Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk | AspenTimes.com
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Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

In just 12 days, the chefs and foodies and, most importantly for readers of this column, winemakers, come back to Aspen. The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen fires up again and the town will be awash in great wine. While the Classic always provides the opportunity to meet new people and try new wines, perhaps my favorite part of the event is catching up with those folks who come back year after year and learning about their latest projects.One of those I’m looking forward to seeing is Kathryn Hall of HALL Napa Valley. Kathryn is a regular visitor to Food & Wine and she will be joined in the tent this year by HALL’s winemaker, Steve Leveque. Both will pour some of Napa’s best Cabernet Sauvignon (I’m particularly looking forward to tasting wines from the 2006 vintage), as well as their terrific Sauvignon Blanc.She is constantly on the road introducing people to HALL wines, but Kathryn also is a tireless promoter of the Napa Valley in particular and a great ambassador for the California wine industry in general. I use the word ambassador because she knows the ins and outs of diplomacy, having represented the United States as our ambassador to Austria for four years during the Clinton administration.In addition to making exemplary wines, Kathryn and her husband Craig, an entrepreneur, walk the talk as well. This past July, HALL became the first winery in California, and just the second in the nation, to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification for their recently completed facility in St. Helena, Calif. In an industry that is striving to show its green side, the certification was a significant milestone.For the uninitiated, LEED offers builders the opportunity to generate a score on a 1-100 scale that indicates just how energy efficient a building is. There are four different LEED ratings that can be achieved, with Platinum being the pinnacle.To get Gold, HALL had to generate at least 60 points on a flexible scale in categories that ranged from the use of local materials in construction, conservation of water and the efficient generation of power from renewable sources. Once the winery was completed, it underwent a thorough independent audit before the designation was finalized.The most obvious green feature of the winery is the 35,000 square feet of solar panels that cover the facility’s entire roof. These panels use the same sunshine that feeds the grapes to create up to 40 percent of the winery’s energy and power. Less obvious are the use of low-voltage lighting inside the barrel room and the inclusion of radiant-heat floors, which allow for the most energy-efficient heating and cooling inside the facility. In addition, at least 10 percent of all building materials were sourced within 500 miles of the site, just off Highway 29 outside St. Helena.Kathryn and Craig aren’t the only ones receiving attention for their environmental efforts. CADE Winery, a project of the Plumpjack Group, received a Gold certification this past April for its Howell Mountain winery and tasting room. And in Oregon, a number of other structures have either received certification or are in the process of applying for different LEED levels.In the past few years a new awareness of the winemaking’s effects on the environment has taken hold. For some, change comes in the vineyards as many farmers and growers are returning to organic and even biodynamic techniques. For others, the focus is on getting the most out of the winemaking facilities themselves while leaving the lightest possible footprint.Kudos to the entire team at HALL Wines for voluntarily taking a step to help pioneer the newest construction techniques. If you have a chance, stop by and see HALL in the tents next week, raise a glass, and toast Kathryn on her Gold.

Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and a black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at malibukj@wineink.com.


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