Get to know Mt. Veeder, headquarters for the HESS Collection

High over the Napa Valley, on the slopes of Mt. Veeder, just 15 minutes from Highway 29, lies HESS Collection Vineyard and Winery, some 2,100 feet from the valley floor. Founded by Swiss winery owner Donald Hess in 1989, the winery has distinguished itself as a producer of fine premium wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.Hess has evolved into one of the deans of worldwide wine making in such far-flung capitals as Australia with Peter Lehmann Winery, South Africa with Glen Carlou and Argentina with Bodega Colume’.HESS farms some 310 acres on Mt. Veeder along with single sites of 175 and 210 acres in Napa Valley. In Monterey, HESS owns 310 acres and produces an excellent value Chardonnay ($10).

Dave Guffy is the hands-on Director of Winemaking for HESS Collection, shown pouring new releases at the Posiedon in Del Mar. Photo by Frank Mangio

Dave Guffy is the HESS Collection’s Director of Winemaking since 1999. He had already gained a solid reputation with Kendall Jackson Wines, producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and some Syrah. Now he had an opportunity to make fine Cabernet Sauvignon. “As a young man I loved Cabernet especially from Napa Valley,” he said. “Now I had a chance to be on top of Napa, literally, making mountain Cab. Mountain fruit is different that valley floor fruit, and so are the wines. They are structured, complex rich wines.”

Nowadays Guffy is also involved in “small block” wines that are blended with some extraordinary varietals. “Malbec brings a softening quality to our Mt. Veeder 19 Block Cuvee 2008,” he said. “The volcanic soils of the mountain and the six varietals, combine to make this Cuvee a delight to the senses.” The wine is aged 16 months in French Oak. Expect aromas of black cherry and ripe plum accented with vanilla and cardamom. As you might imagine it is a big finish wine and my favorite of the group. ($36).

When pressed, Guffy revealed a personal affair with Syrah, so much so his personal residence is a Syrah vineyard. He uses the grape as a key ingredient for his proprietary blends. This time of year, Guffy is walking the HESS vineyards. It isn’t just the grapes. “I need to see the health of the vineyards and what shape everything is in,” he said.

This fact is wrapped in the philosophy of Owner Donald Hess: “Nurture the land, and return what you take.” That way, wines are delivered that speak to their natural origins.

Learn more at hesscolection.com or call (707) 255-1144.

Wine Bytes for Valentine’s Day

— The ultimate Valentine’s Trio: wine, cheese and chocolates will be featured at a class from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 11 at Sbicca’s in Del Mar. Pairings of wine and cheese and wine and chocolate. Five wines will be tasted. The cost is $45 for 1, $84 for 2 people. RSVP at (858) 442-2749.

— Feb. 12 it’s a Valentine’s concert from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Orfila Winery in Escondido. The duo of Mike McGill and Jared Gianquinto play. Call (760) 738-6500, ext. 20 for your RSVP.

— Vino Valentino is the theme of the annual event at Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 12. There will be delicious wines, champagne, food and desserts in the barrel room and tasting room. There will also be live music and horse and carriage rides. Tickets are $60 per person, $110 per couple. Call (858) 487-1866 for reservations.

— Thornton Winery in Temecula is planning a Romantic Rendezvous starting at 7 p.m. Feb. 14. There will be private tables with candlelight. Dinner and wines will be served in the elegant Champagne Room and Caves. The cost is $80 each. RSVP at (951) 699-0099.

— Valentine’s Day in the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 14. The event will feature special touches like champagne, hors d’oeuvres, chocolates, live entertainment, a professional photo, a coffee lounge and more. The cost is $75 per couple. Call (760) 436-3036, ext. 206 for details.

— The Pinnacle Restaurant at Falkner Winery in Temecula has a Valentine’s Dinner on Feb. 12 and Feb. 14. Enjoy four-course meals with individual wine pairings. There will be live entertainment. Seating is at 7 p.m. The cost is $79 per person. Wine Club members are $69. Call the winery at (951) 676-8231, ext 1.

— A Valentine’s four-course dinner featuring live music is planned for the Westgate Hotel, downtown San Diego starting at 6 p.m. Feb. 14. The cost is $79 each, $99 with wine pairings. Reserve now at (619) 557-3655.

— Meritage at Callaway Winery in Temecula is staging a romantic night on Feb. 14 with Chef Henry presenting a Pre Fixe dinner menu with seating at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. A rose will be presented to each lady, plus small bite appetizer and special Callaway Bella Blanc upon seating. Price is $75. Call (951) 587-8889 for an RSVP.

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