The occasion: Oakland Wine Festival’s kickoff tasting and party.
To be honest, I hadn’t heard of Hestan Vineyards until very recently. With more than 500 wineries in Napa County, even the most dedicated wine geek can have trouble keeping up. All the more reason to learn about the winery and the wines during Oakland Wine Festival’s Kickoff event on Tuesday, June 16.
In the run-up to this month’s festival at Mills College, starting in February each month has seen a tutored tasting held in a different Oakland venue, showcasing wines from one of the winery members of OWF’s Honorary Steering Committee. That night’s winery focus was Hestan Vineyards.
In addition to showcasing some of the leading wineries participating in OWF, all of the kickoff parties include an auction designed to raise proceeds for each of OWF’s featured charities.
The setting: Oakland’s Waterfront Hotel on Jack London Square.
The hotel is part of the Joie de Vivre group, a San Francisco-based boutique hotel chain. That evening, a band of dedicated wine lovers showed up. Let me explain what I mean by dedicated; that night Oakland’s home team, the Warriors, competed against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA playoffs.
The background: Stanley and wife Helen founded Hestan Vineyards in 2002. It was originally intended to be a personal project, supplying wine for the couple and friends. Thirteen years later, the Hestan brand has become known for quality wines that win praise from critics. The Napa Valley estate sits on 41 acres. Grapes for the red wines come from the Napa Valley, while Hestan sources its Chardonnay from the vast San Francisco Bay appellation.
Hestan produces 3 different wines; a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Bordeaux blend. In an unusual twist, Hestan employs two different winemakers. I’m not taking about a resident winemaker and a consulting oenologist: I mean two different winemakers producing two different wines. Thomas Rivers Brown makes the flagship Cabernet and Hestan’s Chardonnay. Jeff Gaffner crafts its Stephanie line of reds: a proprietary red blend, a Merlot, and a Cabernet.
The lineup: Six of Hestan Vineyard’s wines
Leading the tasting was Emily Floyd, a wine country native and current Consumer Direct Manager for the winery. Host and Oakland Wine Festival organizer Melody Fuller kept things lively by leading us in tasting some of the wines blind.
2012 Hestan Chardonnay
Unfiltered, and aged in French oak, 50% new. 500 cases produced.
Moss, wet stone, and dusty notes plus stone fruit, pear, and citrus scent the nose. The palate shows clean citrus, tropical fruit, and cantaloupe. flavors. This is mouthwatering, with good acidity, medium body, and a slight confected note on the finish.
2012 Meyer Cabernet Sauvignon
The nose shows sweet spice and pepper, along with an herbal note. Lead pencil, blueberries, cassis and other dark fruits feature on the full and concentrated palate. This is elegant, with precise structure, high-toned fruit flavors, and silky tannins. Well-integrated oak presents itself in light nutty notes. This is a full-bodied, but never heavy wine.
2009 Stephanie Napa Valley Proprietary Red
A blend of 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, with smaller portions of Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot
Nutty with sweet spice, vanilla, earthy wood notes, crushed berries, and baked fruits. The palate showcases slightly tart fruit, black pepper, and a fleeting background floral note. This is full and mouth-coating, with supple tannins and an almost chewy texture, before ending on a slightly sweet note. To give you an idea of this wine’s intensity, one taster described it as “the one who came home and I didn’t want him to leave.”
It was a great evening and a nice preview of the celebration to come on 7/19.