Wine Review: Wineries, vineyards alive and well in winter

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One could imagine that winter time is the quiet time at a winery, but nothing could be further from the truth.

If the winery has its own vineyards, crews are out there in the cold pruning, mulching, replanting and in all ways getting the vines ready for the next growing season.

The winery itself is a madhouse.

Last year’s vintages are now resting in tanks or casks to mature. Other wines from previous vintages also are aging and waiting in line to be bottled. Recently emptied tanks are being sterilized, as new wines are sensitive to bacterial attack that could result in a ruined batch and the loss of hundreds or even thousands of gallons of wine. Additionally, bottled vintages are being packed for shipment to the wineries’ customers.

The Hess Collection Winery is one of those caught up in the winter rush. Keeping with their rigid schedule, Hess has just released its latest vintages to the public. As usual for Hess, the company’s hard work has paid off.

Hess 2019 Select Rose ($12)
Since white and rose wines are the first to be bottled, let’s start with them. This wine is more in line with the classical French style, but it definitely has the identifiable stamp of being a true Californian. The wine presents an inviting salmon pink color and the aroma of peaches, pears and red summer fruits. The flavor stresses summer berries but in light and refined amounts. There also is a nice fruit-flavored finish to this wine that is, to use a well worn term, interesting. It’s a wine to be experienced.

Hess Select 2019 Pinot Gris ($12)
The Hess Select 2019 Pinot Gris also is a true child of California, even though the grapes have an Italian ancestry. This Hess beauty is a soft, straw-colored white wine with a rich fruity bouquet and a lively flavor. This wine displays an aroma that is reminiscent of summer. The wine is dry and its aroma is made up of summer fruits, most specifically apricots, wild flowers and fresh Bosc pears. The flavor is crisp and has a raisin-like quality coupled with a background of limes. The finish is long and fresh. This wine is the ideal accompaniment to pasta, seafood and cheese dishes, or just plain sipping.

Hess Select 2018 Central Coast Pinot Noir ($19)
This wine offers everything that makes for a great pinot noir: an inviting ruby color, a firm body, a captivating aroma, a definable flavor and an enduring finish, all wrapped in a velvet-like robe. The aroma displays fig, cranberry, cinnamon, nutmeg and oak. The flavor is about as classical as it can get, with black cherry, caramel, spice and a subtle hint of truffles. All of these carry over to the finish where they linger on the palate for a long time. This wine reconfirms the belief that exceptional pinot noirs can be made in the United States.

Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($19)
The Hess Collection 2017 Select Cabernet Sauvignon stresses fruit flavors over the usually austere stiff and tannic character of the grape variety. The color is deep and dark and the aroma showcases cherries, spice and vanilla. These carry over to the flavor where they mingle with a raspberry element, the very discernible flavors of chocolate, and just a hint of oak. This wine has a wonderful softness about it and reflects many of the flavors and aromas that are found only in well-aged wines. Rather than being saved to be served only with the heaviest of meat dishes, this wine’s expansive flavor spectrum allows it to be used with a much broader selection of dishes, foreign or domestic.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.