Hess Select North Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Medium yellow color; lime, lemon, tropical fruits, small blade of grass on the nose; lime, lemon, green melon, pineapple, gooseberry, hint of ripe pear on the palate.

Hess Select North Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Extra dry; nice sauv blanc acidity (3.31 pH). Distinct, juicy citrus and tropical fruits from 100% stainless steel fermentation and cool weather August through harvest that allowed for greater hang time and riper fruits while not usurping the acidity that makes sauv blanc such a food-friendly pour. Made with 100% sauv blanc grapes.

Rich texture, medium-full body. Some reviewers noted vegetables and herbs intruded on the fruit; if those notes are there, they were so muted I missed them. 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. In addition to The Hess Collection, of which Hess Select is a part, they produce Artezin, Colomé and Amalaya, and MacPhail Wines.

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, is joined by his wife, Sabrina, whose mission is to develop The Hess Collection into a world-class brand and destination. Randle Johnson is the winemaker for this effort; he holds an MS in viticulture from Cal-Davis. When asked why he focuses on zin, Johnson replies: “Because this stuff is awesomely cool.”

Dave Guffy

Hess Select North Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2016 presents rich, rounded citrus and tropical fruits, good acidity, nice balance and an impressive finish, soft finish for a wine at this price point. With its hint of sweetness, both from nip of residual sugar and the ripe fruitiness, this will easily please palates of folks intimidated by more assertive wines. It was made to be a big crowd pleaser, and succeeds. Pair with salads and vegetables, shellfish, seafood and lighter freshwater fish, prosciutto dishes, fresh basil and tomatoes, fresh goat cheese. $12-13

Hess Collection website

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