The world-class wine region of Napa Valley boasts more than a handful of prestigious sub-appellations that are each putting out critically acclaimed and highly coveted wine. The Hestan Vineyards estate property, however, is not located in one of these sub-appellations. You won't find it in Rutherford, Oakville, or Howell Mountain. You can't see it from Highway 29 and you won't be able get there by taking the Silverado Trail. It doesn't border Screaming Eagle, Harlan, or Opus One. Actually, this beautiful nearly 240-acre property sits well off the beaten path in a currently unrecognized sub-appellation known as Gordon Valley. It is here on the southeastern edge of Napa Valley, far from the well-traveled murderers' row of famed cult producers, that Hestan Vineyards is crafting some absolutely remarkable wine.
Founded by Helen and Stanley Cheng (He + Stan), Hestan Vineyards is the product of years of success in the culinary industry. Stanley is credited with introducing and popularizing hard-anodized aluminum cookware in the 1970's, and today the Cheng family operates Meyer which is the largest cookware company in the United States. Once already well established in cookware the Cheng's purchased the idyllic Hestan Estate property in 1996 in order to further pursue their interest in wine. Their property sits at a moderate elevation between those of Napa's valley floor and mountain regions and contains a series of picturesque rolling hills, which contribute further to varied elevations and exposures throughout the vineyards. Although not located in a traditionally popular winegrowing zone by Napa's standards the Hestan Estate possesses everything one could possibly ask for in a world-class winegrowing site.
In 2013 Hestan Vineyards opened up a tasting room for themselves - on the beaten path - in the heart of Yountville. We had the pleasure of visiting this purpose-built tasting room on our recent trip to the valley and feel compelled to share our wonderful experience. The facility itself boasts modern and sophisticated architecture both inside and out, with an emphasis on copper and metallic accents as an ode to the family's history in metal cookware. The aesthetic inside is clean and beautifully minimalistic. On our visit we opted for a seated tasting on one of their many comfortable couches while Grant, Hestan's Director of Sales and Guest Experiences, guided us through a diverse lineup of wines.
When the tasting began there were a few things about Hestan that immediately stood out to us. First, it is interesting to note that Hestan Vineyards bottles wine under a number of unique labels. In addition to their Hestan label they also produce the wines of Meyer (after their cookware company), Stephanie (after their daughter), and Vincent Christopher (after the names of their two sons). Each of these different labels has an individual personality and the wines of each are crafted to emphasize specific distinguishable traits. Second, we noted that Hestan operates with two winemakers, Thomas Rivers Brown and Jeff Gaffner, in an arrangement where each winemaker works independently to craft specific bottlings in the lineup. This is quite rare and helps to further diversify the range of wines.
As we tasted through Hestan's lineup we were struck by the remarkable poise and polish of the wines. It was obvious to us that each wine we tried was crafted meticulously with a conscious emphasis on creating a product of superior quality. We first tried a Chardonnay from a small parcel owned by Hestan near the cool San Pablo Bay, then moved on to a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, and then to a series of wines from the Hestan Estate Vineyard. We were impressed with everything we tasted, but for us the wines from Hestan's picturesque Gordon Valley property were extra special. Stylistically we would consider these wines to be "Modern Napa". They are bold, generous, and accessible - especially the Stephanie and Meyer labels - without sacrificing any seriousness or structure. Our absolute favorite, the Hestan label, diverges slightly in a turn towards terroir driven restraint. The 2014 Hestan Cabernet Sauvignon was particularly impressive with its dense core of dark fruit and earth draped in unbelievably silky and seductive tannin. Its energy and tension were astounding, and it showed focus and drive only seen in Napa's crème-de-la-crème.
Judging on the basis of merit alone we believe Hestan Vineyards is on par with Napa's elite. Their hand-selected team has produced a diverse range of wines brimming with character that each express a distinct sense of place. Their unique and out-of-the-way property should be seen as an advantage to their cause, as Hestan's wines are able to reveal a new side of Napa's inimitable terroir. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and we look forward to continuing to follow Hestan on their journey to produce premium wine in their special corner of the valley. Make sure to stop by Hestan's tasting room on your next trip to the Napa to see and taste what this inspiring team has been able to accomplish.