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-4-David Guy tasting samples prior to blending Q. How did you get interested winemaking?A. I went to college in San Obispo on the Central Coast, starting as an engineer, and then changed my major twice, first to food science, before transferring to Fresno State to study oenology and viticulture. My interest in wine developed through the restaurants I worked in to help pay my student bills. It was a time when the restaurant wine list was changing from having Burgundy and Chablis, which wasn’t from Burgundy or Chablis, to actual varietals. I was about 21 and had an interest in wine and it just kept growing, first in the restaurant, and then in the wineries starting up in San Obispo and Edna Valley. In my free time I would sometimes go to the wineries and found it really fascinating. From there wine went from an interest to a passion, and it changed the direction of my life.Q. What was the wine market like at the time?We went from being a 3-choice wine list to actually listing varietals, so it had a lot of similarities to today. The Central Coast is known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and they were very popular because everybody wanted regional wines even back then. It was nearly all Californian and primarily red, because we were right in the middle of a very young but recognized wine region that started in the 1970s. It was a much simpler time ‒ we used to go up to Napa for wine tasting, and you could just go into a winery and taste the wines and there were no fees. It was fantastic. Q. What drew you to Napa?I had made Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the Central Coast for about a decade, but Cabernet was one of my first loves in wine, so I really wanted to try my hand. I was mentioning it to my wife while we were in Hawaii on vacation in November ’98, and I was like “what would you think if I looked for a job in Napa?” When we returned home there were a couple of job opportunities on my voicemail, and four months later I found myself in Napa. Q. What were Hess looking for from a new winemaker?The Hess Collection started in 1982, and the first real vintage was 1983. When Donald Hess started off it was a vineyard company first, but he got the wine bug just like everybody does and wanted to make his own wine. They hit phenomenal success with the first release and right on through to 1993-94, then all of a sudden they weren’t the fresh new thing and the scores got a little tougher.Whenever you bring in a new winemaker it is the chance to come in with a fresh set of eyes, take a critical look at the vineyards and the winery and see what you can do to reinvent. At that point it meant taking a hard look at how the Cabernets are made ‒ back in the ’80s and the ’90s it was easier than it is today, if you made a wine without a flaw you were scoring good and the wines were popular. If you had those same wines now, I would wager they would be rustic and tough. We’ve come to realise that tannins are interesting things, and when you work with a mountain vineyard you work with a lot of tannin in the grape. It’s the growing condition of the vine ‒ down on the valley floor like our Allomi vineyard the soils are deeper, while on a mountain, whether it is Mt. Veeder or any mountain, the soil is much more limited. The Veeder hills for example might have 12 inches of clay loam over shale, so the vines struggle a lot more which makes a smaller berry, with less juice to skin where the tannins are, so they tend to be more tannic. We try to make the wines without the dry tannins you get on the mountain. That was a big change ‒ some of it you do in the winery, but a lot of it was taking a pretty critical look at the vineyards. As a vineyard owner in Napa in the ’60s and ’70s you planted what was popular, usually Cabernet and Chardonnay side-by-side, and didn’t pay attention to the climate and terroir. Then we had a big phylloxera upheaval in the ’80s which was devastating and quite expensive for the owners to replant. However, it was the start of forcing everyone to re-evaluate what was growing and how to get a return on their investment. Most of the vineyards that we have at Hess were planted in the ’60s. In those days two things determined how you planted ‒ maximum efficiency of the land and how big your tractor was. Your rows were 10 or 12 feet apart depending how wide your tractor was, and the rows were nice and long so you didn’t have to turn your tractor much. But now if the sun exposure says you’ve got to have a lot of small rows with lots of turning, that’s what you’ve got to do. Q. What changes did you make with Cabernet and Malbec?At Hess we didn’t start our replanting until about 2006. A vineyard can last indefinitely really, but most vineyards will go about 25 years. We bought in some new viticultural techniques ‒ different clones, sometimes changing row directions, grafting and replanting of the Malbec, and now we have also started to replant Cabernet. We grafted away from Cabernet to Malbec up in our highest elevation vineyard, Veeder Summit, and I was so impressed with the crop in the first year we just expanded and expanded the Malbec. Today we have 33 acres in the three Veeder vineyards and we’re the largest Malbec growers in the valley.The Malbec is a really good wine. It has a great fruitfulness on the nose, with a lot of density but not astringent tannin. Everyone refers to Merlot as being the blending grape for Cabernet, but our Merlot was very tannic and muscular, so Malbec became the natural blending grape for us. Malbec really likes cooler climates and needs less heat to get really ripe, so it was a natural for us up on the hilltops. The Liontamer is a red blend based on Malbec, the 2015 is 50% Malbec, so you get a real sense of it. We are currently on a slow replant through the vineyard ‒ with 200 acres up on Mt. Veeder we replant about 20 acres per year and have a constant turnover. And that is exciting and it bodes well for the future, as what we are planting offers even higher quality than what it is replacing. Mainly we are replanting Cabernet with Cabernet, and if the block doesn’t suit Cabernet because it is too close to the forest or the exposure isn’t right, then we put it in Malbec. Q What changes did you make in the winery?In our continuing series on winemakers and the evolution of the wine business, in early December we talked with David Guffy, Chief Winemaker and Viticulturalist at The Hess Collection in Napa Valley, California. Under David’s guidance in the vineyard and the winery, Hess has matured from a young upstart into a focused producer of premium wines, noted for their excellent value which is not a quality often associated with Napa Valley. 〈Interviewer:Dion Lenting(Kiwi Copy) December 2018〉Our feature story ー Part9 Guiding a focus on creating world-class wines in the vineyard and the winery.David Guy, Chief Winemaker and Viticulturalist at The Hess Collection in Napa Valley, California

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