Willie's World - Quintessential Wines That Bring Family & Friends Together

Willie Wong tastes wines from Two Angels, Geyser Peak and Atlas Peak wineries

Our story starts with Quintessential, a family-owned and operated import, marketing, and sales company located in Napa, CA. Quintessential is becoming one of the most important and influential wine companies in the United States and beyond. And their DTC arm, familywineriesdirect.com is gaining traction. The company’s history began when Steve Kreps Sr. started in the wine business in 1973. His son Dennis Kreps began in 1991, and his younger brother Steve Kreps, Jr., joined them in 2005. I met the family at BevMo, where we teamed up to create private label wines. We tasted several wines to get the blend right, and our due diligence paid off. 

I recently joined Quintessential | Family Wineries Direct as Chief Storyteller in addition to my other projects. As an avid researcher, I assess the wines they represent and tell the story as I see it. Today, I am focusing on four wineries Quintessential owns: Atlas Peak Winery, Geyser Peak Winery, Samuel Charles, and Two Angels. 

Atlas Peak Winery

Founded in 1987–5 years before the AVA was established–Atlas Peak’s intent was to produce world-class wines in high altitudes, specific soils, and unique climate conditions. Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese would become the AVA’s centerpiece. The journey was long and arduous, with many peaks and valleys. Under Quintessential’s management, this winery is making major strides. Winemaker/Consultant Robert Pepi, who’s had a long and successful career, is at the helm of these projects. I tasted three wines recently and found them to be on point.

  • Atlas Peak American Super Tuscan Blend, Napa Valley 2018. A lovely blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Sangiovese, this wine drinks well; tart red fruits, hints of earth, and dried savory spices; tannins are smooth, and the finish is firm, yet satiny. Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
  • Atlas Peak Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2018. A precise wine made from 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot, this wine offers excellent balance, just a bit of tannin for support, and a pleasingly firm finish. Authoritative black fruits abound, kind of husky on the palate; well, it is a Cabernet! Excellent density on the palate. Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
  • Atlas Peak Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak 2018. This is the star wine and one of the most impressive Cabernets I have tasted this year. Impressive black fruits from the start to the finish; an intermix of red and black currants with a fine accent of oak. Suggested Retail Price: $79.99

Geyser Peak Winery

Geyser Peak Winery is a producer that I grew up with as I built my career. Three of their past winemakers are very good friends of mine. I have enjoyed many of their wines but with Quintessential’s guidance, the wines have reached new heights. Founded in 1880 as California’s 29th bonded winery, this winery has been at the forefront of quality wine production since its earliest days. The winery's identity got lost as the brand moved from supplier to supplier. Geyser Peak has returned to being owned by a family-owned company, Quintessential. I tasted five wines in our recent meeting, and they are returning to relevance. 

Samuel Charles

The majestic Stag’s head is the perfect symbol for this recently unveiled project, and Winemaker Robert Pepi was brought in to bring it to life. The team chose two excellent AVAs to feature its Sauvignon Blanc (High Valley) and Cabernet Sauvignon (Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley). I don’t know if other wines are in the works; this is an excellent start. 

  • Samuel Charles Sauvignon Blanc, High Valley 2020. For two decades, I have tracked the quality of this grape variety in the AVA. Dried citrus, chalky notes, minerality; lively, bright on the palate; racy in the finish. Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
  • Samuel Charles Cabernet Sauvignon “Single Vineyard”, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley 2019. In recent years, the allure of Oak Knoll District Cabernets has grown, and I have been looking for them. With climate change, this AVA is commanding attention. Dried herbs and red currants are the drivers in this wine; kind of a foodie’s dream; some dried leaves in the finish make it great with a bay leaf-accented pork adobo. Excellent overall balance. Suggested Retail Price: $79.99

Two Angels

Another collaboration between Consulting Winemaker Robert Pepi and the Kreps family. This project is focused on the High Valley AVA—they chose the region’s two best grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc and Petite Sirah. I found both wines exciting. 

  • Two Angels Sauvignon Blanc, High Valley 2020. Attractive and on point; dried earth, fragrant spices, outdoor forest notes; excellent weight on the palate; tart apples, ripe melon, a shading of dried herbs. Suggested Retail Price: $16.99
  • Two Angels Petite Sirah, Red Hills 2018. I am always on the lookout for Lake County Petite Sirah, and this is one of the best I have recently found. Alluring black fruits, loads of berries, concentrated, a blast of blackberries, and earthiness. Suggested Retail Price: $26.99

—Wilfred Wong