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Wine my brother drinks 3: Quintessa 1997

My brother Jim is a wine aficionado of some repute, though he hangs out in much more rarefied wine circles than I do. His thoughts on Quintessa, a big-deal Napa red wine not usually seen around these parts. It's part of a feature that appears occasionally — Wine my brother drinks. Jim writes:

In-laws arrived for a four-day visit so, of course, the order of the day was to start drinking.  Not that I don't like seeing them, but sharing your very personal space with anyone takes a bit of numbing.  Dinner was lasagna, so I reached into the back of the Eurocave for a 1997 Quintessa which was given to me by a good friend who I am pretty sure only drinks Quintessa. The old "Stick with what you know and like" theory of wine drinking.

More, after the jump:


First thing that strikes you is that it comes wrapped in tissue paper. For the life of me, I cannot understand this. Maybe the wineries figured that it makes the wine appear more fancy, but for me it just seems silly. It's not as if tissue paper is going to protect the bottle from anything. In fact, I would make the argument that it is a detriment to packaging because if the tissue gets just slightly wet (condensation, for example) it bleeds onto the label. This I know from experience, having had a six-pack of 1998 Latours scarred from just such an occurrence. But I digress.

I decanted the bottle and the color was spot on — that nice, deep purple/red. First sips produced the following observations:  Wife thought it had less alcohol than the Chateauneuf du Pape we had the night before (she was right, of course, 13.5 percent for the Quintessa as opposed to 15.5 percent for the CDP), tasted a bit like oak and was tasty. Mother-in-law said it reminded her of horses, but in a good way and was delish. Father-in-law was working a Jack and Fresca so he passed.

My first thoughts were that it wasn't a very complex wine — seemed very one dimensional. Though well made and pleasing to the palate, it tasted of black fruit and not much more. Good finish and was great with dinner. As we like to say here in Dairyland, if it was a fish I wouldn't throw it back. But I sure wouldn't have spent the $100 release price for it. Just wasn't interesting enough for that price point.

My mother-in-law, having never played the "what does it taste like game," was worried that she couldn't put her finger on what her taste buds were telling her. Which is exactly what her taste buds were telling her. Too often I think people are pressured to interpret the wine they drink into flavors or tastes that they know or think they know. Here's me going out on a limb — the only thing that really matters about the flavor profiles of a wine you drink are if you enjoyed the experience. Screw the pundits — it either tastes good or it doesn't, you would either drink it again or you wouldn't. It really is that simple.

Just for giggles I looked at some reviews for the Quintessa and found tasting notes that described "loamy earth tones" and "complex earthy flavors" — which in my book is the same as my mother-in-law's "horses — but in a good way".  Trust yourself, you know more than you think.

2 Responses to Wine my brother drinks 3: Quintessa 1997

  1. kelkeagy@hotmail.com' kelkeagy says:

    Jeff: Tell your brother that the tissue is meant to keep the label from scuffing during transport. I use it all the time when I have a bottle that needs to be perfect for photographic purposes.

  2. I love Quintessa!I used to sell it at my hotel in San Francisco when I was the beverage manager. Great stuff!
    I would have to agree though that it was pretty overpriced. I think I might have enjoyed it most because I usually drank it for free, Lol. Still, I wouldn’t “throw it back” either :)

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