Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “In Our Own Backyard” August 2007.
In Our Own Backyard – The Hess Collection Winery
By Kathleen Dreessen
In Our Own Backyard is a series of articles about destinations around the valley. Napa county residents enjoy fabulous weather, picturesque vista and abundant natural resources-so, when was the last time you got out and became a tourist in your own backyard?
In the 19th century, Mt. Veeder was a major tourist destination. Wealthy San Franciscans would vacation in the mountain resort in the “Napa Redwoods.” H. Hudeman, who established the botanical garden estate, built a winery in the 1860s to provide wine for his guests. On that site is now the Hess Collection Winery.
A 10 to 15 minute drive up forested Redwood Road takes you to the winery. It’s a brief trip, but you’ll feel light years from the hustle of the valley floor.
The Visitor’s Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but before you enter, take a while to amble around the gardens. The water lily filled stone reflecting pool was built to honor one of the favorite pastimes of the Victorian guests of the resort—boating on a pond filled with Egyptian lotus.
The interior of the center is a cool, welcome relief from the sun. To your left, a large maple bar is where you’ll find a traditional wine tasting of four Hess Collection wines for $10. A gift shop is located adjacent to the wine bar.
Hess wines come in three collections: Hess Mt. Veeder Series, Hess Vineyard Designate Series and Hess California Series. Dave Guffy, director of winemaking operations, states, “My goal is to make ripe, fruit forward California style wines, both with power and elegance.”
Retail prices run from $9.95 for Hess Select Chardonnay up to $50.00 for 2003 Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon.
Go upstairs for a free, self-guided art tour (an elevator is available). Winery owner Donald Hess began collecting art in the 1960s. Passionate about collecting, Hess works closely with 20 artists, learning what drives them to pursue their art. He supports them until they are established. The result is a gallery filled with whimsy, political statement, color and sheer beauty all mixed into one. Internationally known artists represented include Franz Gertsch, Robert Motherwell, Francis Bacon and Anselm Keifer.
Private tours are available with reservation.
On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Hess Collection holds wine and food pairings by appointment. These consist of a guided gallery tour followed by a tasting of three seasonal wines and appetizers created by Chef Hendrickson. The tastings are held in the winery’s private dining room or VIP tasting room. The “Tour for the Palate” costs $35.00 per person, with a 20% discount for Hess Club members and three of their guests. On a recent warm day, the tasting was held in the private dining room and the view from the balcony was as spectacular as the food and wine.
The winery also offers a cabernet sauvignon tasting of older vintage Reserve Cabernets and their top tier wine, The Lion. The one-hour experience is held in the Barrel Chai (room) and limited to eight people. The cost is $25 per person, no charge for Club members. This is by appointment only.
To celebrate the legacy of Mount Veeder red wines (now the Mount Veeder Appellation of the Napa Valley) the second weekend of every month, Hess Collection Winery opens its 1903 barrel cellar to the public to fill commemorative jugs with vintage red wine.
“We average between 100 and 120 visitors filling their half-gallon jugs,” says Dave Johnson, visitor center manager. “People like it because they’re walking back in Mt. Veeder history. The wine is 93 percent cabernet and seven percent petite verdot.”
Visitors purchase the initial half-gallon jug for $21.00. On the second weekend of the month, they may refill the jug for $18.00.
“Of the 120 who buy the jug, at least half come back for refills,” says Johnson.
Take a drive up the west side of the valley and visit Hess Collection. It’s a quick trip that’s rejuvenating, too.
To make reservations for private tours or the wine and food pairings, phone Dave Johnson at (707) 255-1144 ext. 213. Hess Collection is located at 4411 Redwood Road, Napa, seven miles from Highway 29, exit 19, Trancas/Redwood Road. For further information on the winery and its wines, visit http://www.hesscollection.com.