Wine of the Week-The Hess Collection Allomi 2018 Napa Valley Chardonnay-$36
A Napa Valley Chard of Biblical proportions
Dwight Casimere | 1/20/2021, 6 a.m.
The story of The Hess Collection winery on the volcanic slopes of Napa Valley’s Mount Veeder appellation almost has a Biblical tone. More on that later.
Its most celebrated wine is Chardonnay. Face it, there’s nothing quite like a California Chard and certainly, no wine from any region is more distinctive. It’s bright flavor with layers of citrus and stone fruit, oak and spice, with just a hint of the dark, volcanic soil that birthed it, is evocative. You don’t have to be a trained wine expert to know when you have some in your glass.
Among all the great labels, and there are many, The Hess Collection Allomi Chardonnay stands out in a class all by itself. For that reason, it is this week’s Wine of the Week.
The Allomi is one of the coolest growing regions within southern Napa Valley. Its prized vineyards and luscious grapes are the source and inspiration for the entire family of Allomi wines created by The Hess Collection.
Their Napa Valley Allomi Chardonnay 2018 ($36) delivers everything Napa Valley is famed for in a Chardonnay. It has enticing aromas of vanilla and poached pears, followed by the rich, creamy flavors of ripe peaches, vanilla custard, hints of shaved almonds and a dusting of cinnamon.
The finish is long and mouthwatering, with just a splash of tangy citrus that makes you thirst for more. It’s easy to go through a bottle in no time, especially when its paired with some runny Brie cheese slathered on crunchy slices of sesame coated French bread.
Have a second bottle on hand already opened and allowed to breathe before diving into a main course of Mandarin Orange Chicken or Lime-marinated Shrimp Tacos with sliced avocado and Serrano chili flakes.
Five generations of the Hess family have shepherded great California wines to market since the Swiss-born Donald Hess came to California in 1970. Initially, he had wanted to duplicate Perrier’s success in the U.S with bottled water. He had previously developed the mineral water brand Valser Wasser in his native Switzerland. The much-vaunted mineral springs of Calistoga caught his attention, so he ventured to Northern California in hopes of starting his new venture there.
A side trip to Napa Valley changed all of that. He tasted some of the local wine, chief among them Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, which only recently had achieved its historic win at the Judgment of Paris wine competition in 1976.
“That was it. I decided right then and there, that instead of water, I would make wine!” Hess is quoted as saying. (Now you have the Biblical part!).
At first, Hess only planned to grow wine grapes and sell them off to local producers. But, after buying the old Christian Brothers winery on Mount Veeder, he decided to make a wine of his own. “This is where some of the first Napa Valley wine was produced in the 1860s,” Stare once observed. In order to fill its vast monastic space, he decided to install his massive art collection. It was a stroke of genius.
“It not only gave me an opportunity to liberate my art collection from crates and boxes, it was also a way to attract visitors, who were pretty unlikely to come up to Mount Veeder otherwise.”
Mount Veeder also provided the ideal combination of soil and microclimate that allowed Hess to create wines of uncommon elegance.
Tim and Sabrina Hess are the current stewards of Donald Hess’s legacy. Their leadership has made Hess Collection one of Napa Valley’s premier family-owned and operated wineries.
I have been to the Hess winery on several occasions and have found all of their wines to possess a singular rare quality.
Each time, as I careened along the hairpin turns of Mt. Veeder to get to their isolated location, there was a sense of anticipation. Each step past their Serene Pergola and through the Meditation Garden, and past the Koi pond to step into their art-lined tasting room seemed like an eternity. Finally, after a warm greeting from the tasting room staff, there is wine in my Schott Zwiesel glass. The first sip is sheer bliss!
The Hess family has achieved the extraordinary. They have mastered the art of pouring heritage into a bottle. For more information, visit hesscollection.com.