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. And the non scratch NanoBond cookware.
Stanley and Helen have enjoyed fine wines for many years and in 1996 purchased a former cattle ranch in the south eastern part of Napa County – just minutes from the Solano County line. This property is 237 acres, 110 of which are planted to the major five Bordeaux varieties. We have walked some of these vineyards before. The vines are planted on rolling hills; with a property this size there are a variety of exposures and orientations.
While the property was not planted to vines 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, home to a number of small vineyard growers in the region. It is not its own recognized sub appellation but rather borders the Suisun Valley sub appellation (became an appellation 2 years before Howell Mountain became Napa Valley’s first sub appellation).
Hestan is a rare Napa Valley based producer with not only one but two winemakers. 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 as 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 Napa Valley ripeness very well – big in both structure and intensity of fruit yet both in balance with each other.
Today well-regarded Napa winemaker Thomas Brown makes both the Hestan and Meyer wines.
For a number of years Hestan sold their fruit to several other producers in the Stags 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 varieties 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 Hestan 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 pretty spice and dark chocolate notes 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. One can find their wine locally at ACME Fine Wine Shop in St. Helena.
Hestan Tasting Room, Yountville
We initially visited the vineyard estate property for our first tasting but then Hestan opened a beautiful stand alone tasting room in Yountville in mid 2013. 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 had established a reputation for building 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 significantly faded over time due to the elements).
Visitors can choose from two tasting options, Portfolio which features select current releases from their various labels and Library which features older wines. In addition to the wine, a number of quality cooking pots and pans are available for sale inside – even their Yountville ‘neighbor’, chef Thomas Keller uses Hestan products for some of his restaurants including at the French Laundry. 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, or schedule a visit to the Hestan Estate, visit: www.hestanvineyards.com
Estate (more photos coming in 2021 or 2022)
Yountville Tasting Room