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Friday Fishwrap: Random Jottings at Week's End

By Charles Olken

I have had a lifetime of going into the tradesman’s entrances to wineries. I do it all the time. But, sometimes it is fun to go unannounced, on a Sunday drive or with family and friends in tow, and simply walk in the front door like the rest of the guests. When I visit wineries as part of my daily grind, it is to meet the people involved, to see the technical end of the business and to taste the wine in barrel. In short it is all business. The key for me is in choosing wineries for front door visits is that they need to be more than just tasting rooms.

I like to visit Zuchico on West Dry Creek Road because, more often than not, owner Steve Zuchico is serving the wine at the tasting bar and his winemaker is out back ready to chat with you about the new wines in barrel. Try getting a taste of a barrel sample at one of the big, luxurious tasting rooms in Napa or Sonoma. I like to visit Robert Mondavi because the tours are the best in the Napa Valley at explaining how wine is made. It does not matter that I could probably lead those tours myself. My relatives do not want to listen to me giving speeches. They want to hear winery folks telling their own stories. I like to visit La Rochelle in the Livermore Valley. It is small enough to have a personal feel and professional enough to be more than “a taste, spit and move on to the next place” experience. And the wines are very good—always one of the requirements for an “unannounced” day in the wine country. In early editions of the Friday blog, I recommended visits to Clos Pegase and to Paradise Ridge. Those wineries meet all my requirements and more because they offer not just wine and welcoming hospitality but also because they have created destinations in their own right.

The Hess Collection winery,, is just such a place as well. The minute you click onto the website, you get the idea. The first topics are Vineyards, Wine and Art, and the winery might also have mentioned “history” and “a lovely hillside location” as added attractions. Hess Collection has it all, and that is why it rates as one of my favorite places to visit in wine country.

Its tasting options run from the easily affordable to the expensive depending on what you want to taste and whether you want to experience the available end of the line or you are looking for a wine and food pairing experience. In that, Hess is no different from many of the top visits in the Napa Valley. But what sets Hess apart is owner Donald Hess’ love affair with fine art. You see, Hess is not just a pretty face in a historical old building, set in a lovely location on Mount Veeder with good wine. Hess is also an art museum. It is a delight both to the palate and to the eye. The modern art on display is museum quality, but it has a whimsical edge that separates it from displays of the 20th century masters. You won’t find Picasso and Warhol on display here. You will find truly interesting works of art that turn a winery visit into something much more. And, that is why the Olkens and family and friends drop in on Hess unannounced. There is nothing wrong with a tradesman’s visit to Hess for the winewriter. But there is so much more to be seen when one walks in the front door.

The Hess Collection
4411 Redwood Road
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 255-1144

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Underwood Typewriter
by L.K.Weaver
Posted on:12/25/2010 10:01:49 AM

I remember in December, 1968, when I first went to work for the County of Imperial, I used this typewriter on a daily basis.  Did it ever build up the muscles in my fingers !!!!!!  Merry Christmas everyone !!

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