Napa red blends are a dime a dozen, though few will reach the level of prestige and sophistication that Quintessa has achieved. The vineyard destined to become Quintessa was purchased nearly 30 years ago by Valeria and Agustin Huneeus, the latter of whom cut his wine industry teeth, and found serious success, at Chilean based Concha y Toro.
However, the duo’s success didn't come overnight. First, the couple had to entirely plan their 280 acres of newly acquired land, as the Rutherford area wasn’t yet cultivated the way it is today. The Huneeus’ sought help from their dear friend Jean Claude Berrouet, the esteemed winemaker at Petrus. Talk about a serious helping hand. Berrouet was no stranger to the region, as his grape-stained hands were already working behind the scenes at Dominus-- a serious foreshadowing for the burgeoning prosperity to be found at Quintessa.
Like most great success stories, Quintessa’s still needed time. Agustin and Valeria were vinifying their wines elsewhere until they were finally able to build their own state-of-the-art facility in 2002. Michel Rolland jumped on board to consult on the project in 2010, and like most of what Rolland touches, the project immediately turned to gold.
Despite having 280 acres to their names, the Huneeus' Quintessa vineyard only comprises 160 of those. The plantings are dedicated to classic ‘Left Bank Bordeaux’ varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon (which dominates the majority of the vineyard), Merlot, and smatterings of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere. In addition, less than 2 acres of Sauvignon Blanc are also cultivated. Just three wines are vinified at the estate, though the winery’s claim to fame is undoubtedly their Cabernet Sauvignon, which is actually a blend of all of the above red Bordeaux varieties.
Both Valeria and Agustin are passionate farmers who view their vineyard as a working ecosystem. For that reason, all farming is done organically, with utmost respect to the land and fruit put first. Post hand-harvest, grapes are brought to the winery via gravity and are vinified gently in oak and/or stainless steel tanks. Blocks are aged separately for up to 24 months in French oak until the final blend is ready to be created. The 2015 vintage has already received heaps of stellar praises, so naturally I had to open it alongside an equally prestigious vintage.
Let’s just say that this side-by-side tasting re-confirmed everything I thought about Napa: 8 out of 10 vintages in the region are great… they just simply need time. Both bottles exuded pleasantly plump flavors of sappy black fruit, warm baking spices, crushed graphite, pencil shavings, and cloves. Tannins are gritty and well-integrated in both bottles, though naturally the ‘11 is showing a bit more finesse, a gift that only time can bring. The wines’ succulent and intense flavors are balanced by bright acidity and solid structure, which assure these bottles will withstand the test of time. My only regret is that I didn’t hold off to do this tasting a few years down the line-- but with wines this good, who could blame me? Serious collectors, snag these vintages and hold them for the long haul.