Friends of mine and regular readers of this blog know that I rarely drink the same wine multiple times. I'm always excited to try something different, and the variety of producers and grapes out there means that I could sample a different bottle every day for the rest of my life and I wouldn't exhaust the great bounty and variety of the wine world.
There are times, though, when for reasons of comfort, nostalgia, or simply the desire to support a reliable producer, that I return to an old standard. Hess was an early favorite in my wine-drinking life, and it remains a beloved wine. It will never compete with Silver Oak, it will never be as prevalent as Yellow Tail, but it will always have a place on my table.
The 2005 Hess Chardonnay ($12) is a great little wine. I've always been impressed by the Hess labels: hunter green for Chardonnay, burgundy for Cabernet Sauvignon, both with gold foil printing. A heraldic lion passant, all caps Proteus type, and a simple line border around it all.
The wine has a nice, well-rounded, fruity flavor without being flabby or tart. I like to grab a bottle for cooking, which means that a glass or two go into the sauce or soup and the remainder is enjoyed amongst friends while getting ready for dinner. It matches well with a broad range of appetizers and stands well on its own.
The 2005 Hess Cabernet Sauvignon ($15). Black cherry, leather, nice smooth finish. Simple, dignified, and a good match for dinner: in this case, a marinated London broil braised in beer and beef broth with stew vegetables for several hours. It's rare to find a Cabernet Sauvignon under $20 that tastes this good.