In the first of this occasional series, my vote goes for the Hess Collection in Napa.


What makes it a standout? It’s a cultural Mecca – a place that houses wine and art.


By all accounts the popular winery has the most impressive collection of modern art north of San Francisco, featuring the works of internationally known artists such as Francis Bacon, Robert Motherwell and Frank Stella. But it also offers class act wine, truly. In recent years the Hess cabernets have stood up the some of the best Napa cabs in Wine Country. And they age well, winning high marks in the recent Press Democrat 10-year retrospectives.




Vintner Donald Hess, the Swiss-mineral-water magnate, said winemakers and artists share the same canvas. “I think the message of the Hess Collection is that art and wine have a lot of similarities. To make a wine takes you 15 years if you start from scratch. An artist usually has to struggle 15 years until he has a reputation, even a very good artist … you really have to struggle. It’s the search for quality, for sincerity.”


Here’s something you may not know about Hess. His art-buying strategy usually involves a sleepless night. If the unsettling voices linger, chances are he’ll buy the piece. “Then I know it is something that touched me,” he said in his Swiss accent.


Here’s something else you may not know about Hess. He doesn’t mind a challenge. In fact, he prefers one. “I like difficulties. I like when everyone says, ‘’That’s impossible!’ When I stared here (in Napa in 1978)  … when they heard I was going to do a museum, some said I’d be broke in six months: ‘Who the hell will go over there?’”


Plenty is the answer.


The Hess Collection is at 4411 Redwood Rd., Napa; 707-255-1144.


How about you play tour guide and tell us your NOT TO BE MISSED spots? I’d love to consider your picks as I blog on the best of Wine Country.