Hindsight Wines. Incidentally this review is a milestone for the Napa Wine Project; it was the 800th Napa Winery or producer we have visited with, tasted the wines and reviewed over the past 9+ years. Our goal is to reach over 1000 unique Napa wineries and producers reviewed on this site over the next five years. A huge thank you to all the Napa vintners and everyone who has been a part of this project to date.
Hindsight was founded by three partners: long time Napa Valley resident Keith Hargrove and Seth Gersch and his wife Alisa Gean, MD. Seth grew up in the Napa Valley, having moved here at the age of eleven when his father relocated the family for work. Seth remembers in the early 1970’s how some people thought those who were pulling out healthy producing plum trees and walnuts and replacing those orchards with grapevines were perhaps a bit crazy. In actuality, they were both smart and lucky – in hindsight, having secured their foothold early before Napa’s wine industry really took off helped in part during this time by the Paris Tasting of 1976.
Keith worked in the wine business in Napa for several decades including at Schramsberg as well as more than twenty years at Bennett Lane Winery before helping start Hindsight Wines.
Seth moved to California in 1983 (San Francisco Bay Area), joined a securities firm and was initially bitten by the wine bug through their various conferences.
Seth is on the board for the San Francisco 49ers Charity Foundation – several Napa wineries pour their wines at these events – and it is at one of these tastings 10+ years ago that Keith met Seth. They realized a shared interest for wine, and soon discovered their tastes in wine are very similar.
The name Hindsight is a tribute to the vision we all wish we could have – especially in the wine industry.
Seth has known winemaker Jac Cole for many years through the connection between wine and Seth’s charity events. Timing is sometimes everything; Jac had just left Spring Mountain Vineyards and Seth and Keith spoke to him about possibly making Hindsight Wines. He was soon hired and has been their winemaker since their first vintage (2012).
The partners entered with wine industry with a clear and very focused vision of the style of wine they wanted to produce, how they would sell the wine and where it would be sold – anchored by a solid business plan. Their Silver Label wines are their most produced wines and the majority of these wines are sold by the glass in select restaurants. One such restaurant, the Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Irvine was voted the number one restaurant in Orange County by the readers of the Orange County Register and the Hindsight wines are the most sold wines at this restaurant.
Their philosophy is to make a non homogenous wine each year – a wine that has character. They work with good vineyards and then craft wines that have good weight, mouth feel and length of finish. There can be value in wine at a variety of price points – their single vineyard Black Label wines are well priced for these premium wines. And so are the Silver Label wines; these are among Napa’s better quality to price wines.
Their label was carefully designed. It was created with an easy to read font – large letters to be clearly seen by as Seth says, “their own aging eyes” and to stand out in dimly lit restaurants. They have certainly succeeded with. Their Black Label wines are from single vineyard locations within the Napa Valley and are produced in quantities of usually around 300 cases.
A year and a half after they started Hindsight, Seth and Alisa purchased a ten acre property in Calistoga – of which six acres were already planted to vines (3 acres to Cabernet Sauvignon and 3 acres to Petite Sirah). While the vineyard is small the soil type changes dramatically throughout. The Cabernet Sauvignon is planted on a slope – Silverado Trail Bench-land if you will – while the Petite Sirah is planted on the valley floor. The soils on the hillside are a gravelly loam – which continues somewhat into the valley – but this picks up more clay. The vineyard next door is nearly entirely a clay based soil.
In light of water usage and the ongoing drought – they have a storm water recovery system built into the vineyard – during heavy rains, water is captured from the nearby hills in which water runs down into their vineyard and is kept in cisterns for use during drier months.
The 2013 Chardonnay was sourced from the Oak Knoll District in the southern part of the Napa Valley. On the bouquet there are notes of honeysuckle, peach and toasted oak. This wine has nice weight without heavy viscosity. It is rounded on the palate – slightly creamy but with good acidity. The finish is lively and lingers for some time with notes of red apple.
Stylistically the Silver Label red wines are big wines featuring robust tannins and are crafted to be paired with food – both wines we tried would be ideal “steak” wines.
The 20/20 Hindsight proprietary blend takes it’s name from those in the industry who told Keith they wished they had this type of vision when it came to decisions they would have made in the wine industry. Seth also calls this his “one wine he would choose if stranded on a desert island with no other choices”. Aromatically this wine is big – featuring plenty of fruit, ripe but not over ripe and surprisingly there is even a certain amount of elegance in the aromatics on the bouquet. On the palate this wine features red (cranberry, red cherry) as well as dark fruit, spice notes including white pepper and very good acidity – mouth watering on the finish. The finish is very long anchored by robust tannins.
The Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was designed to be their workhorse wine at restaurants – it is available primarily by the glass at select restaurants across the country. The 2013 vintage shows a nose that is complex and layered both with fruit and the influence of oak – a certain lusciousness if you will. Weighty tannins anchor the long finish.
Not all owners have the privilege of working exclusively with their winemaker’s private vineyard. Jac owns just under three acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, the Bella Vetta Vineyard at his home at about 2,000 feet up on Howell Mountain. The production from this vineyard is small – usually only about 300 cases are produced of this wine.
The 2012 Bella Vetta Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is made in a completely different style then the Silver Label red wines – and this is noticeable as soon as you try the wine. It shows a very pretty and appealing bouquet. It has a baking spice note with a noticeable cedar box component and as the wine breathes notes of caramel and red licorice show. There is a nice softness in the mouth – it sits on your palate like silk and finishes nearly as softly.
The 2012 Estate Cabernet, Seth calls the “big brother” of their Howell Mountain Cabernet – which perhaps isn’t always the case when comparing a valley floor wine (Calistoga) versus a wine grown at 2,000 feet on the slopes of Howell Mountain. The wine is dark reddish purple in the glass. The bouquet is lively showing bright fruit aromas. The entry is soft, plush and rounded – with a dense mid palate that is somewhat chewy. The tannins are well integrated in this wine – certainly noticeably and linger well after you swallow but are fine grained in nature rather than being course.
The 2012 Petite Sirah is always among their last grapes picked – often at the end of October and sometimes into early November. The sugar never gets super high in these grapes – this wine is at 13.7% alcohol. It is a dark wine with a sweet smelling bouquet – black chocolate, baking spice – candy for your olfactory nerves! The wine is chewy, powerful with intensity of flavor, yet a nice acid balance. The tannins are gripping on the palate and linger for quite some time.
Their wines are selectively distributed by a number of distributors across the United States, Canada and parts of Asia. Their wines are generally distributed via restaurants (along with some small retail outlets) and online.
In addition locally they pour their wines in a shared open to the public walk-in tasting room in downtown Calistoga called Up Valley Vintners. Up Valley Vintners pours their wines at the tasting counter – there is also an open air patio in the back of this tasting room that makes for a nice place to taste weather permitting.
Serious wine enthusiasts can call to make a special appointment with Keith to meet at the winery just south of Calistoga where their wines are made. For more information and to join their mailing list or wine club, visit: www.hindsightwines.com