Wine Time: Hess Select Chardonnay 2015, Monterey County

dennis sodomka/Specal Hess Select Chardonnay goes well with a light summer meal of fried shrimp, lobster claws, rice and fried okra.

Cost: $11-$13

 

What: This Hess Select Chardonnay is great proof that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great wine.

It is crisp and clean with plenty of fruit to balance the acids. The wine is a gorgeous golden yellow in the glass, with inviting citrus aromas. On the palate, you get tantalizing tropical notes such as pineapple with lemon, lime and apple. It has a medium finish with a pleasant aftertaste.

This is a great wine for summer sipping, but it really blossoms when you pair it with seafood or chicken. At this price, it would be a great party wine.

The Hess Collection has stellar wines that are good values at various price points. The Mount Veeder wines come from hillside vineyards on this well-known mountain. Napa Valley wines come from vineyards throughout the region. Hess Select wines come from selected family-owned estate vineyards throughout California and from other growers who share the Hess sustainable-farming philosophy.

I have enjoyed some of their Napa Valley wines priced in the $20-$25 range, and they are outstanding. Another Hess Select wine that is a special treat is the Treo, a winemaker’s blend inspired by three members of the Hess family who span generations.

Each year, Donald Hess and his sons-in-law Timothy Persson and Christopher Ehrbar select specific vineyard lots that produce rich flavors and soft tannins to create a smooth blend. The 2014 vintage is the current release and it features petite sirah with zinfandel, syrah, merlot and a touch of malbec. Selling for about $19, it is a spectacular wine.

Grapes for the Hess Select chardonnay come from the 352-acre Shirtail Creek estate vineyard in Monterey. The climate is perfect for growing chardonnay, with cool ocean breezes allowing the grapes to ripen slowly.

The grapes are fermented in stainless steel (75 percent) and new French oak (25 percent). About 175,000 cases were bottled, so there should be plenty of this wine around.

Winery: The Hess Collection has deep roots, dating back to 1844 when Hess Family Estates was founded in Switzerland. The spectacular winery 2,000 feet up Mount Veeder in Napa Valley was opened in 1978 by Donald Hess, the fourth generation of the family to run the business.

Hess exhibits part of his extensive contemporary art collection at the stunning winery. The art is displayed in 13,000 square feet of the original winery built on the site in 1903 by Colonel Theodore Gier, and later owned by the Christian Brothers. The trip up the mountain is worth it for the art alone.

The winery owns vineyards scattered throughout Napa Valley in diverse areas, from cool climate to hot climes and from steep slopes in the mountains to gentle slopes near the bay.

The winery is best known for its flagship Mount Veeder cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay wines, and single vineyard designates from estate vineyards in Napa Valley. The company also owns wineries around the world, including Peter Lehmann Wines in the Barossa Valley of Australia, Colome and Amalaya in Argentina, Glen Carlou in South Africa and Artezin in Napa.

Goes With: We had this with a light summer meal of fried shrimp, lobster claws, rice and fried okra fresh from the garden. The only real work was preparing the shrimp and getting the fryer fired up.

My family loves shrimp that comes from Edisto Beach, so every time we go there I buy 10 to 20 pounds and freeze them in one-pound batches in plastic containers. Adding water keeps the shrimp from getting freezer burn.

I know these are wild-caught shrimp from the South Carolina coast, and not grown on some farm in Thailand. The taste is wonderful, and this freezing method keeps them tasting fresh when we cook them.

We also use the shrimp in gumbo, shrimp creole, jambalaya and several pasta dishes. For frying, I just roll the moist shrimp in House Autry breading mixed with a little cayenne and Morton Nature’s Seasons before dropping them in our little fryer for 5 to 6 minutes at 340 degrees.

The big treat this time was the fried okra. I grow okra in my garden, usually putting it in various soups. But after making all the soup we could eat, I still had 6 to 7 pods. It looked like just enough to fry for three people, and it was.

I cut them in half-inch pieces, soaked them in a milk and egg mixture and then breaded them with corn meal, flour, cayenne and Morton Nature’s Seasons. Then I fried them at 375 for five minutes. I could have taken them out of the peanut oil a little sooner.

They had a great flavor and a good crunch from the breading. I can’t wait to try this again. The way okra goes, it will be only a couple of days before we have more.

Hess Select Monterey Chardonnay also would go well with spicy foods, creamy dishes and rich fish, such as grilled tuna.

wine events

Wine tasting: 5-8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4, Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three whites, three reds and cheeses; $5; (803) 279-9522

Wine tasting: 5-7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4, Kroger, 435 Lewiston Road, Grovetown; free; (706) 619-3420

Wine and beer tasting: 5-7 p.m. Aug. 4-5, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

Beerfest 4: 3-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, James Brown Arena; featuring the largest celebration of craft beer in the Augusta area, with local, regional and imported brews; $30, VIP tickets $70; (877) 428-4849

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