As with many of California's most famous North Bay wineries, the 280 acres situated on the west side of the Silverado trail just north of the Rutherford Cross Road was once owned by a famous San Francisco restauranteur. In the case of this winery-to-be, the owner was George Magar Mardikian, Armenian-American restaurateur and chef who owned the ever-popular Omar Khayyam's restaurant on Powell Street. He dreamed of converting the land to a winery upon retirement, passing away before it became reality.
More than a dozen potential buyers made their pitch for the Mardikian property before The Huneeus couple. With decades worth of experience, Agustin was certainly qualified to launch and manage a wine estate, but the key factor in winning the bidding war for the Rutherford property was Valeria's experience. This estate was one of the last large "virgin" estates remaining at the time of purchase by the couple in 1989. It had never been planted to grapes, and Mardikian's wish that it be tended properly was taken seriously.
Valeria was an international viticulturist, earning her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia. Valeria preached organics, sustainable farming and practiced Biodynamics. Between Agustin's vast experience and Valeria's Biodynamics, the Huneeus couple met the high standards required for purchasing the 280 acres they would convert to Quintessa.
Planting 170 acres, the couple enlisted the advice and services of Jean Claude Berrouet (Petrus) in identifying 26 individual vineyard blocks. Phylloxera-resistant clones were planted – American as well as European – with a total of 14 clones planted to seven rootstocks. Every aspect of planting took place with an eye towards diversity. The entire 170 acres was established from day one to function as a self-sustaining, closed biosphere. Biodynamics is serious business, as is the couple's estate motto: "fine wine is a reflection of place." ...Another super Quintessa indeed.