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Perched high on Mount Veeder above Napa Valley, the Hess Collection Winery reflects the twin passions of founder Donald Hess: art and wine. Hess, a Swiss businessman (Valser bottled water), first leased the winery's 1901 limestone building back in the mid-1980s. When the extensively renovated property opened to visitors in 1989, it included not only a modern winemaking facility but also 13,000 square feet of loftlike gallery space on the second and third floors to house part of Hess's collection of late-20th-century artwork. Amid the expanses of stone and polished natural wood are paintings and sculptures by the likes of Francis Bacon and—as something of a signature piece for the winery—Leopoldo Maler's flaming typewriter.

The core of Hess's mountainside vineyards, on the other hand, dates from the early 20th century; they were planted in the 1930s, when the property was a winery run by the Christian Brothers, who made the old Mont La Salle brand there. Even after much replanting in subsequent decades, the vines average about 20 years of age, giving Dave Guffy, Hess's director of winemaking, the kind of raw material he relishes. Says Guffy, "Our wines reflect the sense of place here on Mount Veeder, where the old vines struggle to produce a small yield—about two tons to the acre—of very intense fruit."

Hess Collection Cabernet is made from these steep, volcanic vineyards (there are also less pricey Estate and Select wines). The 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon ($35) is fruit-forward and luscious, with a dark-berry flavor that epitomizes the Hess style and complements winery chef John Vlandis's herb-roasted lamb dish.

—Richard Nalley

Published February 2004


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