Napa Valley AVA
A top-end, highly sought after cult brand
The high quality aspects of the Atlas Peak AVA in Napa Valley are well documented and well deserved. A number of extremely high quality wineries produce outstanding wines from the slopes of the Eastern Vaca Mountains that surround California’s premiere growing area.
A relative newcomer to the Atlas Peak hierarchy is Acumen Wines, a winery that has enjoyed extraordinary success since its first releases in 2015.
“We started with around 2,500 cases and have slowly built our portfolio to around 5,500 cases,” informed Gordon Waggoner, Acumen Wines’ sales director. “And, we have managed to overcome a real tragedy that befell our Founding Winemaker, Denis Malbec.”
A car crash took the life of the Frenchman in 2016, only a year after the winery’s initial release. Malbec was an incredibly gifted winemaker and was born and raised amid the vineyards and cellars of the iconic Bordeaux’s First Growth, Château Latour. A commemorative label on Malbec’s 2013 and 2014 offerings bears a subtle tribute to his efforts.
Acumen Wines (so named due to the collective business expertise of its owners and staff) is a well-conceived operation that seems destined for greatness throughout its existence.
The owner is Eric Yuan, a youngish (35) businessman of Chinese descent who has put together a top-flight staff for his venture into the wine industry. Viticulturist Garrett Buckland (a University of California Davis enology graduate) keeps the 116 acres of vineyards (Acumen’s total acreage is just over 225 acres) producing exceptional fruit. From a distinguished viticultural family, Buckland’s resume includes the likes of Araujo Estate, Warren Winiarski’s Stags Leap Wine Cellars, Knight’s Bridge Winery and Vineyards, and Baldacci Family Vineyards, all Napa Valley luminaries. For the record, all of Acumen Wines’ vineyards are farmed and certified organically.
Following Denis Malbec’s untimely and tragic death, Acumen Wines’ winemaking chores fell into the capable hands of Danish-born Henrik Poulsen who was Malbec’s assistant dating back to 2013. Poulsen can also boast of an extensive resume that includes Newton Vineyards and Alpha Omega Winery. Before coming to California, Henrik Poulsen also studied in Bordeaux. He is a proponent of Old World balance in his wines that correctly express the terroir of their environment. Poulsen also serves as executive manager for the business.
Some of the early success of Acumen Wines can be attributed to the high elevation (some are over 1,600 feet) of its vineyards that lie above the normal fog line for the area. The land is rocky and located in Foss Valley, a hanging bowl or elevated valley some six miles off the famed Silverado Trail that snakes its way through Napa Valley.
In the spring of 2017, Acumen Wines opened a deluxe tasting salon in downtown Napa that must be seen to be believed. Located on First Street directly across from the new Archer Hotel, the salon features a permanent collection of art relative to the winery and also a rotating gallery of artwork that will be changed two or three times each year. A small wine bar contains taps that dispense samples along with a private tasting room and a glass-front closet for wines.
Perhaps the brightest news on Acumen Wines’ lofty horizon is the fact that the company has recently received permission for a new winery to be located on the winery’s property. The new facility will feature a 20,000 square foot cave that will house its barrel operation, as well as an on-site tasting room. “We expect to break ground in the near future and hope to have construction completed in April of 2019,” added Gordon Waggoner.
Acumen Wines is indeed a winery of high pedigree that emphasizes quality above all in its wine portfolio. Its label is a rendering of the breathtaking view off the property’s existing deck, looking northward toward Mt. St. Helena in the distance.
Estates like Acumen continue to propel Napa Valley as one of the world’s foremost growing and vinification areas. The fact that Atlas Peak AVA is now recognized as one of the valley’s most productive regions is a tribute to the hard work and toil of its early proponents who farmed the volcanic soils before the place was considered fashionable.
Hats off to owner Eric Yuan for establishing this exceptional winery. We expect great things from Acumen Wines in the future and are delighted to introduce it to our Platinum Wine Club members.
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
It is with immense proudness and much excitement that I share this bottle of Acumen Wine.
Following the acquisition of our vineyard property atop Atlas Peak in 2012 and the addition of another adjacent vineyard in 2014, we have been eager to share the fruits (pun intended) of our labor.
Crafted from 100% estate fruit grown on hillside vineyards 1,500 feet above Napa Valley and from an absolutely superb growing season, this wine shows the telltale signature of our mountainous location.
While I certainly won’t discredit anyone opening this simply for sipping, I personally feel the abundant tannins hiding under layers of velvety fruit makes this wine better suited accompanying hearty dishes around the dining table.
Undeniably a result of the hands and palates involved (and perhaps also a dollop of both our European heritages) together with former winemaker at famed 1st Growth Château Latour in Bordeaux, Mr. Denis Malbec, crafting this wine provided us with a bit of concealed excitement and the hope that one day we could share it with fellow wine lovers.
That day has finally arrived and I wish it will provide you with as much enjoyment drinking it as it provided us making it.
Hoping to exceed your vinous expectations and have you a fan in the future, it should be my pleasure to either welcome you in person at the vineyard or host you for a private tasting at our Wine Gallery in downtown should your way ever fall by Napa.
Consider this a standing invitation, so please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Director of Winemaking
Denis Malbec - Winemaker
Denis Malbec was born at the historic First Growth Estate Château Latour in Pauillac, France, within the region of Bordeaux. Denis’ father and grandfather both served as Cellar Masters and Vineyard Managers for Château Latour, and taught Denis everything they knew about making wine. Denis also became Cellar Master and Enologist for Château Latour from 1994 to 1999 and then moved to Napa Valley where he worked with Kapscancdy, Blankiet, and Sodaro, while also developing his own label, Notre Vin.
Steve Mathiasson was named the San Francisco Chronicle Winemaker of the Year in 2014 and is one of the most gifted farmers in Napa Valley. He has consulted for an impressive list of producers including Araujo, Spottswoode, David Arthur, Chappellet, and Stags Leap.