Here at Gilbert Spills It we do take requests. An old friend of mine from back in the day is a reader, and shot me a note on Facebook. He explained that this is a wine that is in heavy rotation in his household, that he and his wife enjoy it on a regular basis, and that if I were to review it, he would have a better understanding of my palate, and would gain a bit more perspective on my other wine reviews. I asked him to kindly send a few bottles my way. Well, he didn't send me any free wine, but as I was out shopping last week, I saw this on the shelf, remembered our chat and picked it up for 14 bucks, plus tax.
Back in the summer of '10, I had the pleasure of visiting the Hess winery in California's famed wine country. They're a pretty big operation, and make wine from both estate vineyards as well as source fruit from growers in the area. In addition to having a substantial and interesting collection of contemporary art, they have one of the best tourist experiences in Napa. There is a 15 minute video that takes the viewer on a computer simulated, bird's eye perspective flight. You zoom over the digital topography, up from the San Francisco Bay all the way to Mt. Veeder, giving you new appreciation for all the talk about cooling fogs from the sea. It also allows you to comprehend the geography of the region in a way that simply looking at a map and driving around does not.
The 2010 Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon pours a near opaque purple into the glass, with a rim that fades only slightly to an intense ruby. There are widely spaced tears left after swirling. The nose is heavy on black fruits: blackberry, blueberry and plum with secondary notes of anise and spice. Despite having a moderate ABV of 13.5%, the nose is rather pronounced, leading me to believe that the powerful aroma is driven by fruit and extraction, and not simply alcohol's ability to lift notes on the wings of volatility.
On the palate, there are firm tannins backed by a full body. They relax a bit as the wine opens, but remain present and powerful throughout the entirety of the bottle. There are lots of black fruit flavors as well, plenty more notes of blackberry, plum and cassis. The spirited acidity keeps this wine from being plodding or overly weighty, giving it balance and recompense.
Unless you are a person who relishes the fuller, bigger side of the wine spectrum, this might be a bit much for someone who is just looking to enjoy a bottle by itself. I believe this would show best with a meal, preferably a red meat, and not as a cocktail wine. The tannins and body make this a perfect companion for the dinner table, and it is affordable enough to put into heavy rotation, as my friend does.