A Perfect Score | Book Review / by Brian Yost

A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery, by Craig and Kathryn Hall. New York: Center Street (2016).

It is often said of the wine industry, “if you want to make a small fortune making wine, you need to start with a large fortune.” As I read Craig and Kathryn Hall’s new book, A Perfect Score: The Art, Soul, and Business of a 21st-Century Winery, that adage repeatedly came to mind.

A Perfect Score is filled with useful insights and elements of the industry of which I was unaware or simply had not given much thought. After turning the last page and setting the book aside, I realized I had learned a great deal.

Over the course of twenty years, the Hall’s purchased prime vineyard real estate in Napa. The couple also invested in some of the best winemaking equipment on the market and hired a dream team to oversee every operational aspect. In fairness, Craig and Kathryn Hall approached their winemaking venture as a business and with the goal of making the best possible wine. Toward this end, they were successful and their HALL and WALT wines consistently earn high ratings.

In light of all their heavy expenditures, it might seem convenient to assume that the Hall’s in effect paid for the perfect, 100-point Parker score. In truth, there was a certain amount of luck. At the end of a particularly difficult growing season, a single risky decision (along with a state-of-the-art optical sorter) resulted in a perfect rating for their 2010 Exzellenz, single-varietal Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course there is much more to the story.

The aspect of this book that makes it a compelling read is that the Hall’s were relative novices when they decided to make wine. Indeed, Craig did not even start drinking wine until he met Kathryn. From this humble beginning, they step their reader through each of their decision points and explain every aspect of the business. I must give kudos to the Hall’s for delivering their narrative in terms that are accessible to readers unfamiliar with the industry. In this regard, A Perfect Score is something of a primer, but it is not necessarily directed at beginners.

Despite my best effort to make this book a quick read, I continued to get caught up in various sections. A Perfect Score is filled with useful insights and elements of the industry of which I was unaware or simply had not given much thought. After turning the last page and setting the book aside, I realized I had learned a great deal. From my perspective, there is no higher recommendation.