The Hess Collection founder Donald Hess has started a $30 million, 10-year “quality improvement initiative” to upgrade his Napa County vineyards and wineries, the North Bay Business Journal reports.
The business is roughly two years into the project, which includes $20 million for replanting and reconfiguring about 300 acres of vines on Mt. Veeder and adjusting vines in the 180-acre Su’skol Vineyard near Napa County Airport, according to President Tom Selfridge.
The work on the Veeder vineyards, first planted 30 years ago, includes new rootstocks, clones, trellises and tighter vine-row spacing. Work on the Su’skol Vineyard includes pulling out Chardonnay vine clones showing signs of the production-debilitating leafroll disease.
Also, $10 million is being spent on Hess wineries to get better control of quality, rather than increase production. At the Mt. Veeder facility, which makes wine from the vineyards on the mountain, small 10-ton fermentation tanks were installed in time for the 2008 harvest. The tanks have automated systems for pumping the juice over the “cap” of the floating skins to allow more interaction more often, without added labor.
Together with more planting of the Malbec grape variety, often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, the goal is to “maximize the character of the mountain” while softening the “very structured” wines, according to Selfridge.
At the winery in American Canyon, Hess has been installing tanks in anticipation of bringing the production of Monterey Chardonnay wine to Napa Valley from a Central Coast contract winery.
Selfridge said he is undaunted by the anemic economy in continuing the project.
“It’s part of our strategy, and we’re going to continue regardless of what is going on in the marketplace,” said the one-time economist. “I could tell we were headed for changing times, so I renegotiated banking arrangements before things changed.”