The Hess Collection was founded by Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess, who first purchased vineyards on Mount Veeder in 1978 and began making wine under The Hess Collection label in 1983. In 1986, he began renovation of the historic winery, originally constructed in 1903 by Colonel Theodore Gier. The winery opened to the public in 1989. The Hess Collection has vineyards on Mount Veeder, along with their Napa Valley estate vineyards - Su'skol and Allomi in Napa Valley, and Shirtail Creek Vineyard in Monterey. Each of these vineyards is sustainably farmed in accordance with Donald's philosophy: "Nurture the land, return what you take."
Learn More About Merlot
Merlot (mehr-LOW) No second fiddle
Merlot is coming back into its own. High popularity led to mass production, which then led to a backlash towards the variety (remember Miles in Sideways?). But passionate Merlot producers, and of course the right bank of Bordeaux, continued to produce quality versions of this grape. Merlot remains the principle grape of top chateaux in St-Émilion
(think Petrus), not to mention its growth in popularity and quality in California and Washington State.
Merlot flourishes both as a single varietal and as a blending agent. It's known
for adding softness to the austere Cabernet
Sauvignon in Bordeaux blends in France, California and elsewhere. Chateau
Petrus, perhaps one of the most expensive and sought-after wines of the world,
is almost 100% Merlot. The grape exudes soft fruit flavors of plum and blackberry,
but it's versatile - the style can change depending on the climate and soil.
Merlot from mountain areas are usually more Cabernet like, with stronger structure
and tannins, while Merlot from valley floor areas and clay-based soils are opulent, with velvelty texture, often approachable when young.
Summing it up
Successful Sites: Bordeaux, California, Washington State, Chile
plum, cherry, blackberry, spice, raspberry
Learn More About California
California has nearly 100 American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) and accounts for almost 90% of wine production in the United States. In our section of Other California, we include wines from smaller AVAs as well as wines from the California AVA. Here are a few smaller AVAs you may see on the label:
Livermore Valley AVA
, located right outside of San Francisco and home to wineries such as Wente.
Lodi County AVA
, an AVA further east of San Francisco and known for its excellent, old-vine Zinfandels.
San Francisco Bay AVA
, a sprawling AVA that covers Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, to name a few.
Wine that holds only the California AVA is typically a wine that includes grapes from a number of different AVAs, which leads to the general labeling of the wine as California. This does not denote the quality of the wine, only the diversity of where the grapes originate.