Quintessa2003 Quintessa, Estate
(Rutherford ~ Napa Valley)
The good folks at Quintessa have taken some hits lately. For instance, its owners, the Huneeus family, have been trying to purchase some other properties, only to see their efforts usurped by others. The latest is being outbid by Jess Jackson on the Freemark Abbey-Arrowood-Byron deal. Prior to that, their winery got lumped into the Jim Laube Wine Spectator list I’ll call ‘The Napa Ten’ (Aug. 31, 2006), in which he accuses the deca-group of “underperforming.”
Of Quintessa’s Cabernets he wrote: “distracting earthy flavors that raise serious concerns about what’s happening between vineyard and bottle.”
What’s happening between the biodynamic vineyard and the time the wine gets under glass – at least with the 2003 – is nothing short of sensational. The wine exhibits sweet blackberry and some oak aromas, while in the mouth the wine performs elegantly but with definitive power on a silky texture. There are fine-grained tannins that will make this a beautiful wine between the next two years and the ensuing two decades.
In response to Laube’s comments, Quintessa’s Agustin Huneeus told me, “You don’t respond, you live through those things. Regarding the “earthy flavors” remark, I’m pretty critical of my wines, so that tells me that he doesn’t like the characteristic of the area. He’s picked on a bunch of wines that are terroir wines. I don’t believe that all of them have the same winemaking mistakes. …We’re going to continue to do what this vineyard is going to give us.”
The wine spent 20 months in 100 percent new French barrels. The listed alcohol is 14.6 percent and there was a lot produced – 8,500 cases – which should sell out, and at $120 a pop, should salve any bruised feelings the Huneeuses might harbor.
Reviewed September 8, 2006 by Alan Goldfarb.
Alan Goldfarb has been writing about and reviewing wine for 17 years. His reviews have been published in the St. Helena Star, San Jose Mercury, San Francisco Examiner, Decanter, and Wine Enthusiast, among others. Not once has he used a point system, star system, or an iconic symbol to quantify a wine. What counts in Mr. Goldfarb’s criteria when judging a wine is: how it tastes in the glass; is it well-constructed; its food compatibility; and presence of redeeming regional attributes.