Earlier this year, before I embarked on a somewhat fool-hearty mission of getting my CSW credential, I visited the Napa Valley estate of Quintessa. Tucked away, hidden from the Silverado Trail in Rutherford, the unique gravity flow moistly underground winery pokes out from the hillside. When the Huneeus family took ownership of the land in 1990, the land was wild and pristine — and had never been used, or abused by other vines or crops. Having never been planted to vine, the land had none of the after effects of the post-phylloxera recovery efforts, and mandatory replanting that some older, established Napa vineyards did. It was virgin territory, and this prime real estate was ready to plant some amazing Bordeaux varietals. With further research done on what naturally defended against the root louse that destroyed the industry in the past, new rootstock and innovative techniques were put in to place to create an amazing site.
In 2002, the estate winery opened, it was built with a vision of a building that blended in to the natural elements. In addition to the aesthetic beauty, careful consideration was given to the environmental impact as well as functional design for a working winery. The result is a stunning gravity-flow winery that beginnings on the top of the hill where the crushpad is located, and continues through chutes in the floor of the crushpad that transport the juice directly to the fermentation tanks with a minimal of intervention. With all the modern, yet mostly non-intervention techniques, you can bet there will be some great juice coming out of there!
When you visit Quintessa, you have a wealth of tasting experiences to choose from. The Estate Tasting Experience gives guests a comprehensive visit to the facility as well as the vineyard, and a seated tasting paired with local artisan products. But the penultimate experience is what we enjoyed, the Quintessential Quintessa. Here, you start at the winery where you see the operation, and then take a meandering walk up the hill to the ridge where tasting pavillions have been built. These glass gazebos offer the ability to have a fully indoor / outdoor experience, while overlooking the vineyard property below.
Up on the ridgeline, you leave the winery and the hustle bustle of the busy Napa Valley behind. You are truly alone, and have the time to relax, and enjoy the details of the geology of the soils, a full tasting, and a great conversation about what makes teh property so special. And oh, the cheese! The cheese…
With a tasting comparison of the current releases as well as library wine, this experience is a rare and special treat in the valley. Trying to impress out of town guests? This is the way to do it. I especially enjoyed comparing the fresh, young current release, with the vibrancy and fruit forward notes of blackberry and earth, as compared to the library wine, showing dense and chewy notes of tobacco, baking spice and black pepper. Having the luxury to taste the different blends and different vintages really shows a wine lover how wines can develop over time, but also how particular vineyard sites, soil, and blending decisions impact the final result — which make no mistake — was yummy.
The Quintessential Quintessa is $125 per person, and advanced reservations are required. I promise, it’s worth every penny! I look forward to going back and experiencing it again soon! Alternately, you can book an Estate Tasting, which will also be delicious and informative.
**There are no tasting notes on this post on purpose, because I encourage you to form your own opinions about the wine. However, if I was forced to choose, I’d highly recommend the unctuous and delicious Cabernet based blends, particularly the 2010 and the older vintages that have surpassed their awkward teenage years. The discussion of the different vineyard blocks and types of soil ties directly in to each vintage, blending decisions and final results, which is part of the fascinating study of wine. Go forth and taste them for yourself!**
Special thanks to Fineman PR for arranging this visit.