A Distinctly Different Destination

Take a scenic drive up in the Mayacamas Mountains, shaped over five million years ago, where The Hess Collection Winery is one-of-a-kind. Off the beaten path on the forested slopes of Mount Veeder, visitors can appreciate this distinct sub-appellation that produces small lots of elegant, intense, quality wine.

These exceptional wines are rare. The challenging terrain of Mount Veeder AVA means that only 1,000-acres are planted to grapevines. Yield from these vines is about half the average, accounting for just 1.3 percent of Napa Valley’s annual production. Yet within the soil, a complex mix of fractured shale, sandstone, and ancient volcanic dust ensures wine is bold and inky with a distinct flavor profile. Recognizable for elegance, richness, and complexity, The Hess Collection wines are family-owned, sustainably farmed, and dedicated to reflecting a true sense of place.


Napa Valley pioneer and visionary Donald Hess knew he had found a special place when he first set eyes on Mount Veeder in the 1970s. The site provided Hess with an opportunity to pursue a passion for wine production at elevation, as well as a place to share his private art collection in a gallery for contemporary art. Today, Donald’s stepdaughter and son-in-law, Sabrina and Tim Persson sit at the helm, and the next generation continues the legacy while introducing exciting new brand extensions.


Choosing a name inspired by Lions Head Mountain in South Africa, a place very close to Tim’s heart, Sabrina and Tim Persson proudly introduced the Lions Head Collection in 2014. The collection was “born of resilience” when an earthquake destroyed the winery cellar, crushing the tanks from the inside out. Fortunately, perseverance won the day. This expression of next-generation wines is as bold as the captivating labels these bottles proudly display.

The Lions Head Cellar is home to these wines and houses some of the most progressive winemaking technology available today. The winemaking team leverages this state-of-the-art technology and small lot barrel management to create wines that represent the most distinctive regions in Napa and Sonoma.

The Lion Tamer brand of wines includes Lion Tamer Cabernet and Lion Tamer Red Blend within the Lions Head Collection. “Lion Tamer” is the winemakers’ nickname for Malbec—a key blending component in both wines, which deliver the power of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah, but finish with smooth, “tamed” round tannins. The Lions Head Collection also includes the Panthera brand of wines— Panthera Chardonnay and Panthera Pinot Noir, which showcase the elegance of the Sonoma Coast. Panthera wines highlight the bright acidity created by the cool climate of the Sonoma Coast and display the winemakers’ skill in delivering a vibrant purity of fruit alongside a confident oak profile.


Above the morning fog, any day that begins with panoramic mountain vineyard views is already exceptional. Buckle up and join a driver to spend time in the historic Mont La Salle vineyard, getting up close with vines and fruit maturing in their natural habitat.

The Hess Collection guides are not only friendly they are also extremely knowledgeable. Learn about what makes Mount Veeder unique: aspect, elevation, exposure. Discuss the intricacies of microclimates on the side of a mountain. Find out why the volcanic terroir is unique: shallow soil, steep slopes, excellent drainage. Sample delicious Mount Veeder wines poured into glasses right beside the vines.

And there’s more. Following the ATV adventure exploring the vineyards, an enjoyable wine and culinary experience awaits. Tastings continue with three small-lot estate wines expertly paired with seasonal culinary creations from highly acclaimed Executive Chef Chad Hendrickson and his state gardens.

Alternatively, enjoy estate wines paired with artisan cheese, nuts, and seasonal fruits, plus accoutrements from the chef’s bountiful garden. For both experiences, unique flavors and textures in each of the wines complement the flavor profiles in the accompanying dishes and bites.


Atop Mount Veeder, the winery and art gallery are open by appointment Friday through Monday. Both the two-hour ATV Tour with Wine and Food Pairing and the ATV Tour with Wine & Cheese Pairing are offered twice a day and may be reserved online. ATV tours are limited to a maximum group size of four adults, age 21 and above.


Story By: Laurie Jo Miller Farr // Photos By: Sara Sanger & Dawn Heumann