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A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery

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A lively husband and wife team recounts their twenty-year climb from amateur winemakers to recipients of an almost unheard-of perfect score from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Kathryn and Craig Hall launched themselves head first into Napa Valley 20 years ago with the purchase of an 1885 winery and never looked back. Since the couple's purchase of their debut winery, their A lively husband and wife team recounts their twenty-year climb from amateur winemakers to recipients of an almost unheard-of perfect score from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Kathryn and Craig Hall launched themselves head first into Napa Valley 20 years ago with the purchase of an 1885 winery and never looked back. Since the couple's purchase of their debut winery, their critically acclaimed HALL Wines and WALT Wines have become fixtures of the California wine industry, winning numerous accolades including a coveted 100-point "perfect score." A PERFECT SCORE weaves a vibrant tale of the HALL brand's meteoric rise to success, Napa Valley's tug-of-war between localism and tourism, and the evolving nature of the wine industry as a whole. Readers who love a good glass of wine will find much to savor in the Halls' expert account of the art, soul, and business of a modern winery.


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A lively husband and wife team recounts their twenty-year climb from amateur winemakers to recipients of an almost unheard-of perfect score from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Kathryn and Craig Hall launched themselves head first into Napa Valley 20 years ago with the purchase of an 1885 winery and never looked back. Since the couple's purchase of their debut winery, their A lively husband and wife team recounts their twenty-year climb from amateur winemakers to recipients of an almost unheard-of perfect score from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Kathryn and Craig Hall launched themselves head first into Napa Valley 20 years ago with the purchase of an 1885 winery and never looked back. Since the couple's purchase of their debut winery, their critically acclaimed HALL Wines and WALT Wines have become fixtures of the California wine industry, winning numerous accolades including a coveted 100-point "perfect score." A PERFECT SCORE weaves a vibrant tale of the HALL brand's meteoric rise to success, Napa Valley's tug-of-war between localism and tourism, and the evolving nature of the wine industry as a whole. Readers who love a good glass of wine will find much to savor in the Halls' expert account of the art, soul, and business of a modern winery.

30 review for A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery

  1. 4 out of 5

    Randal White

    Skip it! First, let me state that I love wine books. The history of wine, the stories about wineries, the making of wine, the marketing of wine, the tasting of wine, etc, etc. So my low rating of this book should not be seen as one by someone who just doesn't love wine. No, my rating is based on two overall observations I had while reading this book. 1) The writing style is very hard to follow. Sometimes the writing is in the voice of Ms. Hall, sometimes in the voice of her husband, sometimes in Skip it! First, let me state that I love wine books. The history of wine, the stories about wineries, the making of wine, the marketing of wine, the tasting of wine, etc, etc. So my low rating of this book should not be seen as one by someone who just doesn't love wine. No, my rating is based on two overall observations I had while reading this book. 1) The writing style is very hard to follow. Sometimes the writing is in the voice of Ms. Hall, sometimes in the voice of her husband, sometimes in the voice of both of them at the same time, and sometimes in the voice of a third person entirely. And, these different voices may even occur all in the same paragraph! 2) Interwoven with the story of how the Hall's developed their wine, the reader is subjected to an endless list of famous people that the Hall's want you to know that they know. Why it is important to know that they are friends with former Texas governor Ann Richards, that the person selected to actually make the wine is the nephew of Irma Rombauer (she wrote the Joy of Cooking), that they had dinner parties for the likes of Toni Morrison, Walter Cronkite, Elie Wiesel, and Wynton Marsalis. Or that they are personal, very close friends of Robert Mondavi's. Or that they were asked to be ambassadors to Austria because of the recommendation of "our close friend, Senate leader Tom Daschle". And on and on. Are you getting the picture? Or that they took their own, extensive art collection with them to the Austrian ambassadorship, to help those poor Austrian people learn to appreciate good art? The tooting of their own horns became somewhat nauseating. In between all of this rambling, there is some good information. You can learn about the Napa Valley wine culture, and the marketing of wine. This part was interesting. The version of the book that I received is an advance reading copy, courtesy of NetGalley. It's my hope that the authors, or their publishers, pull the book back in for a solid rewrite. It has potential, just not in the current form.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Isaac Baker

    Does this plotline sound familiar? Wealthy couple who made a fortune in [insert Wall St., real estate, etc.] decides to chase their dreams: buying their own vineyard and winery in Napa. Once there, they bankroll an eponymous Cabernet of the dense and oaky variety, which garners high praise from Robert Parker. This couple revels in the realization of their dream, purchases art, clinks glasses with other wealthy folks and politicians at galas, fundraisers, etc. Tell that same story again and again Does this plotline sound familiar? Wealthy couple who made a fortune in [insert Wall St., real estate, etc.] decides to chase their dreams: buying their own vineyard and winery in Napa. Once there, they bankroll an eponymous Cabernet of the dense and oaky variety, which garners high praise from Robert Parker. This couple revels in the realization of their dream, purchases art, clinks glasses with other wealthy folks and politicians at galas, fundraisers, etc. Tell that same story again and again and you have a pretty good idea of what's gone on in Napa Valley over the past few decades. Sure there are outliers, upstarts, scrappy winemakers with a pick-up truck and a dream, but the highest pedestals are reserved for those who swoop in with wealth and buy a Napa Cab into existence. Craig and Kathryn Hall tell their iteration of this story in a new book, "A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery." The book, slated for September release, reads like an extended press release. Kathryn, former U.S. ambassador to Austria, has some family roots in the wine business — her family has a vineyard in Mendocino's Redwood Valley. Craig was a big real estate guru and co-owner of Dallas Cowboys. They seem like perfectly nice people. They seem to love what they do and respect their winemaking team and employees. They are clearly successful businesspeople and have done quite well for their wine brand. But these ingredients do not an interesting story make. The narrative point of view is impossible to nail down because it shifts back and forth with sporadic intensity. The reader get's Craig's first person POV, then Kathryn's, then a kind of omniscient third-person combo-POV which speaks for both of them. These can all be present in a single chapter. The prose is bland and packed with clichés about shared passions, making wine from the ground up, insisting on quality over quantity, you get the idea. This isn’t a book for wine nerds. Despite its prominence on the front cover, wine is a secondary character. The protagonist is the business venture, the brand, the “perfect score.” It just so happens that Napa Valley Cabernet acts as the stool on which the protagonist proudly stands. The book does contain some discussion of the ins and outs of purchasing and running a winery. But there's almost a condescending tone when it comes to explaining basic language about growing grapes and making wine. A good portion of the book is spent recounting which parties, auctions and charitable events the Halls attend — it’s "as if the Great Gatsby has returned life." These chapters read more like “Tales of a Rich Napa Socialite,” with far too much focus on name-dropping and glamour. The story of the titular 100-point wine is somewhat interesting. The team held off picking, making quite a risk to wait through a big storm, then meticulously pocked and sorted the grapes before moving the fruit to the winery. They do deserve congratulations for their hard work and realizing their dream of producing a 2010 vintage Cabernet (not an easy vintage at all). But I’m not sure a book was the proper medium for this story. It has too much incoherence, too little grit, too much navel-gazing, too little wine. I was left desiring the art and soul promised in the title.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Braden

    During the summer of 2016, my wife and I walked into a wine tasting room, unscheduled, for Walt Winery. It was more money than I would normally spend for a tasting but the bed-n-b'fast had provided a buy-one-get-one coupon. To date, it has been one the best wine selections I have tasted (Pinot Noir). The book is about the couple that started a winery in Napa. They have tremendous passion for creating quality wine and are lucky enough to be able to continue to do it -- and the perfect wine score During the summer of 2016, my wife and I walked into a wine tasting room, unscheduled, for Walt Winery. It was more money than I would normally spend for a tasting but the bed-n-b'fast had provided a buy-one-get-one coupon. To date, it has been one the best wine selections I have tasted (Pinot Noir). The book is about the couple that started a winery in Napa. They have tremendous passion for creating quality wine and are lucky enough to be able to continue to do it -- and the perfect wine score (100) for a 2010 Cab Sav has helped in the financial department. Easy/quick read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mike Zickar

    I had a love/hate relationship with this book. First off, I listened to the audio version of this book at Kathryn Hall has a great reading voice. Passion, excitement, and anxiety all come through clearly in her voice and that made it an enjoyable "read," perhaps more so than reading it on paper. The passion for wine and for the business of wine comes through clearly this book. I applaud the Halls for pulling out all stops for making high quality wine. (Reading the book makes me excited to try one I had a love/hate relationship with this book. First off, I listened to the audio version of this book at Kathryn Hall has a great reading voice. Passion, excitement, and anxiety all come through clearly in her voice and that made it an enjoyable "read," perhaps more so than reading it on paper. The passion for wine and for the business of wine comes through clearly this book. I applaud the Halls for pulling out all stops for making high quality wine. (Reading the book makes me excited to try one of their cabernets). They embrace taking risks, being on the foreground of new technology, and questioning all assumptions. In many ways, this book is as much about business as it is wine. On the other hand, this book does seem like a celebration of the 1%er's life. Descriptions of the opulent social life in Napa as well as the celebration of all of the charity work that goes on, this frankly to me was boring. I'm not envious of their wealth; I don't begrudge them of it. Frankly, I was just bored of this section. If you're looking for a book about life in the wine world, I really enjoyed Joy Sterling's: A Cultivated Life: A Year in a California Vineyard.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I loved reading this book. The ideas and creativity of running a winery was very inspiring to read about. This book makes me want to visit the Hall’s wineries.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    I wanted to like this book. I looked forward to reading about this winery garnering a perfect score of 100 from the Wine Advocate. What I got was what felt like a Long brochure from the winery written by two people with large egos and seemingly unaware of their privileged status. In one instance they blissfully speak of how the loss of 2 million dollar crop would barely stop their plans to open and maintain their winery. I don't think most people can so easily absorb a 2 million dollar loss. Whe I wanted to like this book. I looked forward to reading about this winery garnering a perfect score of 100 from the Wine Advocate. What I got was what felt like a Long brochure from the winery written by two people with large egos and seemingly unaware of their privileged status. In one instance they blissfully speak of how the loss of 2 million dollar crop would barely stop their plans to open and maintain their winery. I don't think most people can so easily absorb a 2 million dollar loss. When they talk about wine and winemaking, the book becomes more interesting, if only for the short time before they pat each other on the back for the cleverness of their business plan or for hiring the right employee or preening when an employee subserviently praises the owner's taste in clothes. skip it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    it might have been so fascinating. but it is not. the weird change of person from him not talking about him, but talking about her, than her not talking about her but about him that you have to turn back pages to know who is the first person and why most of the text is written in the third person. + than there is the actual text. which is dull. and is centered about their self centered musings and not about what happened.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathyg

    I love wine and always enjoy learning more. Yes the perspective changed often and had to check myself occasionally by rereading the page before. Thank goodness the ghost writer clued me in with the name of speaker’s point of view in huge print and different font. Very helpful to see their name right there. It is a quick read about people who have a totally unique life compared to my own which opens my eyes to the world.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bob Edwards

    A lot of interesting winery info poorly written in at least three perspectives, and excessive namedropping and unintended views into the life of privilege, especially charity events. The info about the decisions required to produce a great wine was solid and interesting. This book has the makings of a great book, but in wine parlance it falls below 90.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    A cute autobiography about a couple that own a winery in Napa. There isn't much tension to it, but it is some lovely descriptions that underline why the tourists love to tour the wineries of Napa. A cute autobiography about a couple that own a winery in Napa. There isn't much tension to it, but it is some lovely descriptions that underline why the tourists love to tour the wineries of Napa.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brigette Lepe

    I actually couldn't bring myself to finish this book. What a bunch of obtuse 1%ers. Also, their wine isn't that great. I actually couldn't bring myself to finish this book. What a bunch of obtuse 1%ers. Also, their wine isn't that great.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I really enjoyed this book! I love wine and loved hearing the first person perspective of everything that goes into making it. This book was an easy, enjoyable read that gave a peek into the glamour of Napa Valley. Great weekend reading with a glass of wine!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lori Johnson

    I picked up this book expecting to read about the vineyards themselves, and the wine. But the book focuses on the business Side of the winery, along with politics.

  14. 5 out of 5

    M

    Tedious drivel written by two people with egos that are unrivalled. Poorly written and poorly edited. Waste of time.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    In a word: pretentious. Wealthy, politically connected couple overcome foreign adventures, financial "challenges" to obtain state of the art equipment to achieve a perfect score. Some interesting wine information. But, by and large soul-less. If you want to read of the love of wine making, I highly recommend 'Summer in a Glass' by Evan Dawson. In a word: pretentious. Wealthy, politically connected couple overcome foreign adventures, financial "challenges" to obtain state of the art equipment to achieve a perfect score. Some interesting wine information. But, by and large soul-less. If you want to read of the love of wine making, I highly recommend 'Summer in a Glass' by Evan Dawson.

  16. 4 out of 5

    R J Mckay

    I received this book from Goodreads in exchange for a review. Many of us remember the old “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy and Ethel are stomping grapes in an old wood-sided vat. It was hilarious. But there is so much more to a good bottle of wine then just crushing the grapes (and by the way it is NOT done by foot ). From the location of the vineyard to the exposure to the sun, from the root stock to the passion of the ones devoted to creating the best wine possible, this book, and the wine it I received this book from Goodreads in exchange for a review. Many of us remember the old “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy and Ethel are stomping grapes in an old wood-sided vat. It was hilarious. But there is so much more to a good bottle of wine then just crushing the grapes (and by the way it is NOT done by foot ). From the location of the vineyard to the exposure to the sun, from the root stock to the passion of the ones devoted to creating the best wine possible, this book, and the wine it represents, is a labor of love. And chemistry plays such a huge part of the mix, not only the chemistry of the soil, but also the chemistry of the people making the wine. Everything must blend seamlessly to create the perfect taste. Thank you Craig and Kathryn Hall for taking us behind the scenes and showing us everything that goes into the making of a bottle of wine. And thank you too for introducing us to Bunny Foo Foo. [I must admit to singing that song while in the shower after reading the introductory chapters of your book.] Cheers!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Keri

    WOW, this book was super cool!!! I have to admit, I have never been to a winery, nor have I ever met "Bunny Foo Foo". When I think of wineries, I do tend to think of the name Napa Valley. To read such an informative book about the Art, Soul, and Business of a winery was very exciting. I have to give it to the Halls, beginning the book with Bunny Foo Foo was a 5 star review in itself. BFF looks beautiful and to read the history behind BFF and it came about, arrived and the assembly process, it de WOW, this book was super cool!!! I have to admit, I have never been to a winery, nor have I ever met "Bunny Foo Foo". When I think of wineries, I do tend to think of the name Napa Valley. To read such an informative book about the Art, Soul, and Business of a winery was very exciting. I have to give it to the Halls, beginning the book with Bunny Foo Foo was a 5 star review in itself. BFF looks beautiful and to read the history behind BFF and it came about, arrived and the assembly process, it definitely makes me want to visit you guys some day!! This book really gives the reader insight on wineries and what makes them and the wine of course. Thank you for allowing me to read and review this book, it was amazing!!!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shelby De Mello

    I was so excited to be able to get my hands on a signed copy from the authors themselves! As an amateur wine lover, it was so fascinating to get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to create a thriving wine business in the Napa Valley. Craig & Kathryn paint a beautiful picture of their enviable lives in wine country and convey their love for the art of winemaking, as well as their appreciation for those who have helped make HALL & WALT what they are today. Cheers to A Perfect Score!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    This was an interesting look into a modern day and prominent family who broke into the closely knit world of Napa wine country and made their mark. It reinforced the notion that to make a small fortune in the wine business, you need to start with large one. If you go into the book anticipating an interesting sneak peek into the Halls' lives rather than a well-written or witty account, you'll enjoy it. This was an interesting look into a modern day and prominent family who broke into the closely knit world of Napa wine country and made their mark. It reinforced the notion that to make a small fortune in the wine business, you need to start with large one. If you go into the book anticipating an interesting sneak peek into the Halls' lives rather than a well-written or witty account, you'll enjoy it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    This is very obviously ghost written book probably intended primarily for ancillary sales in the tasting room. It in places feels very much like a brochure. Still a few of the stories are interesting. I should note that the authors are very rich. They buy their way into Napa, and eat losses that would have sunk more usual business people.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Hated it and did not finish the book. Self indulgent and completely blind to their extreme privilege.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  23. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Hathaway

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dlmrose

  25. 5 out of 5

    JustKate

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ken W

  27. 5 out of 5

    wendy daniels

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shelly Wilfong

  29. 5 out of 5

    Maria

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kduncan

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