Wine and art in Napa
Well away from the hustle, bustle and traffic of the broad and busy valley floor, this lovely winery is a short and scenic trip up the side of Mount Veeder from the town of Napa. From the valley's main north-south road, Highway 29, simply turn west on Redwood Road and follow it up an increasingly steep and winding two-lane road for about six miles until you see the winery sign.
Not just an excellent winery, Hess Collection is also a very fine modern art gallery in a historic building in a spectacularly scenic setting. Here's what you'll find when you get there.
Although Hess Collection doesn't rank among the sought-after (and expensive) "cult" wines of the region, I have found these wines consistently affordable and of very good value. The wines offered for tasting during my visit last week consistently met that criterion. The widely available 1998 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($18.50) and 1996 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($28.50) showed typical ripe Napa fruit with the firm acidic structure that mountain vineyards seem to impart.
Two other excellent wines offered in the tasting room are available only at the winery because of extremely limited production (only a few hundred cases of each): 1997 Napa Valley Zinfandel ($20) displayed the variety's expected mixed-berry fruit in a style more elegant and restrained than many Zins; and 1996 Napa Valley Merlot ($24) offered good cherry and chocolate aromas and the firm acidic structure needed to make it a good companion with food.
If you can't make it in person, you can visit The Hess Collection online at http://www.hesscollection.com/. And, reaching the moral of today's story, if you enjoy wine, a visit to any winery is a worthwhile experience. Even if you don't live in a famous wine region, you probably have small-farm wineries closer to home than you think. The next time you're in the mood for a day trip, you might want to consider a winery tour.
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Excellent Languedoc red
From the Minervois wine region of Languedoc in Southern France, this dark-garnet wine is pleasant and complex, with fragrant black-pepper, leather and spice aromas over ripe black fruit. Full and juicy fruit flavors are consistent with the nose, mouth-filling and long. While it's fully ready to drink, there's no hurry to enjoy this one. U.S. importer: Langdon Shiverick Inc., Cleveland. (Oct. 4, 2000)
FOOD MATCH: A natural with red meat, but its earthy fruit also made a fine cross-cultural match with Szechwan-style noodles in peanut sauce.
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Vol. 2, No. 38, Oct. 9, 2000