Now Authors: Kathryn and Craig Hall: A Perfect Score

Disclosure: I received a copy of “A Perfect Score” for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.

If you’ve ever been to Napa Valley, Hall Wines, is quite memorable as you’re driving along Highway 29 heading into St. Helena.  Their giant Bunny Statue, what many refer to as Bunny Foo Foo by artist Lawrence Argent, stands out, hopping among the vineyards outside of Hall Wines.

But, what stands behind Hall Wines is a couple, (Kathryn and Craig Hall) with a passion.  A passion for making GREAT wine, a passion for Napa Valley, and a passion for art and design.

Today, September 13, this couple, has now entered into the word of Authorship as they release their first book, “A Perfect Score.”  I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy and read it before its release, and let me tell you a few things:


If You’ve EVER wanted to know A Story of How a Couple got into Winemaking then this book is for you.  Because Kathryn and Craig, were completely honest in their book, about their start, about their struggles, and the hardships they even went through as they developed their wine, their brand, and their course of getting to the Perfect Score.

If you’ve ever BEEN to visit Hall Wines or Walt Wines in Napa or Sonoma, then, you need to sit down to read this book, and to read their story, read their humble beginnings, and then sit back in awe, as you sip on a bottle of their wine.  It’ll make you only want to appreciate their wine a whole lot more.

If you want to experience a real good love story, then, sit back to read this book.  It’s not just a love story about Kathryn and Craig Hall, but it is a love story of wine, and the process of winemaking, and really, the process of pursuing your passion, with the love of your life, by your side! Because, lets be honest, Hall Wines, and Walt Wines exist because of both Kathryn and Craig working together, as a team.

BUT: For me, this book was so much more than their story.  Sitting down to read “A Perfect Score” brought out a flood of memories of visiting Hall Wines, Tasting at Walt Wines, or attending one of their annual events such as their Cabernet Cook-Off.

It made me realize, how much of an impact, in their 20 year journey within Napa Valley, how far they truly have come in the Industry, how their ideas keep evolving (they’re Authors now!), and really, how serious they are about their business, and what THEY are doing in Napa Valley.  They get an idea in their head, they don’t just let the idea mull around in their head, they actually follow through with it, and the rest of us get to prosper from it!

But, truthfully, at the end of this book, it only made me appreciate Kathryn and Craig Hall even more.  You could see their personalities shines through in the book, but, not only that, make you wonder what they’re going to do next.  So, what do you think it’ll be?

Final Thoughts:

A Perfect Score was a fun read, especially for any person that has been to a tasting at Hall or Walt Wines during their Wine Country Travels.  Or any person that has come in contact with Kathryn or Craig Hall over the years.  The book tells their story, of their beginning, and really, the tale of HOW it all began, not to mention, their journey to the Perfect Score.




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My First Lodi Winery: Oak Farm Vineyards!

Disclosure:  We visited Oak Farm Vineyards on our Friday Night Excursions into Lodi during the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference.  This is my experience along with the beginning. All opinions are my own. 

Oak Farm Vineyards will always hold a pretty special place in my heart.  It was the first winery I ever visited in Lodi, CA.  It was also during their Grand Opening Weekend, almost 2 years ago!  After this year’s visit, I realized, that this winery, will always be the place I stop back at, to see how the vineyards in the front have grown, to see how the Winery has transformed, or stayed the same over the years, and to remember, the very beginning!


And, it’s great to find a place like this, where a true connection is formed!  Because, this property, is one of the oldest in the Central Valley, and has a lively history:

Oak Farm Vineyards, located at the end of DeVries Road, was home to William DeVries and his wife Cornelia Crowe. William purchased the property in 1860, and at the time, the area was called “Elkhorn Township”, DeVries was a well wheat farmer and raised cattle, he even became Justice of the Peace and was responsible for enforcing the law.

The ranch was known throughout the San Joaquin Valley as one of the most magnificent and beautiful pieces of property within the state.

DeVries was an enthusiastic lover of trees, particularly of oaks, and on the home ranch, he never allowed a tree to be cut unless it was a menace, newspapers reported upon his death. The beautiful colonial style home was built by William and his second wife Mary Jane in 1876.

The Panella family has truly renovated this property, to bring it back to its roots, and to honor the history that lied on this property.  And with keeping with tradition, they, too, have not taken down any of the Oak Trees, teaching the Vines to grow around them including the beautiful 430 Oak Tree that lies to the left of the White House, and what their Logo is based off of.  Oak Farm Vineyards is the perfect name knowing the lineage and history of this property!


(The 430 Oak Tree with the Oak Farm Vineyards Logo on their Wine Glass)

When I first pulled up to their winery, my jaw hit the floor to how beautiful it truly was.  You could instantly tell all the thought and details they put into building their winery and tasting room.

As you walked up to the tasting room, your eyes were instantly drawn to the little White House on the right.  And then dreams of living there flashed through your mind.  Luckily, owners, Dan and Heather Panella actually do with their 4 children!


(These Vines were just baby vines during Grand Opening Weekend!)

So, for this 2nd Visit, this time, escorted by Dan and Heather Panella along with Winemaker Chad Joseph, we would hear a little more history of the property, and see all of the grounds surrounding it:

We started our tour with a visit next to the Tasting room, where our glass of Albarino was about to be poured for us.  On this warm, hot, summer day, the Albarino was quite refreshing upon greeting!


After our glasses were filled, we walked out, along the vineyards directly in front of the White House.  These Vines were Cabernet Sauvignon, just a few short weeks away from harvest:


Once we got to the end of the row, a quick view looking back towards the Tasting Room and Winery:


We then rounded the corner and saw the 430 Year Old Oak Tree, in which the Winery was named after.  They told us how they’ve been renovating the property to restore it back to the ranch and layout that it once had, back in the 1800’s.

And also, told us about the Cemetary, that was found upon the property.  The previous owners never knew about it when they had purchased the property, but, once they began digging, they discovered it.

They’ve done a great job of protecting the cemetary, and even dug up a bit of history on who lies there. But that is a story to tell on behalf of the Panella family, it’s a good one!


We then walked around the backside of the White House, where we discovered a Chicken Farm and a beautiful Rose Garden:


After frolicking around with the Chickens, we found the Private Tasting Room where a beautiful bar stood: A bar that was in Dan Panella’s parents house for several years, but then became apart of the Private Tasting Room.

This Tasting Room is utilized for Group Tastings, to deter the big groups from the main Tasting Room Area to give everyone a special tasting when visiting the winery:


One last walk through the Barn, which is completely restored and ready to host special events, Wedding receptions and more: They were getting set up for the Wedding that was taking place there the following night:


It’s a pretty spectacular venue, and they’ve done a GREAT job restoring the Barn.  Has it’s own Bar Area, Storage Area, and plenty of space for a dance floor!

We then headed back to the Winery to take in the Tasting Room, refill our glasses with other wine options such as: Sangiovese, Tiovoli, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Old Zinfandel, Barbera, Albarino, Chardonnay, Fiano, or Cortese. After refilling our glasses, we talked with Winemaker Chad Joseph for a little bit as he discussed the wines, and a bit of his history as winemaker:


Then we sat down for dinner, a meal prepared by Chef Michael Midgley of Midgeley’s Public House out of Stockton, CA, perfectly paired with Oak Farm Vineyards Wines: Sauvignon Blanc (they have quite a following!), Barbera, Zinfandel, and Fiano.


Of course, the perfect end to a wonderful evening at Oak Farm Vineyards: Sunset!


A huge thank you to Oak Farm Vineyards and the Panella Family for hosting a wonderful evening of Good Times, Good Food, and Good Wine!  I will always look back to your Winery with fine memories, and this winery, will always be a must visit for me every time I come back to Lodi!

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5 Things I learned While STUCK in Lodi during #WBC16

Disclosure:  A few weeks ago I attended my first Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, CA.  I learned a few things along the way about the Lodi Wine Region, and am now sharing that with you!


It was almost 2 years ago when I explored Lodi, CA on my own for the first time.  After hearing great things were happening in the wine region, and a new grand opening of a winery, I knew it was time to take a weekend trip to this coveted Wine Region… and what I found back then was enlightening!  BUT, as a first time trip, you can only take in so much, and learn so little along the way…

So, when I heard the Wine Bloggers Conference was headed to Lodi this August, I knew, it was time, to explore a bit more of this wine region.  Needless to say, I may have learned a little more this time around…

  1. Did You Know They have over 110,000 Acres of Grapes growing in Lodi?


Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes on Oak Farm Vineyards Estate Property

So, this FACT, alone, was the biggest takeaway I took from the conference.  Thanks to this brilliant article by Sommelier Randy Caparoso, and Lodi local.  That is double the acreage of all of Washington State, 4 times the acreage of Oregon State, and guess what; double the acreage of Napa!

So, whether or not  you know it, you’ve most likely been drinking wine from Lodi grapes over the years.  I dare ya, turn that California Wine Bottle over…

2) White Wine is Getting Quite the Name for Itself in Lodi

If you were given the option to drink a cold, hearty, white wine on a 110 degree summer day, or a glass of Red Old Vine Zinfandel, what would you choose?

Truthfully, I know what I would choose!  And, Lodi has caught on to what the consumers are also catching on too: Hot Summer Days call for a nice, refreshing White Wine.

BUT, Lodi, is actually excelling with their terroir in certain White Wine Varietals: Albarino, a spanish style varietal wine, has taken off in Lodi, and was a common theme among MANY wineries that were pouring wine throughout the Wine Blogger Conference weekend.


Another varietal that is getting a name for itself is the Symphony Varietal, in huge part to the raging success of Obsession Wines coming from Ironstone Vineyards.  The Symphony Grape was a crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris, was created by Dr. Harold Olmo at UC Davis in 1948. As is the case with most of Dr. Olmo’s crossings, this white wine producing grape varietal was originally developed to be utilized in hot growing conditions of California’s Central Valley. ~Appellation America.

And if you haven’t tried Oak Farm Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, you need to!

3) It’s More than Just Zinfandel in Lodi!

Probably one of my all time favorite quotes that came out of the conference came from Markus Bokisch of Bokisch Vineyards during the “History of Lodi Winemaking” session.

He stated, “The Story of Zinfandel is a great one, but I had a different story to tell” in why he chose to bring Spanish Varietal Wines to the Lodi Region, and begin there.

But, even with that being said, I don’t think people realize how many different varietals are being grown in Lodi, they have well over 100 varietals growing in their area!


Spanish Varietals have really taken off in the Lodi region, bringing in Gold and Double Golds to a lot of the producers in the area. St. Amant’s Winery just won Double Gold for the Best Red Wine at the California State Fair for their 2014 Tempranillo.  Producing a little over 600 cases, now just bringing them down to a little over 13 cases left from their 2014 vintage!

And many varietals from the Southern France region are excelling in the region.

4) They’re Rooted in History


Lance Randolph of Peirano Estate~ 4th Generation Farmer

If you ask any Grape Grower or Winemaker in the Lodi Region, you can tell how much they are invested into the Lodi Region by their wealth of knowledge of the area.  There is a pride there, and it truly comes out the minute they begin sharing the Lodi Wine, perhaps one of the many reasons they’re so LoCa for Wine there!

As Randy stated in his article, the oldest cultivated vineyard is the Bechthold Vineyard – 25 acres of Cinsaut, of all things! – planted by Joseph Spenker in 1886.  Throughout Lodi, you will see many wineries and vineyards pay tribute to the Cinsaut grape and the heritage, in which, Lodi, lies.

The Conference was held at Hutchins Street Square: The Very High School that Robert Mondavi attended himself.  Although, no longer a high school, but a full-fledged conference center.

But, they’ve come a long way from being the most prominent region for White Zinfandel… I’m just saying…

5) They’re Experimental and their Wines will Surprise you!

Hands down, I’m not afraid to say this out loud about the Lodi Wine Region.  If anyone questions it, I automatically ask if they know about the Lodi Native project?

BUT, I am not the one to explain the Lodi Native project to you.  Since the Lodi Native project was the idea of Sommelier Randy Caparoso, his articles are much more in depth about the project, and what it all means!

Also, keep eyes out for upcoming articles about the Lodi Native Project as wine bloggers got to explore these interesting wines, and wineries during one of the Post-Conference excursions.  Follow along with Hashtag #WBC16.

BUT, it shows in their history, in how the grapes got to their region, and the pioneers in their willingness to keep trying new varietals in their wine growing region.  Truthfully, this is a Wine Region to keep an eye on just to see what they’ll be doing next!

For those that attended the Wine Bloggers Conference, what were some of your takeaways from the Lodi Wine Region?

What was surprising to you?

And what are you most excited about from this Wine Region?







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