Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quintessa Winery

Quintessa Winery was purchased in 1989 as 280 undeveloped acres in Rutherford by the Chilean vintners Agustin and Valeria Huneeus. The property includes a lake, five hills, 26 different vineyard blocks and a wine cave.  It is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon (129 acres), Merlot (26 acres), Cabernet Franc (7 acres)  and 4 acres each of Petit Verdot and Carmenere.  The winery was opened in 2002 and employs organic and biodynamic farming.  The setting is very beautiful and the wines are outstanding, making it an exceptionally pleasant winery to visit.

Quintessa winery

Quintessa is located on the west side of Silverado Trail north of Rutherford Cross Rd.  and is first viewed as a crescent shaped building on a hill. They specialize in a premium Cabernet Sauvignon  that is made in a Bordeaux blend style. The tasting and tour is offered three times a day by appointment only and costs $65.  The Cabs you will taste, however, are three to four vintages that retail at $145 a bottle and are paired with gourmet cheese and crackers, all presented after a very interesting and personal tour.  Because of the quality of the wines and the very intimate and personalized tour and tasting, the fee is not at all unreasonable.

Quintessa vineyard

Our tour began with a walk up the hill that overlooks the vineyards.  It was a very lovely view and our excellent host, Laura,  brought some Sauvignon Blanc ("Illumination" at $40) to taste at the top.  This was followed by a cellar tour with a walk through the wine caves and a close up observation of the harvest that included the destemming and sorting of Merlot grapes.  The tasting was inside the building at a private tasting table reserved just for our party and included a packet of written material with photographs and a special individualized greeting for us.  The artisanal cheese pairing included pepato sheep's milk cheese from Petaluma, Seascape goat and cow's milk cheese from Paso Robles and Wagon Wheel cow's milk cheese from Petaluma.  The wines included the 2009, 2008 and 2006 Quintessa but we were also provided with a tasting of the 2007 Quintessa.

Quintessa wine cave

The 2009 Quintessa ($145) was Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  It saw 20 months on French oak, 85% of that new oak.  It was still very young, although not at all difficult to approach.  I got mostly red plum on the nose with red cherry on the palate along with some spice and vanilla.  It was very well balanced and integrated with interlaced tannins.  Although it was very drinkable, it should improve with some age.  The 2008 Quintessa ($145) was more mature and quite nice.  In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot this one has Cabernet Franc and Carmenere.  It saw 19 months on 85% new French oak.  This was more lush and silky than the younger 2009.  Again I got plum on the nose with black cherry and vanilla on the palate along with very nice tannins.  I thought it had an especially nice, long finish.  

Large oak barrels

We had the option of tasting the 2006 or 2007 next and we both chose the 2007, even though we knew what a great year for Napa Valley Cabs this was and how it would probably be the best of the vertical.  The 2007  Quintessa ($155 but not available by single bottle) had Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet France and Carmenere but no Petit Verdot. It had an intense and interesting aroma of dark fruit with some spice.  On the palate it was full bodied but very well balanced with great integrated tannins, plenty of ripe cherry and blackberry with good complexity and a long finish.  Although it was delightfully ripe, it was definitely not overripe or overdone.  It was lush but also had some delicacy.  It is one of the finest Cabs in Napa Valley, and I suspect it would be rated in the 93 to 95 range by most critics.  It is damn good and very drinkable now.  I expected the 2006 to be anticlimactic but I did remember liking the 2006 Marston Family Cab even better than their stellar 2007 so remained open minded about it.  The 2006 Quintessa ($155) had a lighter nose than their 2007. It was well balanced, smooth with good fruit and excellent structure. I noticed it did not have any Cab Franc in it, unlike the 2007.  I would not rate it quite as high as the 2007 but preferred it to the 2008.  Because the 2007 was not available in individual 750ml bottles, we opted to purchase the 2006 instead.


Quintessa offers a premium tour and paired tasting of some excellent Cabs.  Regular tourists or inexperienced wine drinkers will probably want to avoid the tasting fee and wines in this price range, but if you are serious about Cabs and are willing to spend  a little more to taste and purchase them, then you will probably love the tour, tasting and wines at Quintessa; I know we did.  Much thanks to Mary Thomas for inviting us.
Concrete barrel from France

Quintessa Winery
1601 Silverado Trail
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 967-1601
Date of visit: September 26, 2012


Grape destemming & sorting

Stainless steel tanks

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