When Napa comes into conversation, hyper-modern isn’t usually an automatic response. Rolling vineyards, cozy bed-and-breakfast inns and intimate wine tastings are the typical images that come to mind first.
The Hall family has a deep legacy and presence in Napa, California, and their latest venture is a leap into the contemporary. They’ve designed and built the HALL Visitor Center that creatively brings both modern art and architecture into the fabric of traditional Napa Valley.
I attended the opening of the visitor center, which was easy to locate on the St. Helena Highway South (just take a right at the 35-foot metal Bunny Foo Foo and you’re on the HALL St. Helena property). The bunny sculpture is a creation of artist Lawrence Argent and harks back to when the Hall children would sing “Little Bunny Foo Foo” in the vineyards.
The giant rabbit is one of many interesting and whimsical surprises to be found on the visitor center grounds. Others include a village of vine huts that conjure up memories of childhood forts that include the earthy smell from the willow branches that comprise them as well as a series of sculptures that complement the luxurious modern architecture of the main building.
It’s hard not to enjoy the whimsy and beauty of the property, but the welcoming and helpful staff are themselves a definite highlight. I love wine, but would never call myself an expert. I was gently coached along on my wine-tasting journey and the staff answered my novice questions in a way that was genuine and unpretentious.
In keeping with a traditional feel, an old barn dating from 1885—once the Bergfeld Winery—has been reinvented as an elegant barrel room and the upstairs tasting/events area is designed to marry the past with the present. During the opening, a string quartet was playing “Walk This Way,” by Aerosmith as I entered the upstairs and then they segued into ABBA’s “Take A Chance on Me.” With a smile on my face, I could only come to the conclusion that the Halls want to embellish the sophistication of wine tasting with fun—which made for an experience I want to have again.
Where to stay
My accommodations would be ideal for those that love both wine and golf. The Silverado
Resort and Spa has an old southern style to it; the main building is referred to as The Mansion. I enjoyed the privacy of my suite as well as the option of taking a short walk to socialize at The Mansion and its dining area, full bar and floor-to-ceiling views of the golf course and Napa hills.
If you’re looking for quaint mom-and-pop bed and breakfast, this isn’t a wise choice. The Silverado is a sprawling golf-oriented property that includes a full on-site spa as well as several pools. If you want to take part in tastings without driving, a taxi pick-up to take you to wineries and restaurants can be easily arranged by the concierge.
Definitely spend some post-dinner time at the bar in The Mansion. I was pleasantly surprised to find some friendly locals hanging out there who had stories to share and insight on the area that you just can’t get out of a brochure or tour book.