If there is one winery that is worth venturing off the beaten path in Napa for it is The Hess Collection. What seems like a long and windy trail high into Mt. Veeder is really only a 15-minute drive off of Highway 29.
What you’ll find inside this historic, stone barn is an art collection that even MOMA would be proud to display. I couldn’t help being wowed by the 1,300 square feet of impressive art installations. It turns out it is less than a quarter of what Donald Hess owns. Hess is a private collector, a Swiss entrepreneur, and of course owner of The Hess Collection Winery.
First planted in 1860 by the Christian Brothers, the vineyard at Hess has a long and important history. My guide, wine educator, Michael Jobes, first took me out to see many of these old vines, which are only used for demonstration purposes now.
“Sustainability in the vineyard is our main focus,” Jobes pointed out. “We leave the land exactly the way we found it, no pesticides, no herbicides. We use goats to keep the grass down.” I learned that the winery releases more than 100 goats into the vineyards prior to bud break to help with weed control and chickens are used to control the bug population.
The Hess Collection Winery was among the first 10 wineries to receive certification for the Napa Green Winery program, and is one of only six wineries to have both Land and Winery certifications. Of their 1,000 acres, they only farm 340 acres for grapes.
We’ve all seen Hess Select on the shelves at wine stores and supermarkets. But what you may not realize is that is their entry-level wine. Many of the wines you’ll taste when you visit Hess are only available at the winery, and are exceptional examples of Napa Valley wines. Be sure to try the Hess Collection Mount Veeder Estate wines and the Hess Napa Valley label wines. With a total production of 750,000 cases per year (and about 500,000 cases of that are under the Select label) they are one of the larger producers. Hess is most well known for their flagship Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines.
If you’re buying Small Block Wines at the tasting room, the winery will donate one percent of your purchase to the ‘1% For The Planet’ program which benefits local groups who promote sustainability, most often the Land Trust of Napa Valley.
In addition to The Hess Collection Winery in the Napa Valley, Hess Family Estates have wineries in Argentina (Amalaya, Colomé), South Africa (Glen Carlou), Australia (Peter Lehmann), and Northern California (Artezin, Macphail Family Wines, Sequana).
After the gallery visit, you may also enter a little screening room to watch a video about the winery. It also gives you a great overview of the microclimates and terroir in the Napa Valley area and activities on the vineyard throughout the seasons. It was great to see a winery explain in a broad sense why the region is so special. The sandstone tasting room is beautifully done and I enjoyed tasting many of their premium label wines only available at the winery. One thing is for sure, Hess may be off the beaten path, but it is definitely worth the drive.
The Hess Collection Winery is a little out of the way from the rest of Napa’s wineries so allow an extra 20 minutes to get there if you are coming from Yountville or nearby. With the art gallery and video about the estate, along with a tasting and a tour if you are doing one, you may want to allocate about 90 minutes to two hours for your visit.
9/10 Overall visitor experience
9/10 Knowledge of guide
8/10 Architecture and design, landscaping
9/10 Other experiences: Art gallery, cheese plates, private tours, vineyard tours
9/10 Knowledge of tasting room staff
9/10 Friendliness of staff
8/10 Signage & ease of access
9/10 Quality of the wines poured
Appointment required: No, but online reservations are recommended
Address: 4411 Redwood Road, Napa, CA 94558
Tasting room hours: 10:00am – 5:30pm
Tasting fees and experiences:
- $10 per person – Taste four current release wines, many available only at the winery. Groups of more than 8 people should make advance reservations. (As of Oct 1 2013, the tasting fee will rise to $15 per person.)
- $25 per person – Private Tour & Wine Tasting: Daily, advanced reservations requested. (As of Oct 1 2013, the private tasting fee will rise to $30 per person.)
- $85 per person – Tour Of The Palate: Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 2:00 p.m., advanced reservations required.
- $65 per person – Tour, Wine & Chocolate Experience: Daily, advanced reservations required.
- $65 per person – Tour, Wine & Cheese Pairing: Daily, advanced reservations required.
- $40 per person – Wine Educational Tour & Tasting Tutorial, periodically on Sunday afternoons, advanced reservations required.
- $30 per person – Wine & Cheese Tasting In The Garden Courtyard: Available weather permitting, Spring through Fall, Groups of 8 or less. Reservations required.
Good for: Art lovers, Cabernet enthusiasts, groups
Wines produced: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Merlot, Zinfandel, Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Gris, Syrah Rosé and Orange Muscat. Hess labels include: Hess Collection Mount Veeder Estate wines, Hess Napa Valley wines and Hess Select wines.
Appellation/District: Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley
Contact for appointments: Call the concierge, Ashley Cox at 707-255-1144 x 226 or by email: ACox@hesscollection.com
Date of visit: July 15, 2013