Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay 2019
As fifth generation Hess family, Tim and Sabrina consider themselves stewards of the brand and the land. When Donald Hess came to California in the 1970s, he was attracted to California wine and became fascinated with Mount Veeder. Although few in Napa Valley were cultivating vines at elevation, Donald Hess believed the volcanic slopes of Mount Veeder provided the ideal combination of soils and microclimates to yield elegant wines with rich, complex flavors.
A pioneer by nature, Donald Hess was determined to defy convention and pursue winemaking at elevation, so in 1978, he established The Hess Collection Winery on the site of one of the region’s oldest wineries. He took the opportunity to marry his two creative passions in life—wine and art—and he established an art gallery within the winery as a means of sharing his private art collection. Donald Hess and his wife, Ursula, met through their shared love of art, and today, Ursula’s daughter, Sabrina, and her husband, Tim, continue the family legacy of sharing wine and art and the family’s ongoing commitment to making both accessible to all.
Tim and Sabrina have chosen to call the Napa Valley their home. Tim was raised in Southern Africa and Europe, Sabrina raised in Switzerland and London, but the Napa Valley is where they have found their true calling. They strive to impart their own influence on the winery and support state-of-the-art innovations. Together, they continue to advance The Hess Collection as one of the premier family-owned and family-led companies in Napa Valley, and they are hopeful that someday their children too will carry on the Hess family heritage.
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960s, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980s, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. White wines from Napa Valley are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific wine characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those are the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth red wines with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Napa Valley wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.