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It is said that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and in the case of Agustin Huneeus Sr. and Agustin Francisco Huneeus, it is oh so true. Born in Santiago, Chile, Agustin Huneeus Sr. began his career in 1960 as a 23 year old CEO of a then insignificant winery named Concha y Toro. Within 10 years, it was a global brand. Unfortunately, Augusto Pinochet had plans for Chile, and the Huneeus family left the winery in government hands and headed for Argentina.
The global behemoth Seagrams followed, then California’s Franciscan Estates. In 1999 he sold his interests and developed an icon, the quintessential Napa Valley estate – Quintessa, with his wife Dr. Valeria Huneeus.
In 1989 his son Agustin Francisco Huneeus entered the wine business by returning to Chile where he was instrumental in developing and managing Caliterra and Errazuriz. After two very successful years, he returned to California to become GM of Estancia Estates, then, on to Franciscan Estates. After Franciscan was sold to Constellation in 1999, he stayed on in the role of President and CEO and developed the company’s fine wine division. Then, in 2004, he struck out on his own to establish Huneeus Vintners.
Today, he is the driving force behind the company comprised of Quintessa, Faust, Leviathan, Flowers and Benton-Lane. The family’s acclaimed properties exist thanks to Agustin Francisco’s ability to elevate and refine what others overlook. The ability is so innate that each winery he touches is a perfectly natural, modern extension of place. We’ve hosted Agustin Francisco in Toronto, and his intense insight and curiosity is apparent. His preference has always been for properties with autonomy, integrity, and character.
Today, Agustin Sr. keeps a low profile for an influential wine veteran. Agustin Francisco brings a similarly thoughtful, understated quality to his role as head of the family’s enterprises. Each estate speaks to a chapter in this remarkable family’s history.
Any questions? Feel free to call me. I’m always happy to “talk wine”: 647 955 8872 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to hear from you.
Agustin Sr. used the sale of his interests in Seagrams to establish the quintessential Napa Valley estate in the heart of Rutherford, with his wife, esteemed viticulturalist Dr. Valeria Huneeus.
Quintessa is a masterpiece property of 280 acres in the heart of Rutherford. Almost 200 acres of pristine organic vineyards cover the hills and valleys. In 2015, Quintessa is largely comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon complemented by Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere. It spent 21 months in French oak (75% new).
“Aromas of blue fruits, blackberries, tile and lead pencil. Full body, firm tannins and a fresh, bright finish. Layered and intense with white-pepper and salt undertones. Love the finish to this racy young wine. Beautiful blue fruits! Drink in 2020 and onwards. From biodynamic grapes.” 97 points, JamesSuckling.com, May 2018
“Deep garnet-purple coloured, the 2015 Proprietary Red Wine has a very deep purple colour and notes of crushed rocks, dusty earth and iron ore over blackcurrants and black cherries, plus hints of tapenade, bay leaves, underbrush and chargrill. Medium to full-bodied, the palate is bursting with densely packed, youthful black fruits, framed by finely grained tannins and refreshing acidity, finishing long and mineral laced. This was tasted as a barrel sample.” (94-96) points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Oct 2017
“The 2015 Quintessa is an absolutely sensational showing which is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carmenère that spent 21 months in 100% French oak (75% new). It instantly begins with aromas of ripe black currants, blackberries and red cherries, which are woven together with fresh florals, spices, dusty minerals as well as suggestions of graphite and dark chocolate shavings all taking shape. On the palate this is full-bodied with a lovely opulent mouthfeel, displaying outstanding depth and concentration. It continues to impress with its remarkable overall balance and finesse which provides a sense of elegance as it glides seamlessly into the long, lustrous finish. This is the first vintage winemaker Rebekah Wineburg has managed all aspects of the wine making process from vineyard to bottle. The result is nothing short of an utterly fascinating wine, which will continue to drink beautifully for decades.” 95 points, International Wine Report, May 2018
Faust is one of Napa’s most exciting Cabernets, not to mention one of its best values. Crafted at the state-of-the-art Quintessa winery in Rutherford since 2002, Faust stands alone as a singular wine that unapologetically blends Cabernet from Napa Valley’s diverse vineyards in the name of complexity. The name honours the legend of Dr. Faustus, a medieval German scholar who offered his soul to the Devil in exchange for youth and passion – a tongue-in-cheek reference for a family extremely familiar with the wine business.
Fruit from the Huneeus family’s vineyards in Rutherford and Coombsville (in the eastern foothills of Atlas Peak) forms the backbone of Faust Cabernet Sauvignon. The family has introduced small lots from select growers in Yountville, Mount Veeder, Atlas Peak, St. Helena, and Rutherford too.
The 2015 Faust is a benchmark Napa Cabernet. Silky and bold with lifted fruit, the wine matures in French oak barrels (30% new) for 19 months before release.
“A dense yet fresh red with a blueberry and blackberry character and hints of tobacco and dark chocolate. Light bitterness adds to the complexity on the palate. Layered and beautiful. Juicy fruit at the finish. Drink or hold.” 95 points, JamesSuckling.com, May 2018
“A barrel sample, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is deep garnet-purple coloured, with a decadent cassis, baked blackberries and plum preserves-scented nose, plus hints of spice cake, cedar and Marmite toast. Full-bodied, rich, concentrated and wonderfully spicy in the mouth, it has velvety tannins and just enough freshness, finishing long.” (92-94) points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Oct 2017
Flowers Vineyards & Winery
Perched on soaring coastal ridges two miles from the Pacific, Flowers Winery’s estate vineyards were some of the first planted on the true Sonoma Coast in 1991. The extremes of Sonoma are amplified on the coast: brilliant sun, saline maritime winds you can taste, cool nights. It’s a wild place. Coastal fruit ripens slowly, imbued with bright flavour, vivacity, and energy.
Huneeus formed a longterm partnership with the acclaimed winery in 2009. It gave founders Walt and Joan Flowers relief from the draining day-to-day work of winery operation, and Huneeus’ marketing savvy introduced their brilliant wines to new markets.
Burgundian in style, Flowers’ textural Chardonnays are enhanced by lees ageing and stirring, while the Pinots are punched down by hand. Both are aged in French oak barrels of varying ages. These are elegant, delicious wines made with a deft hand.
“The 2016 Chardonnay (Sonoma Coast) is a gorgeous appellation level wine. Intensely perfumed, with tons of sheer class, the 2016 has so much to offer. The tropical fruit, mint and floral notes are pliant and open in this creamy, polished Chardonnay from Flowers. This is a terrific introduction to the vintage.” 92 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, July 2018
“The 2016 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast offers up subtle lemongrass, grapefruit and nectarine notes with touches of chalk dust and fresh ginger. Medium-bodied with well-played freshness accenting the creamy texture and quiet intensity of stone fruit flavors, it delivers a long, minerally finish.” 91+ points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, April 2018
“The 2016 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast is pale ruby-purple coloured with a pronounced red currants and cranberries-scented nose with hints of rose hips, raspberry leaves and dried herbs plus a waft of fungi. Medium-bodied, delicately fruited and with beautifully pure cranberry and earth-inspired layers, it has a firm frame of grainy tannins and seamless freshness, finishing with an herbal lift.” 91 points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, April 2018
“The 2016 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) is another terrific appellation-level wine from Flowers. Medium in body, the 2016 is a model of total grace and understatement. Game, incense, tobacco, dried flowers and licorice add layers of nuance throughout. The tannins are a bit coarse, especially for the size of the wine, but that is a relatively small critique given how far things have come here in recent years. Flowers works with purchased fruit for the Sonoma Coast bottling.” 91 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, July 2018
Agustin Francisco acquired cult Napa label “The Prisoner” in 2010, increased its worth seven times, and then sold it again in 2016. He went on the hunt for another iconic blend, and found it in Andy Erickson and Annie Favia’s “Leviathan”.
Andy and Annie’s names are synonymous with hyper-collectable California wines: Andy has tenured as winemaker for Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Mayacamas, and Ovid; Annie was viticulturist with Konsgaard, Corison, and Abreu. Annie and Andy are the force behind Favia, too.
When Annie and Andy make moves, it’s worth paying attention: In 2004, they launched Leviathan, a singular wine that captures the vibrant patchwork of California’s amazing vineyards. Picked up by Huneeus in 2018, it’s exciting to see such skill in display. Each vintage is different, though the composition leans heavily on Cabernet Sauvignon.
“Displays intense black fruit with savoury aromas of pepper and sage. The palate gives way to an even-keeled expression of cherries, violets, umeboshi (pickled plums), savoury tannins and licorice. This is a wine to be enjoyed now and anytime over the next decade.” 95 points, California Wine Advisors, web
“The 2014 Leviathan is a big, juicy wine that will appeal to readers who enjoy flashy, extroverted reds. Copious red cherry jam, red plum, spice, vanillin and oak are pushed forward in this flamboyant, racey Cabernet Sauvignon-based red. At $40 a bottle, the appropriately named Leviathan is one of the best values in California.” 90 points, Antonio Galloni vinous.com, March 2018
The Huneeus family has always sought out family-run wineries with integrity and a sense of place. The Huneeus influence offers guidance and support, rather than heavy-handed corporate control. It can be a thoughtful succession strategy or partnership opportunity for wineries looking for the next chapter.
Lifelong winemakers Steve and Carol Girard produced their first vintage of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir in 1992. They were one of the first wineries in the Willamette, and lucky family and friends consumed the majority of their earliest vintages. Today, Benton-Lane wines have received more Top 100 Wines of the Year awards than any other still wine producer in Oregon.
Long-time friends of the Huneeus family, the Girards sold Benton-Lane to Agustin Francisco in January 2018. Their signature practices are intact: biodynamic vineyard practices, animals grazing the vineyards, holistic winemaking. No chemicals are used.