Climbing the Mountain with Hess Collection’s Stephanie Pope

Nov. 5, 2019


Winemaking is one of humanity’s oldest creative endeavors, one which brings together knowledge and experts from all over the planet in pursuit of a shared goal. Stephanie Pope, Winemaker for our peers at the Hess Collection, has long felt the pull of grapes shaping her life and career. Currently based in the Napa region of California’s fertile wine country, Pope focuses primarily on wines from estate vineyards on Mount Veeder, itself the coolest mountain growing region in Napa, and among the most rugged and challenging places to farm in the valley.


A Special Cab Sav

Making wine on Mount Veeder is not for the faint of heart.

“The biggest challenges we face aren’t typically in the winemaking process, but come from mother nature,” she told us. “That could be wildfires, earthquakes, landslides, you name it. Making wine in a remote location means that we often experience challenges that others might not.”

But the results are worth it, according to Pope, as the region produces Cabernet Sauvignon grapes unlike any other.

The fruit’s uniqueness “is due to the locations where it is grown,” she explained. “I know that sounds silly, but the soil types and sun exposure we have are different than anywhere else in Napa. We are cooler than other areas which allows the grapes a nice long time to ripen on the vine.”

The result is grapes which are typically smaller than other areas as well lending themselves to darker colored and more structured wines, according to Pope.


Reaching the Mountain Top

In addition to the incredible Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon, Pope is also busy creating malbec, chardonnay, and Bordeaux-styled red blends at her remote, mountain hideaway. At the Mount Veeder facility, Pope said, “Logistics are an issue, but we have been investing in upgrades starting with our Lions Head Cellar.”

According to Pope, the lions head is taken from part of the family crest, which was also part of the original label. “The family Credo,” said Pope, “is ‘Live every day with the heart and courage of the Lion.’ and we want to fully honor that belief in what we do.”

That courage has helped Pope along her journey as a winemaker, from her studies of Viticulture & Enology at UC Davis through a life-changing stint as a winemaker in New Zealand, and a move back to California (with her new New Zealand winemaker husband in tow) to continue working throughout Napa Valley before landing at Hess and the Mount Veeder facility.

Despite the difficulties in such a remote location, and the limitations of an older facility, Pope is able to turn her adversities into advantages. When faced with strictures on overall output, Pope focuses on quality over quantity as she improves and upgrades the facility.

“We can keep our lots small,” she said, “and control our extraction of color and tannin in the new tanks which you will be able to taste in the new vintages of wines.”

She is enthusiastic about the end results, predicting that consumers “will find our wines are more elegant than they have been in past vintages, with very soft supple tannin, concentrated color, and a long lingering finish.”


A Process Story

As an experienced winemaker, Pope is well-acquainted with the experience necessary to be successful in her process.

“The most rewarding part,” she explained, “is finally getting that vintage you have worked so hard for over the past 24 months into a bottle and being able to share that labor of love with the people you surround yourself with.”

It is more than a technical achievement for Pope. “Winemaking allows me to be creative in an artistic way,” she said. ”It is a snapshot of time in a bottle, expressing all of the things that have lead up to the final act of harvest. The wine that results from the year brings people together to celebrate and enjoy each other in the finer moments of life. Nothing is better than good food, good wine, and good friends.”

As a winemaker, and an artist, Pope sees herself in the bottles she produces. “There is a sense of pride when you open a bottle you loved making and seeing the faces of other light up when they taste it,” she said. “My ‘art gallery’ isn’t paintings on a wall, but liquid poetry in a bottle that you can mark time with, make memories with, and enjoy down to the last sip.”

We are thrilled to be a part of Stephanie Pope’s journey as a winemaker, and to share her wines, and the entire Hess Collection, with your business. Call your Breakthru Sales Consultant today to add Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon to your order and learn more about how the Hess Collection can help your business grow.

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