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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Quintessa: The Quintessential Winery Experience

Friday, June 11, 2010
Quintessa Wine Estate in St. Helena, is beautifully crafted facility that is as environmentally friendly, technologically cutting edge, yet charming in a timeless, classic sense. The crescent shaped winery comes into view as you drive up to the tasting room, which actually sits above the winemaking caves and facilities, blending seamlessly in with its surroundings. The elegant structure was designed to be environmentally sensitive and is pressed compactly against the hillside, so as not to disrupt the natural flow and beauty of the property.

I really enjoyed the full tour and tasting experience at Quintessa. The tour begins with a leisurely stroll through the vineyards around the property, which is surrounded by rolling hills, a lake, and embodies a diversity of soil types, and microclimates. The walking tour really allows you to be mindful of Napa Valley’s indigenous natural beauty – both the flora and the fauna are lovely, from the moss-covered oak trees to the birds that alight on the small lake.

The winery itself is impressive from a design standpoint, created to facilitate a gravity-flow wine making process and outfitted with custom-designed stainless steel tanks sized to match the different blocks in the Quintessa vineyard. When the grapes are harvested, they are brought to the “roof” of the winery, which is level with the tasting room. Here the grapes are sorted and de-stemmed before making their way to the stainless steel or french oak fermentation tanks in the winery below. The beauty of the sustainable design is that the roof can then be water-blasted clean with hoses and air-dried by the Napa sun. Below the roof, inside the cavernous winery of Quintessa, a glass blending room and lab overlooks the tanks. Here, the winemaking progress is monitored daily.

The tasting room itself is opulent and refined in contrast to the high-tech winemaking facilities. Garrett and I and our two guests sat down to a sumptuous tasting spread with beautifully prepared canapés including a delectable mushroom tart tp compliment the tast. Our guide generously poured us a “taste” of two different vintages of the Quintessa Meritage Blend– the 2000 and the 2001. It was incredible how different the wines tasted, and I am attributing this to the fact that the Quintessa Meritage blends the property’s various blocks of grapes which are all influences by different soil, microclimates and other variables, which undoubtedly change from year to year. After we finished our comparison, our guide proceeded to refill our glasses with our preferred wine so we could finish our canapés and enjoy each other’s company…which, while it seemed like a fabulous gesture in the moment, led to an afternoon doze at Duckhorn later that afternoon…but I’ll save that for another post!

Quintessa 2001: Incredible, rich flavors, lots of berry fruit balanced with a rich buttery chocolate silken finish. A soft, luscious wine.

Quintessa 2000: Full of dark berry flavors and a sweet, but more forward with a powerful nose of currant and spice. The tannins pack a strong punch, but are balanced, giving the wine a long, elegant finish.

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