The Lion has served as the emblem of The Hess family since long before the inception of the winery in 1978. “Live Each Day with the Heart and Courage of The Lion” is the Hess family credo, and the lion has represented the Hess family for generations. It has come to symbolize the bold and persevering nature of The Hess Collection winery founder Donald Hess, and today, the Lion continues to define the spirit behind the wines of The Hess Collection under the leadership of the next generation of the Hess family—Tim and Sabrina Persson. Donald Hess formally retired from The Hess Collection and Hess Family Wine Estates in 2017 and handed the reins to his daughter Sabrina and son-in-law Timothy Persson. Today, Tim and Sabrina Persson maintain Donald’s commitment to crafting world-renowned wines from the Napa Valley and Mount Veeder that are recognizable for their elegance, and rich, complex flavors.Tim and Sabrina consider themselves stewards of the brand and the land and showing the world that yes, they indeed are the next pride of lions.
“It is an honor to take over from Donald and it is also a bit daunting,” says Sabrina. “We want to honor his legacy and take the winery in an even more luxury direction.” And Tim wholeheartedly agrees. “The future of Hess Family Wine Estates is in luxury,” he says.
Tim was raised in South Africa and Europe, Sabrina in Switzerland and London, but they have found their true calling and their home in the Napa Valley.
They are both committed to maintaining the reputation of The Hess Collection Winery as a world renowned and premier family-owned and family-led company in Napa Valley, but also equipping it for the future and for future generations, like their own young children.What does all this mean for those bottles of wine produced at The Hess Collection wineries? Well, it’s fairly simple. There is now a towering tier of luxury wines starting with The Hess Collection.
The Lion Estate Cabernet Sauvignon represents the bold and courageous spirit that brought Donald Hess to Mount Veeder nearly four decades ago with a vision that the rugged terroir of Mount Veeder could produce wines equal to the world’s finest. “Live Each Day with the Heart and Courage of The Lion” is the Hess Family credo and The Lion Cabernet Sauvignon represents the very best Cabernet Sauvignon Hess produces from their estate vineyards on Mount Veeder in the very best vintages.
The Lioness Estate Chardonnay pays homage to the women of the Hess Family who now lead the pride. This Chardonnay blends the abundance and power of Napa Valley with an agile touch of winemaking to showcase the estate fruit. The 2015 vintage was the inaugural release of this wine.
Hess Collection Estate Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on their Veeder Hills Vineyard and has the traditional red fruit aromas and flavors of the dominant Cabernet Sauvignon. A hint of Malbec adds notes of blueberry, vanilla, cassis, creamy chocolate caramel and oak spice.
Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay Su’skol Vineyard Chardonnay is carefully crafted with the delicate musqué clone to emphasize fruit with wonderful acidity and balance. The wine offers aromas and flavors of apple, white pear and a slight touch of tropical fruits, accented by aromas of honeysuckle.
Hess Collection Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon estate Allomi Vineyard is located in the gently rolling hills of northeastern Napa Valley and serves as the inspiration for this wine. Here, the combination of a typically long, warm growing season and well-drained soils creates optimal ripening conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon. Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon offers distinct notes of vanilla and oak spice with classic red fruit flavors set off by currant and blackberry along with moderate, well-integrated tannins showing a round, plush mouthfeel.
The name “Lion Tamer” has become a nickname for Malbec because head winemaker Dave Guffy uses it as a tannin tamer to soothe powerful tannins–much like a Lion Tamer who uses a deft hand to soothe powerful, instinctive animals. This red blend brings all the roar of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and when blended with Malbec, produces a big, lush wine that finishes with smooth and tamed round tannins.
Lion Tamer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is plush in texture with heady aromas of blackberries, black cherries and notes of freshly ground coffee. Winemaker Dave Guffy again adds a touch of Malbec to the blend to develop a softness in the tannins, making this a wonderfully smooth and seamless wine.
The majestic Lion belongs to the genus Panthera, which is the family of the largest cats. The Lion, or Panthera Leo as it is classified scientifically, is one of the most notable members of this group. The word Panthera is believed to be of East Asian origin, meaning ‘the yellowish animal’ or golden-yellow. As a reflection of this moniker, the Hess winemaking team has crafted a striking golden-yellow Chardonnay that is opulent in style and beautifully textured. Sourced from vineyards in the cooler climate Russian River Valley in the heart of Sonoma County, the Hess winemaking team selects specific, expressive vineyard sites for this classic Russian River Valley Chardonnay.
Tim and Sabrina have a special place in their hearts for this wine. “Take a peek in the wine rack at home and you’ll have no doubt how often MacPhail is a part of the family’s wine selections” says Tim. It’s also not uncommon to see Tim and Sabrina with their kids, Jasper and Yasmine at the MacPhail Tasting Lounge at The Barlow.
The little red wagon on the label pretty much defines the brand. “From the beginning, which isn’t all that long ago, (the first vintage was in 2002) we’ve believed that wine is art with a splash of science,” adds Tim about MacPhail Pinot Noir, a brand that speaks family and fun.
MacPhail Wines are a collaboration between Tim and Sabrina Persson and well-known Winemaker Matt Courtney. The wines are an exploration of the Sonoma and Anderson Valley coastline with the goal to preserve artisanal techniques and capture all the potential in the glass.“A walk in the clouds” is how some describe the vineyards of Bodega Colomé. Founded in 1831 by the Spanish governor of Salta, the winery sits in this northern province and is the oldest continually producing winery in Argentina. Remote and rugged, with vineyards reaching up to 10,206 feet, Colomé boasts some of the highest vineyards in the world. The region’s signature grape varieties, Malbec and Torrontés, flourish here in Colomé’s sustainably farmed vineyards. Malbec was first introduced to the region in 1854, brought from Europe prior to phyllolxera and it truly expresses the terroir and climate of the area.Since 2002, Artezin Zinfandel has been handcrafted by winemaker Randle Johnson and sourced from multi-generational family farms throughout Mendocino County and areas of Sonoma County. Zinfandel was planted in Mendocino, known to many as “the home of Zinfandel” by Italian and Swiss immigrants whose families still tend those vineyards today, using the same sustainable farming methods their parents and grandparents used.For those of you who have never visited The Hess Collection Winery on Mount Veeder, the winery is located in a historic stone winery originally constructed in 1903. The Hess Collection winery opened in 1989. The winery also houses a large, privately owned contemporary Art Museum, a personal favorite stop of mine every time I visit wine country which we will be doing as a company in a few months. However, there are some significant changes to the winery I will be seeing for the first time.The devastating earthquake that struck southern Napa the morning of August 24th back in 2014, caused extensive damage throughout the winery and visitor center and resulted in significant damage to the one particular cellar and the tanks, which housed thousands and thousands of gallons of estate-grown wine. After the initial shock and devastation sunk in, Tim and Sabrina went to work reimagining and re-envisioning a new cellar. Architects were brought in. Plans were drawn. Dreams launched.Extensive earthquake repairs and upgrades were made to the visitor’s center and museum for an even better winery experience. They were able to reopen in 2015 and from what I’ve heard, they succeeded with an even more spectacular experience, something I didn’t think was possible.Of course, the backbone of the winery, the original large cellar that endured the most significant destruction, was a much bigger endeavor. Slowly, the new vision started to materialize. New tanks were built. New spaces designed. And a breathtaking piece of art created from the devastating loss. During the earthquake, a 10,000-gallon tank twisted and buckled. Rather than adding it to landfill or trying to recycle it, Tim Persson had the brilliant idea to place it in the middle of the new cellar as a stunning sculpture, on par with the pieces in the iconic art collection upstairs.
Well, finally, this year, the new Lions Head Cellar officially opened. (And yes, I am beyond excited to see it in person) Besides the tank sculpture, the Lions Head Cellar is equipped with small and boutique tanks designed for luxury winemaking which allows the Hess winemaking team to further improve the wines currently produced and the creative freedom to introduce new wines. There are also unique modern spaces designed for inimitable guest experiences.
The Hess Collection is investing in the future and committing to continual improvements in the winery and the vineyard. Their American Canyon facility, Mount Veeder winery and estate vineyards were recently re-certified sustainable. And they recently purchased the Iron Corral Vineyard, about two miles from their Allomi Vineyard in Pope Valley. It’s 420 acres of which 186 is planted to vine, predominately Cabernet Sauvignon “We have invested in additional Napa vineyards, upgraded our Mount Veeder vineyards and winery,” says Tim, and of course a key new item of business,” we have launched the Lions Head Collection of wines.” He adds, “these investments and a lot of hard work will progressively position us as a leader in the next generation of luxury California wines.”