Friday, March 16, 2018

Lunch With The Hess Collection: Mount Veeder, Su’skol and Salta

"When I first saw these hills of Mt Veeder, I was attracted by its beauty", Donald Hess founder of the Hess Collection Winery

But Hess also believed that good grapes were grown on hillsides as was his experience visiting the great wineries of Europe. And on Mount Veeder the vines are virtually clinging to the sides of the mountain and the AVA is the highest and coolest in Napa. Thus in 1978 Donald Hess, whose Swiss pedigree included generations of Bern brewers, acquired his first parcels on Veeder. These holdings gradually expanded to 900 acres plus 125 acres leased from the historic The Christian Brothers -- who had already been leasing several historic winery buildings to Hess since 1986. And in 1995 Hess planted the Su’skol Vineyard in Napa Valley closer to the cooling influences of the San Pablo Bay.

I learned these facts and many more during a luncheon this week at BLT Steak that was sponsored by the Hess Collection Winery - with Nicole Carter (Chief Marketing Officer and ​Director of Winemaking) and CEO ​John Grant. Over several wines they discussed all aspects of the winery from its historical roots, current fifth generation leadership, sustainable viticulture, the Hess family's support of the arts, the Napa fires, and the entire Hess Family Wine Estates portfolio -- comprising The Hess Collection, Artezin, MacPhail Family Wines, Colomé and Amalaya. Here is the background of the wines poured at the event as well as more information concerning the portfolio. Cheers.

2015 The Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay ($22) - made from Su’skol Vineyard grapes where the vineyards are cooled by the morning fog and afternoon breezes generated by the San Pablo Bay -- located 10 miles away.  Only 30% of the fruit undergoes malo-latic fermentation in which the process provides a mild dose of creaminess and lift without becoming overbearing. Instead, the floral aromatics, green apple flavors, and bright acids dominate the experience.

2015 The Hess Collection The Lioness Napa Valley Chardonnay  ($60) - the Hess Family crest and credo is “live each day with the heart and courage of the lion” and this wine was named to honor the Hess women. Sourced from the best lots in the Su’skol Vineyard, the juice was barrel fermented and only selected barrels participated in the final blend. This is a powerful, yet fresh Chardonnay where the texture derives from ample lees stirring. It also exhibits a minty character and finishes with considerable length. Wish it was in the weekly budget.

2015 The Hess Collection Napa Valley "Allomi" Cabernet Sauvignon ($32)  - the grapes are sourced from the winery's Allomi Vineyard located in the warmer Pope Valley. The wine includes 6% Petit Sirah which Ms Carter states "keeps Sauvignon from going flabby". This wine is pure pleasure, full bodied dark fruit, structured, integrated tannins and persistent acids.

2016 Colomé Autentico Malbec ($25) - represents even more Wines with Altitude from historic Bodega Colomé which was founded in Salta Argentina in 1831. The winery and estate vineyard are located at 7,545 feet above sea level and operates three other vineyards ranging from 5,750 (La Brava Estate) to 10,200 (Altura Máxima Estate) feet above sea level. This last could be the highest vineyard in the world. The Hess Collecton's original winemaker Randle Johnson is the consulting winemaker for Colomé and the team produces an "autentico" Malbec which translates to unoaked. This method showcases the fruit with it's cherry pepper nose, big flavor profile, subtle but noticeable tannins (thick grape skins) and dominating acids. Nicely done.

2015 The Hess Collection Napa Valley Lion Tamer Red Blend ($45) - what a unique blend of Malbec (50%), Zinfandel (23%), Petite Sirah (11%), Cabernet Sauvignon (6%), Petit Verdot (4%), Merlot (4%), and Mouvedre (2%). The Lion Tamer refers specifically to Malbec as Hess utilizes the grape to tame tannins from other varieties. According to Carter, the secret ingredient was the Mouvedre which contributed just enough bright fruit to ignite the palate.  This is one juicy wine with the own rooted Malbec loaded with flavor and the other grape varieties adding additional nuances. So different, so very different.

2013 The Hess Collection Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon ($65) - derived from the estate Vedder Hills Vineyard situated from 600 to 1,120 feet above sea level where several of the historic blocks had been replanted. The blend includes 18% Malbec which apparently is needed to tame the additional tannins from 22 months of predominately new French Oak aging. Peppermint greets the nose, followed by multiple layers of fruit, vanilla, and spices. And as all the wines, lively acidity lengthens the finish.

2014 The Hess Collection The Lion Cabernet Sauvignon ($185) - this is the winery's highest end Cabernet Sauvignon and most likely out of a majority of our budgets. It surfaces only during signature vintages using selective fruit from their Mount Veeder vineyards. The blend includes 17% Malbec and 1% Petite Verdot and undergoes a similar oak treatment as the Mount Veeder Cabernet. This wine equals structure as the juice melts in the palate with a tail lift from spices and acids. No doubt, a special treat.

No comments: