You won't find the king of the jungle roaming the vineyards of Napa Valley but the mighty lion provides powerful inspiration for the wines of The Hess Collection. The lion has been the emblem of the Hess Family for nine generations and has come to symbolize their majestic winery home in the highest peaks of Napa Valley in Mount Veeder. The Hess Collection was founded by Swiss entrepreneur and art collector Donald Hess more than a quarter century ago and the next generation of the family is successfully realizing his vision of creating world-class wines from this rugged California terrain. Following the family credo to "Live Each Day with the Heart and Courage of the Lion," The Hess Collection's wines are bold and distinctive.
"As a student I loved Cabernet, especially from Napa Valley, and it inspired me to pursue winemaking. Now, I’m literally on top of Napa, making mountain Cabernets. Mountain fruit is different from valley floor fruit — and so are the wines. They are structured, complex, rich wines, with distinctive tannins, ageability and concentrated fruit.” - Dave Guffy, Director of Winemaking, The Hess Collection
There is certainly no shortage of big red blends in Napa Valley but The Hess Collection's director of winemaking Dave Guffy has a gift for creating bold blends that are also elegant and balanced. One of his favorite blending grapes is Malbec and Hess is one of the largest growers of Malbec in Napa Valley. During our tasting Dave described Malbec as "naturally softening the wine" and this trait inspired the name of the Lion Tamer. A blend of Malbec (55%), Zinfandel (15%), Cabernet Sauvignon (12%), Petite Sirah (10%), and Merlot (8%); the Lion Tamer 2014 ($40) exquisitely exemplifies Guffy's assertion that "We're all about flavor. We're not making widgets." The abundance of Malbec gives Lion Tamer a strong foundation of flavor and aromas that meld exquisitely with the other varieties. Juicy and luscious with flavors of blackberry, plum, licorice, and creamy chocolate; Lion Tamer is a really beautiful wine - it is very enjoyable now and has what it takes to age with finesse.
Malbec plays a smaller, but still important role, in the opulent The Lion Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($175). Produced in the best vintages, The Lion represents the finest Cabernet Sauvignon of The Hess Collection. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (90%), Malbec (8%), and Petite Verdot (2%), The Lion bounds across the palate with concentrated ultra-ripe fruit and precise tannins. Rich black fruit and touches of spice and chocolate round out this robust beauty. All signs indicate that The Lion will age masterfully. If your budget allows, buy one bottle of The Lion to enjoy now and another to imbibe a few years later so that you can taste its evolution.
Lest you think that you have to drain your bank account to enjoy a wine from The Hess Collection, their Napa Valley Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($32) is one of their most popular wines. Their Allomi Vineyard lies in the rolling hills of northeastern Napa Valley and is divided into 35 unique growing blocks with six different Cabernet clones. In each vintage, the winemakers evaluate each block and only select the finest grapes for the final blend. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petite Sirah, 7% Malbec, and 3% Petite Verdot; Allomi 2014 is aged in new American oak which adds warm notes of vanilla and spice to its flavors of fresh red fruit, currants, and blackberry.
Of course, we can't talk about California wines and not mention Chardonnay. The Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay 2014 ($22) is a refreshing reminder that not every Chardonnay from Napa is an over-oaked butter bomb. Round and rich, but still graceful, with supple flavors of peaches, apricots, and Japanese pears that meld nicely with touches of spice and vanilla - this is a very pretty Chardonnay.
If you're planning a visit to Napa, The Hess Collection welcomes visitors for tours and tastings. In addition to enjoying the art of wine, guests can feast their eyes on Donald Hess's private art collection at The Hess Collection Art Museum. Cheers!