The Hess Collection: Two Passions Under One Roof

Donald Hess has been collecting some of the world’s finest modern art since the 1960’s, but it wasn’t until his dreams of starting his own winery became fulfilled in 1989 that the art was made available to the public. Choosing to settle just outside of Napa Valley, Hess wanted to make this off-the-beaten-path destination stand apart from the other local wineries in more ways than one. And after more than twenty successful years producing fine wines and attracting artistic-minded visitors, The Hess Collection has become of piece of art in itself.

The Architecture

Although the winery did not open until 1989, Hess had already begun renovating the grounds three years earlier in 1986. The structure and style of the classic stone building became infused with the modern art and improvements that Hess brought in, resulting in what is still one of the finest balancing acts between two such beautifully distinct architectural styles in all of wine country.

The Museum

Donald Hess is not your average art collector. A true patron of the arts, Hess enjoys working closely with each of the 20 living artists he provides long-term support to, often throughout various stages of an artist’s career. Hess’ passion and generosity have contributed to some of the finest works of the modern art movement, including pieces by names such as Rauschenberg, Gertsch, Bacon and Motherwell. For a great and in depth look into the Hess Collection, explore the gorgeous hardcover edition of his catalog The Hess Art Collection.

“Throughout my 40 years of acquiring and building up the art collection my early, simple guidelines have remained unchanged. Even today, I rely chiefly on my intuition and on my own eyes, however I still find that several times waking up at night and thinking about a painting, a result of having been deeply moved by a particular piece of art, continues to be the best indicator for purchasing a new piece.

“I am certainly not influenced by fashionable trends, nor does it matter to me, how well-known and artist is. My main criteria is: an artwork cannot just be visually pleasing – it has to deeply touch me in such a way that during the week before finally purchasing the artwork I constantly think about it.”
– Donald M. Hess

The Wine

The three Hess Vineyards, now famous for their industry-leading “green” viticulture and eco-friendly sustainable practices, each uniquely take advantage of the diverse microclimates around the San Francisco Bay, allowing Hess’ winemakers to select the ideal growing location for each of its eight varietals. Try the Hess Collection Mount Veeder 2008 Chardonnay and the 2007 19 Block Cuvee blend of six red varietals, or taste one of their Small Block Specialties such as the 2008 Gewürztraminer.