Tasting Notes, 2011: Quintessa Winery, Rutherford, Napa Valley

Quintessa features a unique and creative set-up for wine-making: The grapes are sorted and destemmed at roof level, then gravity-fed into the winery via the skylights. The custom-made conduit, pictured above, funnels the grapes from the skylights into the fermentation tanks below (click the photo for higher resolution).

I scheduled a wine-tasting session at Quintessa last week, and if there’s one thing that I appreciate about Quintessa’s format, it’s the rare opportunity to taste a three-year vertical of premium Napa Cabernet. At the moment, Quintessa is pouring its 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages, and I carefully evaluated all three wines side-by-side. My conclusion: The 2007 Quintessa offers lush red fruit on the palate, with elements of cherry and ripe raspberry (extremely approachable for a current release); the 2006 Quintessa remains the most emblematic of the Rutherford appellation, with its long, dry, dusty finish; and the 2005 Quintessa, despite its additional age, still seems to offer the biggest tannins of the bunch.

With prices at $145-$150 per bottle, I certainly wouldn’t cite Quintessa as a bargain, but the wines are well-made, no doubt. If I had to choose one wine to purchase, it would probably be the 2006 vintage, for its distinct Rutherford character. However, most people will probably gravitate towards the user-friendly 2007 vintage, which is understandable.

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