HESS COLLECTION WINES HELP PUT MOUNT VEEDER AVA ON THE MAP WITH COVETED WINES
by Dwight Casimere
THE SERENE PERGOLA AND MEDITATION GARDENS
When Donald Hess first set eyes on his newly acquired vineyards high on Mount Veeder, he had the vision to look 30 years into the future and predict that he would produce some of Napa Valley's most coveted wines. The steep mountainside vineyards, planted on thin volcanic soil had the capability of producing richly intense, age-worthy wines. What many saw as an impossibility; cultivating quality grapes in steep terrain that would give even a mountain goat pause, and thin, seemingly inhospitable soil barely capable of cultivating anything of value, Hess saw as a unique opportunity. The steep angle of the vineyards allowed the grapes to get more direct sunlight. The thin, rocky and gravely soil had excellent drainage which stressed the vines, causing them to dig deep for nourishment, thus enhancing the intensity of their fruit.
With its sharply angled slopes, high altitude and hidden mountain vineyards, Mount Veeder is one of Napa's most unusual wine growing areas. When Mount Veeder became its own American Viticultural Area (AVA), many industry insiders scratched their heads. Not Donald Hess. He was aware that Mount Veeder had been producing age-worthy wines since the 1860s. Those early pioneers in the wine industry wouldn't have put in the back-breaking work necessary to create quality wines for nothing.
A visit to the tasting room of Hess Collection, along the winding road up Mt. Vedder high above Napa Valley tells you everything you need to know about the wine. The serene setting, from the secluded pergola, to the koi pond and meditation sculpture gardens leading up to the tasting room, suggests quiet elegance and sophistication. The wines reflect careful craftsmanship and aging techniques. Wine and art are i ntertwined at Hess Collection. The two are inseparable. Today, under the stewardship of Daughter and son-in-law Sabrina and Tim Persson (CEO), the winery continues to thrive with the next generation of Hess leadership. Hess Collection is both a world class brand and a unique destination for wine connoisseurs.
The Lion has been the emblem of the Hess family for nine generations. It symbolizes the bold and persevering nature of the founder Donald Hess. "Live each day with the Heart and Courage of the Lion," is the family crede.
The flagship wine, Hess Collection Lion Tamer ($45) is the winery's benchmark and a Napa Valley Classic. An excellent Cab, with a dark blue India Ink color literally washes over the tongue with bold fruit flavors of blackberries, dark plums and after notes of dark chocolate, black pepper, allspice and a touch of vanilla essence on the palate. This is a wine that will appeal to foodies and wine aficionados alike. Have it with a steak cooked over hardwood coals or planked salmon.
2017 Hess Small Block Mount Veeder Gruner Veltliner ($30) is another gem among the new releases. Gruner Veltliner is the signature grape of Austria. Its amazing how well it adapts to the Mount Veeder AVA. Redolent of ripe citrus fruit and a zippy minerality, this is one of the most delightfully light, fresh wines in the Hess Collection. A perfect late summer lunch or brunch wine that goes with anything on the buffet, this is one of the real values in the Hess Collection relative to its delightful taste and versatility.
The Library Wines are a true work of art. 2014 Hess Collection Mt. Vedder Cabernet Sauvignon ($75), is one of the hallmarks of what a great Napa Valley Cab is. This is a classy wine that is very well balanced. For those who are a little tired of the typical heavy handed Cabs of the region, this is a delightful change of pace. With carefully nuanced fruit flavors, it has a wonderful taste and a very clean finish that is simply fantastic. This is a great wine to show of to your friends at dinner, because it will elevate even the simplest dishes. There's nothing fussy about this wine, it simply delivers!
Sustainably Grown, Family Farmed ARTEZIN wines are exclusive to the winery and worth a trip up the mountain. 2014 Artezin Collins Vineyard Zinfandel ($30)is created from grapes from Sonoma's Russian River Valley, famous for great zinfandel. The wine is created from old vine blocks dating from 1934. Layers of deep, dark berries and black cherries make this a real flavor excursion that harkens to the early days of California winemaking and hand crafted technique. Spend an afternoon in your own version of a meditation garden and drink in the deep, dark satisfying flavors.