October 3, 2007
How many people does it take to crush a grape?
A dozen people stand on Quintessa’s crush pad at dawn during harvest to usher every single grape through the winery roof, into the gravity-fed tanks below.
Grape-filled bins arrive from the surrounding estate vineyards and Hugo, the crush foreman and Quintessa's longest employee with 17 years, drives the fork lift and dumps the quarter-ton bins onto the first sorting table.
Just after they're picked from Quintessa vineyards, the grapes make their way to the cluster sorting table, any imperfect clusters are removed.
Every bin of grapes harvested at Quintessa goes through a rigourous sorting process.After the grapes clusters are sorted, they go through the destemmer to remove the stems.
Eleven others stand around the two conveyor tables which move slowly as they hand sort individual clusters and grape berries not once, but twice, removing unripened or overripened grapes and any stems that remain on the belt.
After all that love, those grapes get a light squeeze as they pass through the roller crusher through the winery roof and into the oak or steel fermentation tanks below.
Next, the grapes are ushered to the shaker table, a vibrating table that lets tiny unripened or
shriveled berries drop away. Hand sorting continues to remove any remaining shot or dehydrated
berries and stem bits.
Finally, after no fewer than a dozen hands have touched them, the grapes fo through th roof, fed by
gravity, to the fermentation tanks inside the winery.
Where is the best place to get up-close and personal with the Napa Valley grape harvest? It’s at Quintessa, where every morning and some early afternoon tours see the action on every by-appointment only tour.
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.
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|
|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.|
|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|
|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 email@example.com