The Napa Valley, Mount Veeder Appellation autumn wine tasting for 2015 was held on September 19 at the Hess Collection winery. The winery is well up off the valley floor in the southwest Napa Valley, high on the slopes of Mount Veeder. The drive ascending the mountain is always exhilarating through stands of fir and redwoods, and was especially so with the temperate sunny weather on this day.
Located next to the Christian Brothers Mont La Salle Retreat, Conference Center, and Chapel, the Hess Collection houses a contemporary art collection as well as extensive wine making facilities. The winery’s massive, picturesque stone building provided a dramatic backdrop for the event. The Mount Veeder tasting is often held here, but occasionally moves to other spots. A live band provided acoustical backdrop, and delicious hors d’oeuvres extended the opportunity to pair food with the wines. However, the Mount Veeder wines of altitude were the centerpiece.
The 20 growers raising grapes on Mount Veeder and the 22 producing wineries in the Mount Veeder Appellation are blessed with a terroir that yields wines offering excellent concentration and brightness. Daytime temperatures are the coolest as well as the most temperate in Napa Valley, except for Carneros. The position of Mount Veeder in the far south of the Valley means a notable marine influence from the not too distant bay and waterways. The net result is a mild summer providing slow, even growth and ripening during the season. This extended hang time on the vine at this location tends to ensure that grapes reach complete physiological maturity. The cooler climate also permits better acid retention in the grapes, thus allowing more vigorous wines with a fresh character.
My Tasting Notes
90, Chardonnay, The Hess Collection, Mount Veeder, 2013, $40
Delicate aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle rise off this Chardonnay sourced from the Veeder Summit Vineyard, Hess’s highest. Three Musqué Chardonnay clones are planted at altitude on steep rocky slopes1,300 to 2,000 feet above sea level. The numerous tears gliding down the glass and the sappy feel on the palate evidence the viscosity of this full bodied wine. Packed with rich, ripe, very sweet fruit, this is a lovely example of mountain Chardonnay.
90, Malbec, The Hess Collection, Small Block Series, Mt. Veeder, 2012, $55
The Hess Collection Small Block Series produces wines from blocks of vines having exceptional characteristics. This 2012 Mount Veeder Malbec is a delicious example of that series. Aromas of dark fruit open the wine, with notes of blueberries and chocolate. Sweet blackberry jam follows on the rich mid-palate, entwined with hints of coffee and spice. This is a full bodied wine that maintains good balance, sports managed tannins, and leaves a lingering finish.
90, Cabernet Sauvignon, The Hess Collection, 2012, $60
This ruby-purple 2012 is a delicious, medium bodied Cabernet from The Hess Collection. The aromas of blue fruit and vanilla that open this delicious 2012 from Hess are followed with notes of caramel and milk chocolate on the palate. A vein of acid runs through this well made wine providing freshness, and the flavor-filled finish persists.
91, Tribidrag, Lagier Meridith, Mount Veeder, 2013, $45.
The intriguing name Tribidrag was a Yugoslavian term for the Zinfandel grape in the Middle Ages. Then, the grape was plentiful on vines along the Yugoslavia’s Dalmatian Coast, playing a significant role in the Adriatic wine trade in the 14th Century. This lovely effort by Steve Lagier, wine industry veteran, and Carole Meridith, has an alluring aroma profile with notes of spice, cranberries, and honey. Aged for 17 months in neutral French oak barrels, the wine carries good balance. The unique character of this small production wine (137 cases) is attributed by Lagier Meridith to their particular vineyard site on Mount Veeder. Tribidrag from Lagier Meridith is a unique and beautiful expression of Zinfandel. It is fitting that former UC Davis viticulture professor and Vintners Hall of Fame inductee Carol Meridith was involved in producing this outstanding wine, because she also played a part in determining the origin of the Zinfandel grape.
90, Mondeuse, Lagier Meridith, Mount Veeder, 2012, $42
The Mondeuse grape is found mainly in the Savoie region in eastern France, and to a very minor extent in parts of the New World such as the patch grown by Lagier Meridith with which they have produced this captivating 2013. Plentiful extract and sweet dark fruit are displayed on the palate with hints of dark plums, forest floor, dark chocolate, and spice box common in the Lagier Meridith terroir. Good balance, smooth tannins, and a light texture follow through to the lingering finish on this uncommon and expressive wine.
90, Rosé, Lagier Meridith, Mount Veeder, 2014, $20
This Rosé blend of Syrah, Mondeuse, Zinfandel, and Malbec from the Lagier Meridith vineyard is fresh and lively with its traditional dry character and racy vein of acid. Along with aromas of stones and wild red berries, fine purity of fruit is evident along with a succinct personality in this light bodied effort. Its freshness will make this wine into an excellent food mate.
90, Chardonnay, Mayacamas Vineyards & Winery, Mount Veeder, 2013.
The oldest producing vines at Mayacamas Vineyards on Mount Veeder’s volcanic soil are their Chardonnay Terraces residing at an altitude of 2,000 feet above sea level. These vines are dry farmed with the goal of producing small, highly concentrated berries. This 2013 Mayacamas Chardonnay is loaded with aromas of honeysuckle, pear, with mineral notes. The rich, sweet fruit in this well balanced wine also shows fine purity. Notable viscosity of this Chardonnay is evident and adds substance to the touch and feel of this superb and elegant wine.
90, Cabernet Sauvignon, O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery, Mount Veeder, 2012
Very dark purple in color, this is a big, full bodied wine packed with black fruit. Intense in character, the wine also has subtleties like peony in the aroma which add a contrasting dimension. Powerful and highly extracted, the tannins are not overbearing and will contribute during bottle aging.
90, Trinity Blanc, Progeny, $60
Quite light gold in color, the aroma carries delicate fragrances of white flowers and orange blossoms in this Rhone style white blend. Light to medium bodied, this wine shows good intensity on the palate with a pleasing absinthial nuance on the enduring finish.
91, Rubissow, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve Estate, $135
This seductive, ruby-purple 100% Cabernet from Rubissow has a great taste profile filled with red and black fruit. Sweet, ripe blackberries, black currants, and raspberries immerse the center palate, all intertwined with a smooth, light texture. Medium bodied with good intensity, the acid level adds to its fresh quality and presence. An impressive effort.
92, Alden Perry Reserve, Yates Family Vineyard, 2010
The most impressive characteristic about this wine is the great purity of bright fruit evident in both the aroma and taste. Lovely ripe cranberries, wild berries, and a plum nuance predominate on the palate. This wine is packed with fresh mountain concentration and intensity as Yates wines usually are. The tannins provide a solid but agile frame, yet the wine sports a supple, smooth touch and feel.