One On One With Vintner Kathryn Hall

 

Photo Credit: Marc Olivier Le Blanc

Like a pot of gold uncovered at the end of a rainbow of life experiences sits Kathryn Hall. Her translucent blue eyes and delicate smile captivated our conversation as Hall explained how she landed in our cherished Napa Valley; her rich and plentiful life tale bringing me on a most alluring ride. “I love what I do,” she says. “I love telling stories about wine; this is a wonderful life, it’s very joyful, and it’s a joy to share it.” Her colorful story is one of international flair, homemade delights, and legendary context. It rolled into a fascinating conversation with one of Napa Valley’s most exemplary women.

Hall has thrilling stories to share of her days under President Clinton, lawyering in Texas and putting down roots in wine country while raising four beautiful children. She was appointed by President Clinton in 1995 as Ambassador to Austria and continued her service under President Bush thereafter. Defining how this experience shaped her view of world politics, Hall states: “How unimportant partisan politics are when you leave the shores of America. How incredibly important America is in the world. We are the moral leaders of the world; we are the heart of the economic engine both as producers and consumers. We play a dominant role and are, in a sense, one of many, but we are absolutely at the forefront. Being in this very influential role underscores for me how incredibly important it is for us to do our job, to do it right and stay engaged in international affairs. I went over there being very proud to be an American; I came back more proud than I ever could have dreamed.”

 

Craig and Kathryn HallPhoto Credit: Drew Altizer

Kathryn Walt Hall is the proprietor of Hall Wines and Walt Wines and has integrated herself in the California wine industry since the 1970s when her family purchased their first vineyard. With an esteemed career as a successful businesswoman, community activist, attorney, and as the United States Ambassador to Austria, Hall brings to Napa Valley a mindset rich in culture, a sharp business wit and countless philanthropic fulfillments that the community has benefitted from.

Kathryn’s journey began as assistant city attorney in Berkeley, California. She later joined Safeway Stores, where she was responsible for developing and administering one of the nation’s first and largest affirmative action programs. She worked as an attorney and businesswoman in Dallas, Texas, where she was president of an inner-city development company and partner of Hall Financial Group, Inc. Looking for a life best suited for raising children, Kathryn and her husband Craig settled in wine country. Here, they realized a life abundant in art, culture, and connection. “We are blessed with a very supportive environment; we lift and support each other—this is a uniquely American trait,” Hall says of her Napa Valley experience thus far.

Hall is most happy when she is entertaining family and friends

Photo Credit: Marc Olivier Le Blanc

Hall brings a distinct woven ethos to wine country spanning from her largely cosmopolitan background that she shares in her latest book, The Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st Century Winery. In the New York Times bestseller, Hall expands on how she marries the three components: “I do love what I do. I love telling stories about wine. This gives another opportunity to tell more stories and reach a broader audience. That marriage is unique to our industry. We do regard ourselves as artists. Making wine is an art. There is this human element of creativity that comes to the product that is at the core of what we do that bleeds out into everything.” As art collectors themselves, Kathryn and Craig Hall regard art as an integral value “that is at the core of everything we do.”

This passion for art naturally paved the way for Hall’s involvement as a founding board member of Festival Napa Valley. Over a casual lunch at the home of the revered Maria Manetti Shrem, it was a most natural fit for the Halls to become involved with Festival Napa Valley, a fusion of art, wine, and culture set amongst the most renowned wineries throughout the valley. “The world-class talent that comes to wine country paired with our agricultural community truly sums up our values and defines what we as a valley are all about,” Hall says.

The Halls in front of a piece of artwork at their namesake winery in St. Helena

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

In understanding further how Festival Napa Valley has inspired and shaped Kathryn’s world she says, “The festival opens me up to this world of music. Artists are by definition out of the box; they don’t think in a box, they create as far out of the box as they can.” Hall’s exposure to the incredible talent and creative artistry as a board member of Festival Napa Valley has primarily impacted her leadership role and helped shape her ideals. The famed Arts for All Gala during Festival Napa Valley is hosted by Craig and Kathryn Hall at their exquisitely modern winery in Saint Helena. It’s the evening to see and be seen as hundreds gather to raise their paddles in support for youth education and the arts.

Headlining this year’s gala is Seal and it’s a night that is not to be missed. Raising over 10 million dollars to date, Festival Napa Valley’s gala night boasts some of the most regarded patrons and is set to be the largest grossing charitable music event in the west. Near and dear to her heart, one of Hall’s fondest music memories dates back to 1995, when she brought the Vienna Boys Choir to perform at their hilltop home in Rutherford and share the gift of music with those in Napa Valley.

Hall at her home in Rutherford

Photo Credit: Marc Olivier Le Blanc

Undoubtedly, music, art, and wine have touched the hearts of the Hall family while their devotion to heartening others through their winery patrons, their philanthropic nature and their award-winning books have given Napa Valley a true gift of their presence. The iconic rabbit sculpture that stands proudly in the first vineyard of the Hall winery tells a fond tale and reminds Kathryn and Craig of their days walking the vineyard rows and searching for rabbits when their children were young. Today, a larger-than-life silver bunny anchors the winery and its landmark is recognizable from miles away. The sculpture reminds Kathryn of her greatest life achievement, raising her children.

Showcasing her authenticity, warmth, and passion for people, Kathryn brings enthusiasm and shimmering spirit daily to the winery. “I love people and am filled with gratitude for my life; I feel so blessed,” states Hall when asked what excites her to get up and go in the morning. “How blessed am I to do work I love, with people who are amazing, whom I love, and in a business that is all about bringing someone joy. We are not going to put anyone on the moon, and we’re not going to cure cancer, but we are going to help people have more fun for the hours they are on this earth.” The Hall legacy aspires to be remembered for a business that exudes quality, with a heavy responsibility as stewards of the land, of their employees and community. “We stand for excellence.”

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