All in the Family: Quintessential Finds Synergy in Like-Minded Producers

Food & Drink

A multigenerational wine importer keeps a similar focus on its producer portfolio

In an ever-consolidating and corporate-driven beverage world, there are still a few free spirits dedicated to a “small is beautiful” philosophy. Such enterprises shun reporting to boards, their shareholders likely are more dependent on weather as a key driver of success than KPIs and they invest not in financial instruments but in people. And, in this case, those people are family winemakers.

Such is the ethos of Quintessential, a boutique importer and distributor of small-production wines from multigenerational families across the globe. Founded in 2003 by father-son team Steve Sr., and Dennis Kreps, their focus was on “know thy farmer” long before that became an anthem in the conscious culinary movement.

“I believe we were the first to singularly focus on family-owned and operated producers. It made sense to us because we are a family-owned and run company, and families care about the future—there is real synergy there,” said Dennis Kreps, who oversees sales and day-to-day operations. “We become a part of the wineries’ families and they are a part of ours.”

Keeping it all in the family means knowing producers personally, watching their kids grow up and into the business, sharing in their vision and successes but also helping them navigate rough waters—whether that’s a difficult vintage, a weather crisis, supply chain issues or a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

“We wanted to be relatable on a human scale, to not only know our family farmers but know their challenges,” Kreps said.

Both Steve Sr. and Dennis worked in the wine industry prior to establishing their own company, and now the management team of the Napa, Calif.-based importer, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, includes Steve Jr., who joined the company in 2005 after a career as a commercial airline pilot. They represent 30 families producing some 50+ grape varieties in 11 countries. Kreps says they try to limit the number of producers they sign on from each region to avoid duplication, so that each family winery has its own light to shine in. When they do double up in a region, it’s after a check in with the incumbent producer to ensure the newcomer coming into the fold complements rather than competes, and adds something dynamic to the offering.

Individual touches like that helped build Quintessential’s portfolio, which is a geographic mosaic of sorts. Kreps says bucking conventional wisdom, they made the early decision not to specialize in a region but to handpick producers across the globe who are focused on the right stuff: environmental stewardship, a sense of place and a dedication to understanding their terroir.

He said they look at unique points of difference, owner engagement and commitment to long-term planning. “We are not looking for ‘flash in the pan’ brands, but wineries with history and vision to build for their grandchildren.”

Nearly 40% of the wineries in the Quintessential portfolio are credentialed for sustainable, organic or biodynamic farming, but Kreps estimates the number of those farming unconventionally but not certified is much higher.

“They do what they’ve always done—taking care of their land—and most of the time, that’s organic by default,” he noted. Some wineries choose to fly the flag for their environmental programming, such as Matetic Vineyards in Chile’s Casablanca Valley, which created a hands-on program on their property for visitors to learn about biodynamic farming through the five senses.

Those kind of producers, Kreps said, are the touchstones if not the foundation blocks of the portfolio.

Quintessential’s portfolio strategy is to have a little bit of everything for everybody, with an approachable price range and excellent price to quality ratio. While they have prestige brands such as Champagne Palmer, André Brunel and Quinta do Vallado, the bulk of the portfolio is geared toward excellent every-day wines for consumers or, in the trade, toward restaurants that have a sommelier or wine steward. Kreps said what the portfolio “does best” is “finding wines for under $25 that drink like they’re $40+.”

Want to find such a wine? Your search starts here, with these examples that are affordable, overdeliver on taste and quality and yet, are casual enough for any summer sipping or gathering.

Luca Bosio Prosecco NV. This is a fresh and elegant Prosecco—both soft and pleasantly fruity with lively notes of white flowers and golden apples. A great summer sipper at the pool or for topping up your favorite sparkling cocktail. SRP $15.99

Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2022, California. A welcome partner for the summer dinner table, as it pairs pairs with everything—from a simple salad to a cheese board with goat and creamy cheeses to egg-based dishes and lighter meats. SRP $13.99

Ironstone Chardonnay Lodi, Calif. 2021. This is simple pleasures done right: a crowd-pleasing medium-bodied, balanced and fresh Chardonnay ideal for grilled chicken kebabs or fish and chips. SRP $13.99

Bodegas Muriel Reserva Rioja 2016. This Reserva has immense finesse and concentration, and is a steal for under $25. Serve this with more taste-intensive dishes such as rosemary-rubbed grilled lamb chops or a summer duck salad: It’s an elegant and complex wine that can take it. SRP $21.99

Bodegas Bianchi Organic Malbec 2021. An adaptable wine for any sweet and savory BBQ–baby back ribs, pulled pork sliders or juicy cheeseburgers. This one stands up to all those punchy flavors with fresh and fruity notes of ripe plums and blackberries. Organically grown and sourced from 30-year-old estate vines. SRP $16.99

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