Fueled by Family Values and Sustainable Winemaking, Hess Collection Has Become a Leader in Luxury Wine

The Napa Valley winery began its winemaking journey in 1978 on Mount Veeder.

Oct. 2020Written by Kyle TrompeterPhotos provided by Hess

metal entrance sign bearing the hess family lion crest at the hess collection vineyard
owner Donald Hess peers out over the fields at Hess' Napa Valley vineyard
workers load grapes onto a tractor in a vineyard
fog rolls off a vineyard in Napa Valley as the sun rises over the the mountains
scattered grape vines dispersed across the field at Hess' historic Scale House Block vineyard
Hess Chief Winemaker Dave Guffy guides grapes into a bin alongside owner Timothy Persson
Dave Guffy, Stephanie Pope and Alison Rodriguez of Hess' winemaking team pose for a photo in a mountain valley vineyard
Three people peer up at an imploded wine storage tank inside a winemaking facility
rows of stacked wine barrels age in an underground stone cellar

The first thing you might notice about the about brand is the iconic Lion, which is taken from the Hess family crest.

“The family Credo,” said Winemaker Stephanie Pope, “is ‘Live every day with the heart and courage of the Lion.’”

In the mid-1970s, Donald Hess went to California to research a bottled water source for his business and discovered he had a love for Napa Valley wine. He purchased this land on Mount Veeder and launched the Hess Collection brand in 1978.

Sustainability is at the core of the Hess brand. All Hess vineyards are certified under the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, and all facilities are certified under the Napa Green Winery and Napa Green Land programs.

Mount Veeder is the coolest mountain in Napa Valley, allowing for the longest growing season in the region. Due to the steep slopes, almost all the work must be done by hand.

Hess is dedicated to proper water conservation practices, and when necessary, will employ dry-farming techniques. These careful irrigation practices help deliver high-quality berries.

Chief Winemaker Dave Guffy and owner Timothy Persson tend to the harvest.

“During harvest, I continually taste grapes to keep an eye on the maturity of flavors and tannins to ensure the best expression of a particular vineyard,” Guffy said.

Guffy leads a talented team of winemakers, including Stephanie Pope (left) and Alison Rodriguez (right). Pope’s time is spent focusing on the wines growing on Mount Veeder, while Rodriguez leads on the Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as the Hess Select and Hess Shirtail ranges.

In 2014, an earthquake shook the Mount Veeder appellation, causing extensive damage throughout the winery. This 10,000 tank shook so much, the wine inside moved with such force that the entire tank buckled under the pressure.

The talent Hess has cultivated over time, combined with the tried-and-true sustainable farming practices, has resulted in some serious accolades for the winery:

  • • 90+ ratings from Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast
  • • Top 7 Vineyard Owner in Napa Valley
  • • Top Landowner in Mount Veeder
  • • 2018 Hot Prospect Brand by Shanken

When Donald Hess arrived in California during the 1970s, few producers were growing grapes at high altitudes. Some may have thought this to be a winemaking limitation, but Hess embraced it as an opportunity.

Mount Veeder wasn’t exactly uncharted territory as it has been home to high-quality wines since the late 1800s, but the hillside vineyards are a decidedly challenging venture for even the most gifted winemaker, thus the low winery count.

Hess made the call that setting up shop on the steep mountain slopes would be worth the extra effort it takes to execute his vision to its fullest, and the call turned out to be the right one. Now, more than 40 years of Napa Valley winemaking has earned Hess 90+ scores from top wine critics and cemented the brand as one of the region’s finest.

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