- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hess Collection, 19 Block Cuvee, Mount Veeder Napa Valley, 2005, $35.

Named for the separate blocks in this winery´s estate vineyard on Mount Veeder, overlooking California’s Napa Valley, this red wine offers a sumptuous combination of force and finesse. It packs plenty of muscle but at the same time tastes generous and graceful.

Mountain-grown red grapes take longer to ripen than those cultivated on the valley floor. Especially when made with cabernet sauvignon, the resulting wines tend to taste quite powerful, with firm, astringent tannins.

This particular wine includes plenty of cabernet (74 percent) but the addition of other varieties, notably syrah (10 percent) and malbec (9 percent), softens the overall effect, yielding a wine that proves well-structured but also supple. It should age gracefully for five to seven years, but it is so delicious now that there is no need to wait.

Many California winemakers, in an effort to make young red wines accessible, produce blends that taste of sweet jamlike fruit and little else. By contrast, this wine succeeds because it supports its plum and dark cherry flavors with secondary ones echoing chocolate, cedar, pepper and more.

Try it with full-flavored meat dishes such as prime rib or rack of lamb.

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