Tom Selfridge, who spent seven years at the helm of the Chalone Wine Group before it was purchased earlier this year by global spirits giant Diageo, has been hired as the new president of The Hess Collection winery in Napa Valley.
Wednesday was Selfridge's first day at the winery, which is situated high above the valley on Mount Veeder. "Tom is known and respected for his deep personal commitment to producing the highest quality wines possible," Max Lienhard, chairman of the board at Hess Group, which owns the winery, said in a statement.
From its founding in 1985 to the late-1990s, Hess was considered a top producer of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, but the winery has stumbled in recent years, producing a series of wines that have rarely scored above 85 on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale.
Selfridge, 62, conceded that Hess wines can be improved. "I think there's definitely room to bring renewed focus on wine quality," he said.
Previous to Chalone, Selfridge was on the management team at Kendall-Jackson and spent 18 years at Beaulieu Vineyard. At Hess, he replaces Clem Firko, who had been president for 15 years. The company would only say that Firko left "to pursue other interests."
Though Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess, the company's founder, has since retired from the winery, it is still owned by the Hess family.
In addition to various Cabernets, the Hess Collection produces Chardonnay, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, a rosé and a late-harvest Viognier. The Hess parent company also produces value brand Hess Select, and owns and imports Peter Lehmann Wines from Australia and Glen Carlou wines from South Africa.