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Quintessa 2010, 2016, 2018 & Illumination 2018

October 27, 2021

The good guys at Wine Clique, Singapore, held an online tasting of Quintessa wines with its winemaker Rebekah Wineburg on 13 October 2021. Situated on a most beautiful plot in Rutherford, Napa Valley, that was first acquired in 1989 by Agustin and Valeria Huneeus, themselves experienced winemakers from Chile, this 280-acre (112 hectares) estate is planted with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and carménère over 160 acres (64 ha) spread over twenty-six blocks. The first vintage of Quintessa was produced in 1994 and the estate was certified biodynamic soon after. The wine is typically aged for about twenty months in French oak, of which 70%-85% is new, depending on vintage. I found the wines to be superbly balanced and naturally nuanced at just the right level of extraction without any sort of glossiness, almost Old World in feel and character. This is an excellent address.

2018 Illumination. 100% sauvignon blanc, though this is not a domaine wine as there are only two acres (0.8 ha) of this grape varietal grown on the estate. Good clarity. Quite effusive in its classic bouquet of diesel fumes, nutmeg and olives. Medium-full. Quite beautifully rounded and plush, almost velvety. Seamlessly integrated with sublime acidity and lithe agility, imbued with a dash of sweetness amid its subdued minerality. Finishes in a fabulous warm glow of superb length. Excellent. Only 2000 cases annually.

2010 Quintessa. Opaque dull purple. Minerally nose of soil, ferrous elements and preserved plums. Medium weight. Rounded and fleshy with a distinct chalky minerally mid-body, displaying early secondary characters of cedar with some savoury quality amid dark plums tinged with mandarins. Very well integrated within a sheen of highly supple tannins, tapering with fine linearity to a decent finish. Not overtly profound but drinking well.

2016 Quintessa. The second vintage of Rebekah Wineburg. Opaque dull purple. Pointed nose of red fruits, slightly earthy. Medium-bodied. Rounded with good weight and understated verve, underscored by a deeper vein of dark currants and early secondary characters, displaying very fine acidity with fleeting attack and intensity. Finished well on a note of lead oxide.

2018 Quintessa. Vinified with considerably less new oak, only 62%, to give greater expression to pioneering vines which are now about 30 years of age. Deep purple. Lifted delicate bouquet of fresh dark berries that seems remarkably lithe and agile, almost cautious in its entry. Seamlessly layered with understated presence, though undeniably impressive in purity and clarity. Yet to flesh out. Quiet finish. Drinking well. Very well-behaved though, perhaps, it could do with more character?

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