After resting up for a bit at Solage, we headed out to dinner at HALL Rutherford. We arrived just in time to catch the sunset, sauvignon blanc in hand, from the winery, which is perched atop a hill in the Sacrashe vineyard.
(This also made for a great time to test out the camera on the Nokia Lumia 1020, whose whopping 41-megapixel camera put the iPhone 5 to shame!)
While the winery’s views are stunning, its real showpiece lay underground.
The caves were designed by Friedrich Gruber of Gutenstein Austria using handmade bricks recovered from castles and other sites in and around Vienna.
The winery’s owners, Craig and Kathryn Hall, are passionate art collectors and their passion shows through the custom-designed fermenting tanks, the cave’s niches, filled with sculptures and paintings, and probably most impressively, the cave’s Swarovski crystal chandelier, designed by Donald Lipski and Jonquil LeMaster.
After we had finished exploring the caves, we settled in for dinner, prepared by chefs from the eminent Meadowood, beneath the chandelier. As with everything in Napa, the food (and wine) was exquisite. (I think that’s a trend for the region, no?)
Our first course was dungeness crab with avocado, grapefruit and celery, paired the winery’s 2011 WALT “La Brisa” Chardonnay.
Next, we were served Meadowood garden squash risotto with cauliflower and hazelnuts. This was served with the 2011 WALT “The Corners” Pinot Noir.
The main course was fork-tender beef short rib, accompanied with celery root purée, celery, and truffles—it was perfect alongside its pairing, the 2010 HALL Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
I felt as though I could hardly eat another bite, but dessert—a poached pear tart with brown butter and vanilla bean ice cream—quickly changed my mind.
It was served with one of the most interesting wines of the night, a 2005 HALL Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. Similar to the sweetest Riesling or perhaps even a Sauternes, just a nip of this sweet Sauvignon Blanc was the perfect cap to the meal.
Of course, the Microsoft team is lots of fun (so much for those stodgy PC vs. hip Mac commercials!) so even after leaving HALL the night wasn’t yet over. Leaving the luxury and decadence of HALL’s caves, we made one final stop at Suzie’s, a beloved Calistoga dive bar where locals shoot pool, watch NASCAR races, and relax after a long day.