Hestan Vineyards is owned by Stanley and Helen Cheng and their vineyard and name of the wine comes from combining parts of their first names. Stanley currently runs the largest cookware company in the USA and the second largest in the world. His company, Meyer Corporation has their US headquarters in nearby Vallejo. Stanley is a pioneer and innovator in the world of cooking; he patented Circulon, the original hard-anodized nonstick cookware and following this invention Stanley developed the first flat-surface hard anodized non-stick cookware line under the brand Anolon – this was the first cookware that was dishwasher safe.
Stanley and Helen have enjoyed fine wines for many years and in 1996 purchased property in the eastern part of Napa County. Their stunning estate is located as far southeast in Napa County as you can find – just minutes from the Solano County line. This property is 237 acres, 110 of which are planted to the major five Bordeaux varietals. We recently had a chance to walk the vineyards. The vines are planted on rolling hills and with with a property this size there are a variety of exposures and orientations.
While the property was not planted to vine at the time of the Cheng’s purchase, the property next door was purchased the previous year (Nepenthes Vineyard) and vines were also planted. This part of Napa County is called Gordon Valley and there are a number of small vineyard growers in the region. It is not its own recognized sub appellation but is next to the Suisun Valley sub appellation (became an appellation 2 years before Howell Mountain became Napa’s first sub appellation).
Hestan is a producer with not only one but two winemakers (fairly rare in the valley). As a result of their winemaker’s styles they produce two very distinctive types of wine. Stanley and Helen were eating dinner one night in a well-known restaurant in Yountville when they happened to try a Merus wine. At the time winemaker Mark Herold was running Merus in a garagist winery at his home in Napa. Enjoying this wine so much they soon contacted Mark and he became their original winemaker for the Hestan and Meyer wines. His wines showcase the ripe Napa fruit very well – big in structure and big in fruit yet both in balance with each other. Today well-regarded Napa winemaker Thomas Brown makes both the Hestan and Meyer.
For a number of years Hestan sold their fruit to several other producers in the Stag’s Leap District including Clos du Val. However it was after tasting wine from their neighbor at a blind tasting that they were introduced to Jeff Gaffner, their neighbor’s winemaker. They found his wines to be true varietal expressions of the grapes and he was soon hired as their own winemaker. Jeff is known for his winemaking work with Bordeaux varietals and producing elegant refined wines. He makes the Stephanie Wines (named after their daughter). Look for the image of Stephanie’s concert harp on all these wines – this is in honor of her musical talents.
The 2007 Chardonnay (the one white wine from Hestan) is from a vineyard in Vallejo not far from the cooling influences of the bay. This fairly rich wine sees 100% malolactic fermentation and is unfined and unfiltered. It shows a nice golden color in the glass with notes of baking spices on the bouquet. The palate is rather soft and somewhat creamy with notes of ripe pear, browned sugar, a unique nuttiness and melon. The finish is clean and lingers pleasantly.
The 2006 Stephanie Cabernet Sauvignon shows some nice spice and dark chocolate on the bouquet with a mix of elegant red and black fruit aromas. The palate is refined with lively acidity and pleasing fruit flavors including berry and red cherry.
One of our favorite Stephanie wines is the 2006 red blend, a Bordeaux styled blend. The nose is elegant with a soft entry on the palate showing plum, red cherry and boysenberry. Despite the soft entry, this wine builds in structure nicely leading to a beautiful balanced finish between flavor, structure and length.
In contrast to the Stephanie wines is the 2006 Hestan Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a big, bold, bright and powerful Napa Valley Cabernet which shows off tons of fruit and structure. It was aged entirely in new French oak. The darkness in the glass hints at the complexities to follow – both on the bouquet and palate. The nose shows mostly dark fruit leading to a concentrated palate with a complexity of flavors. This is a mouth filling wine anchored by meaty tannins and a super long finish. For those who enjoy a big Napa Cabernet, this is an excellent choice.
In addition to his cookware company, Stanley also owns Meyer Solar and as expected their estate property is entirely run by solar power. A good sized pond is also on the property that is both creek and spring fed and provides for the vineyard’s water needs.
Note the labels on all their wine, you won’t see these from many producers in the valley – they are silk screened in 24k gold. Hestan currently produces about 6000 cases between the three wines. You can find their wine locally at ACME Fine Wine Shop and Dean & Deluca, both located in St. Helena.
We initially visited the vineyard estate property for our first tasting but then Hestan built from scratch and opened a beautiful new stand alone tasting room in Yountville in mid 2013 and we revisited this location. The space is located slightly north of Bouchon Restaurant and just down the street from the French Laundry. The architectural firm, San Francisco Bay Area based Essalat Architects were long known for their residential homes; this was the first commercial building they designed. Despite its diminutive stature, it is visually intriguing and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The building even incorporates a nod of appreciation to their cookware company (ie the copper siding on the building which was bright golden when the tasting room opened but has since faded over time due to the elements).
Visitors can choose from two tasting options, the Portfolio which features select current releases from their various labels and the Library tasting which features older wines. In addition to the wine, a number of quality cooking pots and pans are available for sale inside. There is no dedicated parking lot for the tasting room, rather parking is available street side, next door or across the street.
For more information and or to join their wine club, visit: www.hestanvineyards.com