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Letter: The worst value wines of 2032

Should the Hall Family prevail in developing Walt Ranch, I herewith submit some advance tasting notes for their future marketing department.

Hall Family Vineyards/Walt Ranch — “Bald Ridge” 2027 Reserve Cabernet

Unfortunately, this wine falls far short of the “bottled poetry” declaimed throughout the Napa AVA and could be accurately labeled as “undiluted hubris”. A decade ago (before residents and their elected reps finally halted new vineyard development that would destroy forest ecosystems and fracture wildlife corridors), chainsaws and bulldozers descended on the remote eastern hills of Napa County to clearcut 14,000 native oaks and create Walt Ranch Winery at the Hall Family’s behest. The resulting vintages unfailingly highlight a lucre-driven structure with predominant aromas of greed and myopia, and this cab is no exception. One could be persuaded that there’s no purer expression of place!

This bottle’s remarkable complexity can be attributed to the lengthy legal maneuvers and unconventional methods required to bring it to fruition. Distinctive for its multilayered notes of degradation, signature lingering finish of bitterness and a mouthfeel evoking the dead mud of monoculture, a cab of this caliber pairs best with regret. It’s also a perfect complement to an exercise in hindsight or a robust cautionary tale.

Arguably, such a retrograde red epitomizes what’s possible when there are, in fact, no limits to a deep-pocketed developer’s vision. What remains indisputable is that one taste will inspire you to reexamine what you thought you knew about common sense prohibitions on developing our last remaining wild places and the validity of a world-famous wine region’s reputation.

Price: $175-200/bottle

Societal/Environmental Cost: Incalculable.

Hall Family Vineyards/Walt Ranch - “Quail Run” 2029 Chardonnay

The playful sobriquet belies the ecological ramifications of this misbegotten vintage, but it is nonetheless an apropos, if unwitting, description of provenance. While many wineries have taken great pains to build their reputations by working with the natural elements of place, or terroir, this 2029 Chardonnay more aptly captures the sheer terror felt by countless native species as they fled for their lives to make it possible — including the bottle’s titular critter.

Those partial to chilled whites as their refreshment of choice during our planet’s increasingly warm nights can expect an aggressive, upfront flavor profile characterized by seemingly endless structure and leaving only a faint trace of oak. For a chard, the finish is surprisingly crisp, not unlike the notes presumably paid to purported experts who shame-facedly asserted back in 2021 that planting two seedlings was the equivalent of each established tree cut. Only the most discerning oenophile will detect the subtle, herbaceous hints of green-washing that made such a mitigated negative declaration possible.

Factoring in the lost carbon sink and other associated benefits formerly conferred by an intact ecosystem, it’s shamefully underpriced — if not an outright steal — at $125 a bottle.

To your health!

Marie Dolcini


You can taste wine and smell it. But can you hear it, too? A sound studio in Lyon, France has been working on capturing the unique timbre of any wine.

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