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In 1989 Valeria and I found the property that would be Quintessa. A most remarkable property of great beauty and potential in the heart of the renowned Rutherford appellation of Napa Valley.
Although never before planted to vineyards or any other crop, it had all of the characteristics desirable to a great wine estate; rolling hills, several micro-climates and a diversity of complex soils with limited vigor. How could this magnificent property have escaped the planting fever of the 1970's and 1980's, we wondered? We discovered that it had formerly been owned by a famous San Francisco restaurateur. He had purchased the property in the late 1940's, after extensive research, for its potential to be a grand wine estate. He died before realizing his dream. In the years following his death, many a Napa vintner tried and failed to acquire it. Valeria and I consider ourselves very fortunate to have been entrusted by destiny with the development of this unique property.
The fact that the property had never been planted to grapes before spoke to the vivacity of the soil and the absence of grape pests. Starting with a clean slate permitted us to take advantage of a wealth of knowledge and wisdom that has been accumulated in the Napa Valley over 25 years of quality viticulture. Terrace design, soil preparation, density of planting, trellis systems, and most important, selection of rootstock and clones were just some of the aspects of vineyard innovation that we were able to apply.
The phylloxera pest that afflicted the Napa Valley in the 1980's taught us powerful lessons. Perhaps the most important was diversity. Diversity in the form of rootstock was new when we planted. With the advice of research centers in Bordeaux, New York and California we proceeded to plant. We used seven different rootstocks - not only to provide better protection against disease, but also to take full advantage of different site conditions. Quintessa Winery also researched clonal differentiation for each varietal. Thus we have planted European as well as American clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc - thirteen different clones in all. The most important lesson in diversity, however, is the need to keep the soil alive with a variety of plant life. We learned to maintain a rich cover crop environment. Pests are managed through use of organic materials, cover crops and other innovative practices - and only when required.
From its very inception, the vineyard has been maintained with a strict criteria of care for the soil and the environment. This philosophy is now common to most serious winegrowers in Napa and Sonoma, if not worldwide. It is a very special feeling to know that at Quintessa there was never any other kind of grape growing.
We at Quintessa Winery believe that it is our responsibility to maintain and improve the integrity of the soils that have been entrusted to us. We at Quintessa Winery also believe that this richness of soil and plant life results in wines of more interest, complexity and concentration. Would we have done anything different if we had known the property as we do today, we often ask ourselves? The answer is, of course, we would do some things differently. We have learned a lot, and expect to continue learning every day.
But what we have mostly learned is that the selections we made were exceptionally well done. The great efforts we made to properly protect the hills from erosion and the soil from exhaustion has paid off in the form of a uniquely healthy and beautiful vineyard, yielding grapes which promise to place the property among the world's great wine estates.
Today the vines have lost their youthful exuberance and are showing that they will conform to a harmonious, balanced low vigor vineyard, which needs little manipulation to produce the low yields and high concentration required for quality wine.
The diversity of the vineyard gives our winemakers wide stylistic options. Guided by master blender, Jacques Boissenot of Bordeaux, we have also discovered that finesse and elegance best express the character of the vineyard. We blend for harmony, balance and length of flavors. Above all, our objective is a delicious wine that is complementary to food.
When ten years ago we asserted that, he destiny of Quintessa Winery is to be one of the great wine properties of the world,' it was based on optimism and passion. Now, after ten years of experience, we are very pleased to confirm our belief in that statement. Now it is based not only on optimism and passion, but also on ten years of experience.