We recently received three wines from the Hess Collection’s new vintage release as tasting samples, giving us the opportunity to share our tasting notes and a brief history of the property. This tasting offers a tour of Hess Family Wine Estates’ Napa Valley vineyards as well. After tasting these wines I feel the need to visit the historic, family-owned property myself.
The Hess Collection Winery sits on Mount Veeder in a three-story stone winery built in 1903 by Colonel Theodore Gier. Until the financial crash of 1929, Gier expanded his vineyards and made wine on the mountain above Napa Valley. In 1930 the winery became the site of a novitiate, school and expanded winery for the Christian Brothers they called Mont La Salle Winery. Donald Hess is the next name associated with the property, and the Hess Collection Winery made its home there in the extensively renovated property in 1989. Can you imagine the stories that might be told if those walls could talk?
Chardonnay and Bordeaux varieties are the focus of the Hess Collection winemaking team led by Dave Guffy, Director of Winemaking. Grapes are sourced from estate vineyards in three Napa Valley locations. The team utilizes a variety of clones planted in a variety of soils and elevations.
2015 Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay — medium yellow in the glass with hints of ripe pear and a delicate grating of citrus. Complex flavors of melon, pear, and citrus blend with a bit of toast and dusty minerality. This is a Chardonnay with a round mouthfeel, texture and length. It is luxurious, balanced and juicy. 14.2% abv. $22
This is a Chardonnay that would convince even the anything but Chardonnay drinker in your crowd to love the variety. The Chardonnay is sourced from the Su’skol Vineyard, which benefits from cooling breezes blowing off nearby San Pablo Bay. The 175-acre American Canyon vineyard is planted to nine Chardonnay clones and winemaking techniques are intended to preserve the fruit character of the variety.
70% of the Chardonnay was fermented in stainless steel. The remaining 30% in oak, with just 19% new French oak, and only 30% went through malolactic fermentation. Oak aging for 9 months, with 4 months spent on the lees, rounds out the winemaking protocol for this interesting and complex Chardonnay.
2015 Hess Collection Allomi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon — medium ruby in the glass. Generous aromas of ripe plums, crushed flower stems and cedar spice are followed by dark fruit, hints of allspice, dusty earth, leather and coffee. Tannins are smooth and well integrated with the flavors in this medium-bodied wine. The finish is at least medium in length in a wine that is lush, if a bit hot, without tasting overripe. 14.8% abv. $32
The Allomi Vineyard is located in the Pope Valley in northeastern Napa Valley. According to the winery, “When much of Napa sees the summer fog, our Allomi Vineyard is often on the flip side, enjoying a bit of heat, which is just the thing for Cabernet Sauvignon. Pope Valley is less well known than some notable Napa locations but the combination of steady heat and well-drained clay loam soils allows fruit to ripen evenly, gaining welcomed complexity and layers of flavors.”
Allomi Vineyard, a 210-acre vineyard is planted to six Cabernet clones, and results in 35 individual growing blocks. The 2015 Allomi Cabernet is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Petite Verdot. Aging took place for 18 months in 25% new American oak.
2014 Hess Collection Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon — dense ruby in the glass with generous aromas of plums, dark fruit and cedar. Complex flavors of blackberries, plums and dried currants are backed by dusty earth, leather and cedar. Bright acidity keeps the flavors lively in this medium+ bodied wine. Ample, grippy tannins are notable, but in proportion to the complex flavor profile. The is a serious, contemplative wine that commands your attention and a substantial meal. 14.6% abv. $65
Veeder Hills Vineyard, which lies at elevations of 600 to 1,120 feet above sea level, is the source of grapes for this bottling. The elevation, combined with sedimentary clay and shale soils along with mountain slopes is what Mount Veeder growing condition are all about. The combination of geology, wind and temperature produces very small berries, which means a high ratio of grape skins to pulp. This results in wines with concentrated flavors and significant tannins.
The Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon was aged for 22 months in 80% new French oak barrels.
The Hess Collection is part of the Hess Family Wine Estates. Other Hess Family Wine Estates wineries include Hess Select, Bodega Colomé, Amalaya, MacPhail, Glen Carlou, Artezin and Shirtail Ranches. Wineries to make note of, certainly.