Thursday, August 2, 2018

Hess Select Cabernet and Pinot Noir Deliver California Flavor And Value

Looking for wines from Cali that don’t cost half your paycheck? We uncork two smooth sipping suggestions.

Sustainable and Affordable

Hess Family Wine Estates is a continent-spanning wine empire that includes brands in Napa, Sonoma and Argentina. Donald Hess founded the winery and oversaw the plantings of the first Hess Cabernet Sauvignon on Napa’s Mount Veeder more than 30 years ago.

Hess is focused on sustainability, being a leader in environmental practices in California. Currently they are certified “Napa Green” and follow the dictates of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance Code of Sustainable Winegrowing.

While some of the wines in the Hess Collection can top $300 (for a magnum), the Hess Select range is much easier on the wallet. Prices range from $11 to $20. Hess Select wines originate from Hess estate vineyards in Napa Valley as well as partner growers in Lake, Napa and Mendocino counties. We recently uncorked the Hess Select Central Coast 2016 Pinot Noir and North Coast 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Juicy Bargains

The Central Coast Pinot 2016 vintage highlights grapes from the Sarmenta Vineyard from the Santa Lucia Highlands. The vineyard is located on the benchland of the Gabilan Mountains in Monterey. It’s a perfect Pinot scenario, with Pacific breezes cooling the grapes in the afternoon and allowing them to ripen slowly, developing full flavors.

We paired the Central Coast Pinot Noir with a nice pork tenderloin with balsamic vinegar reduction, tri-colored carrots and some sautéed fennel. Pork and Pinot is a favorite pairing of ours and the Hess Select showed nicely with flavors of ripe berries and a pinch of spice with nice silky tannins.

The Pinot is aged up to a year in neutral French oak, giving nice structure. This is a juicy bargain at only $20. About 5,000 cases were produced.

The 2015 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon is 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petite Sirah, 4% Malbec, 2% Syrah, 2% Merlot and 2% Zinfandel. Aging is for 18 months in 35% new French and American oak.

We opened this as an after dinner wine and were pleased with its smooth drinkability. The alcohol content of the Cab is actually less than the Pinot Noir (13.84% versus 14.3%). This isn’t a bombastic big wine with hard tannins that requires cellaring for a decade. It’s a nice pick for right now.

At $19, we consider this an outstanding value in California Cabernet. Black fruit and cocoa flavor notes blend with ripe cherry and vanilla. It is full bodied with rounded tannins and a satisfying finish.

Don’t have $300 to drop on a magnum? Hess Select wines are a solid and satisfying choice.

Full disclosure: We received this wine as a marketing sample.

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