The first winery of the day, Hess Collection, is tucked away up in the mountains (like no cell phone service tucked away). Growing grapes in the mountains is a much more nuanced task than in the valley and produces a much greater variety of wine.
Donald Hess owns three wineries in three different countries and he first made his money in the bottled water business. His winery in Napa is actually owned by a brotherhood of monks next door who can’t afford to maintain the winery themselves but were also too sad to let the property go. The Hess Collection, therefore, is on a longterm lease with the brotherhood.
Mr. Hess is also an avid collector of art and supports 20 living artists at all times (he’s way into sustainability of all kinds). This winery displays just 15% of his collection in a really cool, very contemporary museum. I loved it! Phil wasn’t completely sold, however. I think two of his exact quotes: “Wow…not quite like the Italian Renaissance, huh?” and “I guess sometimes you have to see really bad art to appreciate what’s good.”
We took a very informative tour and the wine was overall the best we had all day.
Next, we went to Clos du Val because Phil wanted to go on a tractor ride through some vineyards. He read the guidebook wrong, though, and tractor rides were at a different vineyard. Oops. So instead we just did a wine tasting – you can’t win ‘em all. Clos is one of the oldest wineries in the region which is interesting because it’s been around for less than 40 years. The wine scene, at least in America, is still a relatively new cultural phenomenon…
Finally, based on a recommendation from someone at Hess, we went to check out O’brien Estate. This is a small, family owned winery. The owner, Bart, was a character. He gave us part of the tour and we learned all about him. He was in the software business and “got lucky a couple times” which allowed him the finances to purchase the vineyards. He and his wife have branded their winery around the idea of romance and name each variety of wine after a different aspect or phase of a relationship – Impression, Flirtation, Attraction, Romance of the Heart, Seduction, Passion of the Soul, Devotion, and Reflection. I know what you’re thinking – exactly the kind of winery you’d want to go with your dad. I agree.
It gets better though. Bart and his wife also write poetry relating to that season of love (525,600…) on the back of each bottle. Bart quoted each poem to us by memory and stared directly into my eyes for at least half of them. Thank you, Bart.
“When our eyes met
My heart said hello
Are you the one for whom I long?
Passion of the Soul –
“You are the one
I want to become one with
To intermingle our footsteps
On the sands of time
Will you join
Bart then went on to tell Phil and me that he is currently investing/helping/somehow involved with this couple who is “on the brink” of creating a vaccine that will not only cure, but reduce the effects, of EVERY auto-immune disease that exists.
Software guru turned vintner turned poet turned medical hero. Bart O’brien folks.
In all seriousness though, it was neat to see a tiny vineyard that operates on such a different scope than the majority of the 500+ vineyards in the area. It was also beautiful and they for sure gave us the most wine of all three vineyards! Phil also joined their wine club so I’ll be enjoying romantic wine for many months to come.
All in all, it was a great day. Three beautiful wineries, three delicious meals, and great company (that one’s for you mom!).