“I believe that we are stewards of the land.” This is the quietly stated philosophy of Valeria Huneeus, Ph.D., microbiologist, viticulturist and architect of the Quintessa vineyard. Valeria stumbled on the Rutherford property during a time when she was searching for a new vineyard management project, one that would allow her to work closer to her husband than had her previous commitments. Her vision and perseverance made it possible to buy the property, which more than a dozen other suitors had failed in their efforts to purchase.


Born in Chile, Valeria originally intended to study medicine, but redirected her love of science into viticulture and enology. After graduating from the University of Chile, she worked as a viticulturist in the Southern Hemisphere. When Valeria and Agustin moved to New York and began a family, Valeria broadened her interests, pursuing a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia University. She then spent ten years doing research in cholesterol and cell metabolism with the Veterans Administration and the University of California at San Francisco.


“I wanted to see the sun again,” she smiles, explaining the next curve in her career: developing the Mistral vineyard in Santa Clara County with her husband. This project gave her valuable practical experience that she was able to use in the development of Quintessa. “Quintessa was a rare opportunity,” she reflects, “but the topography was a great challenge.” An avid proponent of a sustainable approach to agriculture that seeks harmony with the land, Valeria took special care to be respectful of the landscape and the soil. Many other facets of this philosophy have been applied to the development of the Quintessa vineyard and its daily care.