« Exploding cake, student filmmakers help ILM spinoff celebrate | Main | Justin Meyer's Love of Port Lives On »

September 13, 2007

Harvest check list for Quintessa

Sauvignon Blanc harvested, fermenting nicely
Silverdale South Merlot night harvest in progress
September 22 Equinox fast approaching

Was this Michael Sipiora's check list upon waking in the pre-dawn today?  

It might have been.  Last week’s high temperatures have everyone on the move here in the wine country.   As a biodynamic and organic farmer at Napa Valley's Quintessa Estate, he has a few additional considerations in mind.

The vines ready for harvest at Quintessa on August 31, 2007.

Sipiora is viticulturist for Quintessa Vineyards in Rutherford (Napa Valley), a piece of vineyard land that is in itself somewhat remarkable.  In 1989 co-proprietor Valeria Huneeus identified these 280 acres as the last great undeveloped property in the Napa Valley. On land never before farmed, she saw a great wine estate with rolling hills, myriad microclimates and a vast diversity of complex soil types. Now, 18 years later, Quintessa is home to a respected wine estate.  Valeria has been its vineyard master (or mistress?), laying out and planting the vineyard blocks and determining with certitude that Quintessa would be chemical free.

From L to R, these wooden boxes provide shelter for the bees at Quintessa. Stinging Nettle and Chamomile grow in their biodynamic gardens and are made into tea.

Today Michael Sipiora is the devoted steward of this property.  He lives in a world of Stinging Nettle tea, algae extracts, kelp meal,  and humic acids.  He thinks about vemicompost from the Sonoma Valley Worm Farm to add organic matter and micro-organisms to the soil. And yucca, aloe, algae and quartz to protect his vines from extreme heat, among other things.

Thinned as much as 3 tons per acre before the ripening process really kicked in.

Applied biodynamic 501 preparation on fruit days, a solution with quarts that is applied to foliage to stimulate the ripening process.  This application was made when the moon was in Leo.  Leo is associated with fruiting.  According to biodynamic theory, the processes in the plant are heightened during this period.
Applied stinging nettle tea with algae extracts, kelm meal and humic acids to combat leafhoppers in some blocks.

Used this same tea in the drip irrigation system to rejuvenate the soils, add nutrients, plant hormones and help the elements in the soil to bind.  This proved particularly beneficial on the rocky hillsides where organic matter is at a minimum.


Summer Equinox.  With the help of the cows who reside permanently in the Quintessa vineyard, Michael will prepare horn manure and bury it in a small ceremony.

Tess, one of the Quintessa's two cows, provides manure for the compost pile and brings serenity to the property.

After 17 years of grape farming, Quintessa has embarked on a re-planting schedule for some of its 26 different vineyard blocks. At the north end of the property, Michael is preparing the Limelight block for replanting.   His objective is to change the rootstock, clone, row orientation and spacing. Last year mustard, rapes, and many kinds of grasses and cover crops were planted.  In the spring the soil was tilled.  Biodynamic compost, rock phosphate and lime were added to introduce magnesium and raise the ph.  Now the land lies fallow for a year (no fumigation!) to reduce nematode populations. In Quintessa's continuing search for quality, Silverdale North will be ripped out at the end of harvest and added to the replant schedule.

File written by Adobe Photoshop® 5.0
The Winery at Quintessa      

In 2002, Valeria and Agustin Huneeus' dream of the Quintessential Wine Estate, one vineyard that produces one singular estate wine, was realized with the opening of the winery at Quintessa. Walker Warner Architects of San Francisco designed the winery to reflect Agustin and Valeria Huneeus' desire for an inconspicuous structure that would blend into the contours of the property. The graceful crescent-shaped design was carefully considered for its environmental sensitivity and fits snugly into an eastern-facing hillside, disrupting little in the way of the aesthetics or natural beauty of the property. A facade of indigenous stone and natural landscaping of native plants and oak trees creates a subtle presence amidst the diverse terrain.

Winemaking Facilities 

Quintessa is truly a "winemaker's winery." The design facilitates a gravity-flow process and a state-of-the-art winery specifically tailored with fermenters and tanks sized to match the diverse blocks in the Quintessa vineyard. Additionally, the winery at Quintessa is outfitted with the latest in winemaking technology. French oak and stainless steel fermenters stand tall along the winery's front wall, providing the winemaking team with a choice of characteristics adding complexity and subtlety to the blend. Two Vaslin-Bucher JLB automated basket presses, designed to retain the benefits of gentle basket pressing while incorporating new efficiency and precision, are situated at the center of the tank room to receive the grape must following fermentation and maceration. At the heart of the winery and overlooking the tanks and presses below, sits the glass-enclosed blending room and adjoining modern lab where the winemaking progress is painstakingly monitored daily.

Behind the press hall lies the main entrance to Quintessa's caves, 1,200 linear feet (17,000 square feet) of caves and tunnels carved into the volcanic ash hillside directly behind the winery. Here the wine is left to age in French oak barrels in ideal cellaring conditions for 16-20 months before bottling. Quintessa's caves can be entered through one of four porticos from the winery and have a capacity to store up to 3000 barrels.

Address: 1601 Silverado Trail, Rutherford, CA 94574
  P.O. Box 505, Rutherford, CA 94573
Telephone: 707-967-1601
Tasting appointment: Visitors are welcome by appointment only. Tasting fee is $35 a person. Tours are offered at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.
Website: www.quintessa.com
Architecture: Walker and Warner Architects
Proprietors: Agustin and Valeria Huneeus
Acreage: 280 acres of which 170 acres are planted
Consulting Winemaker: Aaron Pott
Director of Vineyards and Winemaking: Charles Thomas
Viticulturist Michael Sipiora
Varietals planted: Classic Bordeaux grape varieties in 26 vineyard blocks as follows: Cabernet Sauvignon (129 acres), Merlot (26 acres), Cabernet Franc (7 acres), Petit Verdot (4 acres), and Carmenere (4 acres)
Sales Inquiry: Jim Sweeney, Managing Director
Marketing Inquiry: Gwen McGill, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
Hospitality Inquiry: Lora McCarthy, Director of Hospitality

Editor’s Note: For additional information contact Pam Hunter- 707-258-1699 x 15 or admin@studio-707.com

Posted by Pamela at September 13, 2007 9:31 AM| Share on Facebook | Biodynamic Farming, Napa Valley Wines, Organic, Quintessa

Studio 707 Blog