Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Carmenѐre. ‘The 2015 season began beautifully, with ample rains very welcome after three years of drought. Warm late-winter temperatures prompted an early budbreak and ultimately one of the earliest harvests on record for Quintessa. Overall, yields were low with outstanding quality as we began harvest in the early morning of 2 September. Harvest continued at pace, completing on 30 September.’ Small crop. Harvest was fast and furious, winemaker Rebekah Wineburg’s first.
Big and beefy nose. But not quite as fresh as some other vintages. Some quite angular tannins still in evidence – needs food!
Jancis Robinson, JancisRobinson.com (April 2023)
About this WINE
Quintessa is a single 75-hectare estate, belonging to the Franciscan Group, which lies in the heart of Rutherford. The estate includes a valley, a lake, a river and 5 hills with 5 distinct soil types. It is unique in the sheer diversity it encompasses. Valerie Huneeus, a scientist and viticulturist, has developed the vineyards from the ground up, utilising the latest vineyard technology.
Quintessa is an American Bordeaux blend or "meritage" comprising Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (30%), and Cabernet Franc (10%). It is aged in small French barrels (75% new) for 18 months. The inaugural vintage was 1996 and already Quintessa is being talked of as a Californian classic.
North Coast's Napa Valley is California's most famous viticultural area (AVA), claiming some of the most expensive agricultural land in the world and producing wines of cult status.
Its 16,000 ha of vines lie over a strip (40 miles long-5 miles wide) of diverse soils (clay, gravely, volcanic), with its northernmost end on the side of Mountain Helena and its foot in San Francisco Bay. The valley is framed by two mountains ranges Vaca (to the north) and Mayacamas (to the south), yet the main climatic influence is the cool wind and fog that is sucked in from San Pablo Bay during the afternoon, allowing grapes to ripen slowly and evenly.
The area enjoys a variety of unique microclimates, as temperatures can vary dramatically as much as 15 degrees, from the north to the south end of the valley. These differences have led to the creation of several sub-AVAs (14 in total) including:
Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley District, Diamond Mountain District, Howell Mountain, Los Carneros, Mt. Veeder, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Spring Mountain District, Stags Leap District, Yountville, Wild Horse Valley and Oak Knoll District. The Calistoga AVA is still pending approval.
Both the Napa Valley designation and the sub-AVA name must appear on the wine label simultaneously, with the exception of wines from the Carneros AVA, which is shared between the Napa Valley and the Sonoma County.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the undisputed king of Napa grapes, occupying over 45% of the vineyard acreage, followed by (predominantly) Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cab. Franc and to a lesser extent Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Barbera, Dolcetto.
Frog's Leap, Dominus, David Ramey, Viader, Stag's Leap Cellars, Paras Vineyards, Heitz.
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.