Rainy start and a sunny finish proved to be a great time

Courtyard at The Hess Collection

Courtyard at The Hess Collection

This past Saturday, Sept. 21st the Mount Veeder Appellation Association held their 14th Annual Fall tasting event at the Hess Collection winery.

Due west of the city of Napa lies the southern portion of the Mayacamas Mountains that separates the Sonoma and Napa valleys.  It’s high point is Mount Veeder which rises 2,700 feet above the valley floor.

Born of an ancient sea bed, the mountain AVA has a distinct mix of shallow volcanic and sedimentary soil that retains very little water. It is this soil plus the elevated rugged slopes of the vineyards that produces the small concentrated grapes typical of Napa’s mountain regions.

To the south, the strong influence of San Pablo Bay allows varietals such as Syrah and even Chardonnay to thrive. The center and North is exceptional Bordeaux varietal country producing stunning Cabernet, Malbec, and Cab. Franc.

As our readers know, we are huge mountain wine fans but it is Mount Veeder that has truly captured our heart. For more detailed information please see our recent AVA Spotlight that covers the history, terrain, and weather that combine to make these spectacular wines.

The Event

As we drove through Carneros in the biggest torrential rain we’ve seen since 2012, our thoughts immediately turned to the very poor weather forecast. What was supposed to be a few showers turned into a near winter storm. Of course the timing couldn’t be worse as we were heading to the 2013 Mount Veeder Appellation Tasting held again this year at the Hess Collection. This being September you would not think a rain out was possible but here we were slogging up the mountain in some very serious rain.

As we arrived we saw all hands on deck spreading tarps and trying to sweep off the standing water from the beautiful but soggy Hess courtyard. Despite the issues at hand, the staff had the event off to a fine start and on time.

As with last year, Hess Executive Chef Chad Hendrickson had some amazing small bites that paired perfectly with the Mount Veeder wines. A cornucopia of meats, cheeses, breads and dessert bites were brilliantly presented. Our favorite was a tangy shrimp cup that worked with both the reds and whites.

The tarps kept us dry while tasting

The tarps kept us dry while tasting

The Music

The Hummingbirdz Blues Band

The Hummingbirdz Blues Band

You could certainly understand if the band didn’t put on a very good show. Every time they got their gear set up and removed from the tarps the rain started again. The situation is similar to a baseball pitcher who warms up but doesn’t get in the game…  three or four times!

Finally the rain quit and the band was able to get going.. and get going they did. This was one of the best performances we’ve seen from them! Harmonica player and band leader Don Haag was brilliant turning out some very impressive solos and the band was right there with him. The patrons had a blast listening to these guys as you could see them bopping about from table to table. Although they lost an hour to the rain it was a great to get some terrific blues music to accompany the great wines.

Don told us he and the guitar player Bob White will be doing an “unplugged” set or two at the Howell Mountain tasting in November. Can’t wait!!

For More Info


The Wine


Some Wonderful Whites

We do like to stick to our routines and one is to hit the white wines first. There were some very good whites this time around!

2012 Hess Small Block Series Albariño 
Price: $28
A very nicely priced wine that tastes like pure luxury. Crisp floral and spice notes on the nose give way to tangy nectarine, citrus, and grapefruit. Finish is bright and refreshing.

Y. Rousseau 2010 Chardonnay Milady
Price: $36
Another great value considering that high quality Chardonnay is averaging around $50. Bright floral and citrus on the nose leads to more citrus and apple on the mid. Finish is crisp with some mineral notes. Balance is quite impressive.

2012 Yates Family Viognier
Price: $38
A very impressive and lushly opulent white wine. We’re huge Yates fans but have not had this one before. We most certainly will again! Wonderful notes of peach, nectarine, and honey combine to make a balanced and delicate wine. Grab your sushi and break out the wasabi, ginger, and soy with a bottle of this new favorite.

2011 Spotted Owl Chardonnay
Price: $45
Bright and focused citrus and hints of pear are the highlights of this nicely balanced and refreshing Chard. This is a rather light style that will pair perfectly with summer salads and white fish on the grill.

Malbec Rising

Although Malbec has been grown on the mountain for a while, it has mostly been used in blending for the delicious Cabs. However, several producers are now offering single bottlings and they are quite impressive.

2010 Mt. Brave Malbec
Price: $75
This is a simply stunning example of how Malbec should be done! Dark mountain berry is at the forefront with a rich mouth feel and a finish that can best be described as POW!

Hess and Lagier-Meredith are also making Malbec. We had the Hess Small Block Malbec at the spring tasting and it was fantastic. We’re very much looking forward to the Lagier-Meredith offering releasing next month and will give a full report after we try it.

The “Other Reds”

2010 Mt. Brave Merlot
Price: $75
This has been a standout at the last several tastings! Dark mountain blackberry and huckleberry on the nose and mid with subtle spice and black licorice on a smooth long finish. This will age nicely. Decant.

2009 Random Ridge Fortunata Sangiovese
Price: $35
This is a wonderfully dark and big Sangiovese. Composed of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon this was a huge surprise and hit for us at the Spring tasting event. Bright bing cherry and dark pomegranate abound with a lush hit of strawberry on the finish.

2008 Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Franc
Price: $n/a
There was only one bottle of this at their table and fortunately we were the early birds and got a very nice worm! Raspberry and dark cherry flavors are perfectly balanced.

Lampyridae – Communication Block 2010 Red Wine
Price: $50
John and Ashley Derr are primarily farmers who sell the majority of their grapes to other wineries. That is until they came up with the idea to create a terrific wine to support a very good cause. Their Communication Block project supports the Napa Valley Kids Connect program (which promotes academic achievement for children who have severe communication needs) by giving 100% of the proceeds of the sale of this wine to the program. Local vintners and a local artist donate their time to produce this delicious Syrah. The 2010 vintage was made by noted winemaker Aaron Pott and is composed of 100% Syrah (previously this wine was blended with 30+% Cabernet) and exhibits lush bright cherry, plum, and a nice spicy finish.

2006 Marketta Red Blend
Price: $65
A true Bordeaux style masterpiece. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot exhibits plenty of power but its superb balance and feathery tannins make it a perfect companion for the grill. A steal at $65.

2009 Spotted Owl Cabernet/Syrah Mountain Cuvée
Price: $45
2011 Spotted Owl Pinot Noir
Price: $50
Have to admit it was hard leaving the Spotted Owl table with the great Chard and these wonderful reds. The 2011 Pinot was the standout surprise hit at the Spring tasting with dark cherry, cola, and spice coming together with a fine balance and nice finish. The Cuvee was equally tasty with dark berry and currant notes.

Lagier-Meredith 2010 Syrah
Price: $48
This is pound for pound my favorite Syrah on the planet right now! Here’s our review from the spring tasting:

A stunning “claret like” wine due to the many complex layers of flavors and aromatics. On the nose a bright floral perfume and subtle white pepper lead to lush layers of huckleberry, blackberry, and plum. Wonderful soft finish. Unlike most Syrah offerings that finish with pepper notes, this wine’s nuanced pepper notes greet you immediately and guide you all the way through. Very drinkable now but will gain nuance in the cellar for as long as you can hold out. A new favorite!

I would like to report on the age worthiness of this vintage but I bought half a case on the spot at the Spring tasting and it is all gone. Too hard to resist with summer BBQ.

The Cabs

Our favorites from the Spring tasting also made best of show here.

Progeny 2007 Special Selection Reserve Cabernet
Price: $150
This wine is nothing short of pure brilliance. Made as a side project of DdV favorite O’Shaugnessy Vineyards, this is as close to the perfect mountain cab as one could get. Bold rich mountain fruit, opulent mouth feel, and stunning balance and complexity are the reason we really loved this wine. A truly impressive masterpiece by noted winemaker Shaun Capiaux

Robert Craig 2010 Mount Veeder Cabernet
Price: $70
Beautiful dark mountain huckleberry and blackberry abound with subtle hits of oak throughout. This has that softer mountain profile common to Mount Veeder with a long finish of graphite and a pinch of cedar. This will gain nuance in the cellar for 10+ years at least.

2010 O’Shaughnessy Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $100
Dark red berry and licorice blend wonderfully with hints of wild flowers, mint and exotic spice. Superior balance and refinement. Finish is very long making this an ideal candidate for the cellar but shows quite nicely now if decanted.

Anthem 2009 Mount Veeder Cabernet
Price: $95
Lovely floral and stone notes on the nose lead to rich opulent dark mountain berry on the mid. Great structure and balance with a long refined finish of smokey oak. Very impressive!

Mount Veeder Winery Elevation 1550 Cabernet
Price: $80
Mount Veeder Winery 2010 Reserve Red Wine
Price: $80

MV is among our favorite supermarket finds for their exceptional Napa Valley Cabernet that is nothing short of a steal. Their premium wines from Mount Veeder are even more impressive. Both of these wines are nothing short of stunning. Refined, complex and opulent. Both are very highly recommended.

Some New Standouts

2010 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: $75
Big bold dark berry, plum, and dark currant abound with great balance structure and a finish that is long with hints of oak. A wonderful wine!

2007 Renteria Cabernet Sauvignon Tambor Vineyard
Price: $50
This was the value winner of the tasting. Big bold dark berry with long finish. Great balance and tannin structure. Fire up the grill, open a bottle of this great wine and be happy.


The success of this event can be firmly placed on the shoulders of Sam Peters, his fantastic staff, all the folks at The Hess Collection, and of course the winemakers and reps of the participating wineries. On a day that weather wise looked to spell disaster, Sam and his staff pulled out a miracle. The event was every bit as enjoyable as last years that had perfect weather. Major props to all who made this day so much fun!