Acumen Wines, a renowned wine estate, established its vineyard on the slopes of Atlas Peak, drawn to the exceptional quality of Napa Valley’s high elevation vineyards.
Courtesy: Acumen Wines
The estate’s founding winemaker, Denis Malbec, along with the core team, chose this location due to the rare heat spikes and cooler temperatures influenced by the breezes coming off the Pacific Ocean. On account of the lower amount of rainfall in the area, the forest is not as lush and is more similar to a high desert. The unique microclimate results in a diurnal shift, with warmer temperatures in the evenings and cooler temperatures during the day. The lack of big temperature changes makes for a more evening ripening of the fruit that is crucial during harvest. The soil is primarily volcanic, with much more andesite rock and rust. Known for its red color, the soil is very rocky, with huge boulders the size of a kitchen. The area, in many ways, has become a mini quarry.
As it pertains to sustainability, Acumen goes above and beyond just checking the boxes. They use goats to eat the cover crop during the dormant season, while keeping them outside of the fence line during the bloom to help keep down the brush to create firebreaks. They also use horses to check the vineyards instead of gas powered vehicles helping to limit their carbon footprint.
Supported by an experienced team including winemaker Philip Titus and recently hired viticulturist Michael Wolfe, Acumen has 116 certified acres of vineyard spanning across two locations. Their primary focus is on creating a small portfolio of mountain grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc wines, drawing inspiration from Napa Valley’s great and historical wines of the past.
Acumen’s Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignons possess a distinct character that sets them apart from their Napa Valley counterparts. While other Cabernet Sauvignons in the region are known for their firm tannins, Acumen’s offerings feature a more refined and harmonious tannin structure more reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s. This is in part due to the marine influence in the area, which imparts a natural acidity and softness to the wines.
Courtesy: Acumen Wines
Their Atlas Peak Sauvignon Blanc is a masterful expression of the craft that goes into creating a high-quality wine. With a growing trend towards Sauviignon Blancs that are capable of aging, Acumen’s offering is a prime example of this movement. The grapes used to produce this wine are grown in the coolest microclimate of the vineyard, contributing to the wine’s nuanced flavor profile. Typically harvested around mid-August, the wine is fermented using a combination of stainless steel, stainless drums, and neutral French Oak, resulting in a crowd-pleasing wine that is sure to impress even the most discerning palates.
For small producers looking to establish their name in the wine industry, building partnerships with big box retail stores is essential. Acumen, for instance, has recognized the importance of these partnerships in the success, especially in reaching younger generations who value quality over quantity. Through their strong industry connections, they have been able to secure relationships with key retail players. Regardless of a winery’s production volume, this is a crucial step in getting their wines in front of the public and ultimately building brand awareness.
When it comes to food and wine pairings, chocolate is a particularly enjoyable and versatile option. Sweet and savory pairings can be created like Cabernet Sauvignon with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. For their Sauvignon Blanc, a guava and mango salsa, celery with a raw piece of Ahi tuna can truly showcase how these flavors pair well with the oils and salts. Even something as simple as Ruffles potato chips can be elevated with a Sauvignon Blanc pairing.
At Acumen, visitors can enjoy a unique and informative wine education. The tasting room provides a tranquil setting where guests can relax and immerse themselves in the culture of Atlas Peak and Napa Valley. Also within the tasting room is an art gallery, which features emerging artists who are encouraged to completely redesign the space for their featured exhibit. All art displayed is available for purchase and can be taken home and added to one’s collection.
The Acumen team believes that understanding and appreciating wine is a crucial part of experiencing life to its fullest. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Wine is a necessity of life for me.” By exploring the beauty of their art and deepening their knowledge of Napa Valley wines, visitors can leave with a newfound appreciation for the complexity of this ancient and beloved beverage.
The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review. The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story. As always, the top priority is to provide readers with informative reporting.
2019 Peak Edcora Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon- on the nose, there are beautiful aromas of black currant, blackberry, and dark cherry, along with subtle hints of vanilla, espresso, and cedar. Rich with a velvety texture and an impressive depth of flavor. The black fruit flavors are concentrated and intense, with a lovely balance of acidity and tannins. This is a wine that can be enjoyed now, but it has the structure and balance to age gracefully for many years to come, showcasing the best of Napa Valley.
Courtesy: Acumen Wines
2019 Peak Cabernet Sauvignon- On the nose, the scents of succulent cherry waft forth, mingling with the rich aroma of blackberry, dark chocolate and a subtle spice hint. On the palate, the wine delivers a tart brightness that tantalizes the senses, leading to a long, elegant finish that lingers long after the final sip.
2019 Mountainside Cabernet Sauvignon- flavors of blackberry, blueberry, and black currant. What truly sets this wine apart is its higher acidity, which infuses the wine with remarkable liveliness.
2021 Mountainside Rosé – translucent salmon orange hue that evokes images of a warm summer sunset. Delicate floral notes dance on the nose, beckoning you to take a sip. On the palate, flavors grapefruit, watermelon, and strawberry. The wine’s refreshing acidity provides a lively counterpoint to the fruit, while its long, bright finish lingers on the palate.
2019 Peak Sauvignon Blanc – expertly highlights the unique terroir of Atlas Peak. The wine opens with a captivating nose of tropical pineapple and zesty lemon that draws you in.
On the palate, flavors of ripe white peach and juicy melon delight the taste buds and linger on the finish.
Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : firstname.lastname@example.org .
Craft Wine Association 1121 L Street, Suite 700 Sacramento, CA 95814 916.672.0854
ⓒ All Rights Reserved – Craft Wine Association – 2023