For many years I have been a fan of Hess founder and winemaker Donald Hess’s wines. First, in the form of Hess Family Wine Estates products, and more recently, via the wines of Hess Persson Estates and their Lions Head Collection. Hess Persson is headed up by Tim and Sabrina Persson – visionary winemakers – and self-described as “fundamentally an international family with roots in Southern Africa, Ireland, Switzerland and London, yet Napa Valley is where they have found their true calling.” The folks at the winery said of the Lions Head Collection, “Tim and Sabrina Persson created this collection to ignite conversation around the artistry of these wines, and the dynamic, captivating process of winemaking.”
Napa may be where Tim and Sabrina Persson found their true calling, but I am also enamored with a new Sonoma County release of theirs: Panthera 2018 Russian River Valley Chardonnay (SRP $45). It is 100 percent Chardonnay aged in 100 percent Burgundy French oak barrels; 35 percent of which are new. The French oak helps to impart luscious vanilla notes to this fine Chardonnay.
Panthera is a bright, crisp, voluptuous wine with peach, pear, lychee, pineapple and golden apple notes with hints of lemon. It’s a really good example of how to elegantly balance oak, fruit and acidity – a powerful but thoroughly enjoyable example of California Chardonnay at its best.
Here is how Hess Persson winemaker Stephanie Pope describes it. “Panthera Chardonnay showcases the dynamism and energy of the Russian River Valley as this wine displays both a vibrant aspect of fruit and a confident oak profile. This wine presents beautiful layers of crisp, bright Asian pear and golden apple that lead to luscious notes of lemon curd developed from malolactic fermentation. The deft baseline of toasted oak introduces notes of buttered French toast and hints of crème brûlée, which are complemented by a signature backbone of acidity nurtured on the Sonoma Coast.” Amen to that!
I don’t always want big, oaky and buttery Chardonnay; it’s not something I look to drink every day. But when I am in the mood for a decadent Chardonnay that isn’t shy, I won’t hesitate to turn to Panthera Russian River Valley Chardonnay.
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THIS CONTENT IS FROM UTAH BITES NEWSLETTER.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.