cabernet sauvignon — from “a big muscular vintage that needs cellaring,” this blend of cabernet sauvignon (85 percent) and merlot (15 percent) definitely needs a few years in the bottle in order to marry all its components. Grapes come from Rainin Vineyard and Howell Mountain. Aged for 26 months in 100 percent new oak, it’s the one wine in the group with the most grip, showing off blue fruit mid-palate along with concentrated cassis on its powerful finish. There’s also a pleasant black olive note. For those who can’t wait, Leveque suggests double decanting.

Hall Napa Valley 2013 Sacrashe Vineyard cabernet sauvignon — choice fruit from a noteworthy hillside vineyard owned by the Halls result in this big sculpted blend of cabernet sauvignon (89 percent) and merlot (11 percent). Ten barrels from the best blocks make for an opulent expression of fruit from the eastern side of the valley. Aged in mostly new oak for 26 months, ripe, flavorful blackberries give way to yummy cassis as the finish goes on and on and on. Leveque quips: “There’s a lot of stuffing beside the tannins.” He ain’t just-a kiddin’.

These are the best wines Hall has to offer, notes Leveque. The 2013 Platinum Collection will be released this fall. Not for the faint of heart — or wallet — each of the three Platinum Collection wines retails for $325.

Due to both pedigree and extremely limited quantity — there will never be more than 300 cases produced — as well as acclaim from critics, Hall has instituted a special waiting list for these wines. To join the wait list, send your request to platinumlist@hallwines.com.