Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2015

Deep ruby-purple color; black cherry, blackcurrant, baking spice on the nose; cherry, plum, blackberry jam, chocolate on the palate.

Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2015

Dry; medium body; rich, velvety in the mouth; moderate tannins and reserved acidity (3.9 pH)—plush and lush rather than focused and complex. Extremely smooth easy drinker. Some may want more complexity, structure, power in their California cab, but I can see this having great appeal to folks who prefer a delicious, hedonistic, uncomplicated red. Blend of 79% cabernet sauvignon, 11% petite sirah, 4% malbec, 2% syrah, 2% merlot, 2% zinfandel—a parade of North Coast fruits. The petite sirah helps give dark colors, but does not amp up the tannins as it can in some blends.

Mendocino and Lake counties provided these North Coast grapes; Napa, Sonoma, Marin, and Solano are also in the North Coast AVA, but they appear not to have supplied grapes for this effort. Hess winemaker Dave Guffy gives his take on the area and his wine on YouTube: YouTube video by Dave Guffy. I don’t agree with him about the tannins in the 2015 effort, but the video is about the 2014 vintage. Still, you get to meet the winemaker. The videos that follow present the entire Hess Collection—eight wineries on four continents—presented by Donald Hess. It is an enchanting quick view of the Hess operation. Well worth a video visit.

Dave Guffy

Hess Select is the Hess Family Wine Estates entry-level offerings. They feature attractive pricing and good-quality-for-price value. This solidly fits that mold. Hess Family Wine Estates is a family-owned, fifth-generation company committed to responsible agriculture and business practices. The are certified Napa Green, a commitment they have pursued since 1978.

Hess enjoys a storied history in Napa wine. In the 1880s, the families of Fisher, Brandlin, and Streich H. Hudeman settled on the property where the Hess Collection Winery now sits. Hudemann established a botanical garden that included a 12-acre vineyard and small winery. From 1884 to 1990 Rudolph Jordan owned the estate and made significant contributions to winemaking, including being the first to use cool fermentation and inoculated yeast. Col. Theodore Gier, a prominent wine merchant and leader in the California wine industry owned the property from 1900 to 1929. Gier planted more vineyards and built the three-story winery that holds the Hess Collection’s art gallery and its historic barrel chai (an above-ground building that stores wine in casks) today.

The stock market crash ended Grier’s operations, and in 1930 the Christian Brothers purchased the property to establish a new novitiate, school, and winery. The Brothers expanded the winery and began producing Mont La Salle wines, a major provider of Catholic sacramental wines still today, although now from other properties and different owners.

Donald Hess

In 1978, Donald Hess, a Swiss entrepreneur, purchased 900 acres of land on Mount Veeder, with 20 acres planted in wine vines. Looking for space for grape production, he leased the Christian Brothers winery on Mount Veeder in 1986. In 1989, he opened a visitor center and a gallery to present his extensive art collection. In addition to vineyard purchases, Hess also set aside more than 600 acres to support wildlife corridors, fish-friendly farming practices, and biodiversity with the mantra: “nurture the land and return what you take.”

Over succeeding years, Dave Guffy became the second director of winemaking and Hess increased its emphasis on sustainable winegrowing, including helping establish the Napa Green program and gaining certification in 2008. Donald Hess retired in 2011 and Timothy Persson, Donald’s son-in-law, became the CEO, the fifth generation of the Hess family to guide the operation. Timothy is joined by his wife, Sabrina, whose mission is to develop The Hess Collection into a world-class brand and destination.

Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2015 is a no-drama easy drinker that will please many people put off by big and bold cabs. Moderate tannins, relaxed acidity, good fruit giving the illusion of sweetness, throw in a taste of chocolate—a clear winner among a significant part of the wine drinking world. Pair with grilled burgers, sliders, bacon burger with blue cheese; pork tenderloin, Asian chicken salad, pizza, barbecued shrimp. Does not have enough tannin and power to pair best with robust, fatty steak cuts. Works superbly as a solo sipper when you just want to drink an easy-going, delicious cab. $17-19

Hess Collection website

Donald Hess and Timothy Persson
Hess Collection winery
Hess Collection art gallery
Hess Collection barrel room
Hess Collection vineyard