In 2002, Valeria and Agustin Huneeus’ dream of the quintessential wine estate, one vineyard that produces a singular estate wine, was realized with the opening of the winery at Quintessa. Quintessa is comprised of 280 acres, of which 170 acres are planted to the classic Bordeaux grape varieties in 26 vineyard blocks. The estate includes a valley, lake, and river; five hills, four microclimates and many soil types; as well as rich flora and fauna. The diversity of exposure, elevation and microclimate and soil and commitment to Biodynamic practices produce 50-80 very different wines lots from the 26 different vineyard blocks, and contributes to the high quality of the fruit.
Born in Santiago, Chile, Agustin Huneeus began his career there and is one of the few vintners who has dedicated his entire professional life to the wine industry. He entered the wine business in 1960 as CEO of Concha y Toro, which grew from a small winery to become Chile’s largest under Agustin’s leadership. In 1971, Chile’s difficult political climate led Agustin to leave his home country. He headed Seagram’s worldwide operations, responsible for wineries in seven countries. He founded Noble Vineyard in 1977, which later acquired Concannon Vineyard, a premium winery in the Livermore Valley. Agustin became partner and acting President of Franciscan Estates in 1985. Under his leadership, the ailing company was transformed into a successful group of premium wine estates. In 1999, Agustin sold his interest in Franciscan Estates. Today, he devotes his time to realizing his dream of developing Quintessa into a world-class wine estate. He also maintains vineyard holdings in Chile, the Alexander Valley and the Napa Valley.
After graduating from the University of Chile, Valeria Huneeus worked as a viticulturist in the Southern Hemisphere. When Valeria and Agustin moved to New York and began a family, Valeria broadened her interests, pursuing a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia University. She then spent ten years doing research in cholesterol and cell metabolism. “I wanted to see the sun again,” she smiles, explaining the next curve in her career: developing the Mistral vineyard in Santa Clara County with her husband. This project gave her valuable practical experience that she was able to use in the development of Quintessa. “Quintessa was a rare opportunity,” she reflects, “but the topography was a great challenge. An avid proponent of a sustainable approach to agriculture that seeks harmony with the land, Valeria took special care to be respectful of the landscape and the soil. Many other facets of this philosophy have been applied to the development of the Quintessa vineyard and its daily care.