Tasting Away on a Foggy Day

The Napa Valley faced some unusual June weather this past week, which fell on the same day as my tour and tasting appointment at Quintessa. Thankfully, the rain held out until the indoor portion of the tour, and my visit consequently turned out to be an amazing educational event.

Quintessa is a must-see experience for wine tasters seeking to learn about winemaking through the art of blending and the diversity of vineyard location and soil types. It’s certainly not for those afraid to step inside a sterile, organized environment. Farmed with biodynamic and organic techniques, Quintessa displays a gorgeous backyard of several hills, 26 vineyard blocks and the Dragon’s Lake as its centerpiece.

View of Quintessa

The by-appointment-only visit, started at 10 am sharp with a greeting from our knowledgeable host David. He guided us up a terrace pathway to catch a beautiful view of the land and to taste a white blend from the Quintessa portfolio called Illumination. David provided us with a detailed history of the land, the family and the winery, which added greater appreciation to the quality wine in our glass.

2011 Illumination
An aromatic white blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. It bursts with tropical characteristics of pineapple and tangerine. On the palate, crisp, citrus tangerine and mineral notes. Medium-bodied with rich, complex flavors that result in a refreshing and lingering finish. Pair with beet salad topped with goat cheese and vinaigrette.

We next headed back to the entrance where David explained the gravity-flow design and walked us down two floors for a peek into the state-of-the-art winery. Impressive high tech equipment around every corner and a story behind it all. The huge underground caves emitted aromas of butterscotch and caramel while giving off a spa-like atmosphere with a waterfall sculpture to maintain a constant flow of humidity for the barrels.

Winemaker's Winery

Following the tour, we entered an inviting lounge to taste through several vintages of Quintessa. The glasses rested on the table next to a beautiful presentation of information on the winery and tasting notes. David guided us through each tasting and paired the wines alongside three cheeses: Seascape, Toma and Lambchopper.

We first did a tasting comparison of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages. Each wine expressed an individual personality and made excellent pairings with the cheeses. The blends vary from year to year, and it’s not about the specific varieties used but about finding balance and perfection with what the winemaker has to work with.

Wine Tasting

David broke it down even more with barrel samples of Cabernet blocks from the Dragon’s Terraces and Corona Norte. This emphasized the contrasts of terroir and brought greater appreciation to the skill of blending wine. We finished the tasting with the outstanding 2006 Quintessa…full bodied and concentrated, offering smooth, rich, chocolatey nuances with earthy tannins.

Agustin and Valeria Huneeus founded Quintessa with the intentions of creating “The Quintessential Wine Estate.”  This proved to be a success as one will experience throughout the entire tour and website. Book an appointment at Quintessa the next time you’re in the area!

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