Acumen is a new, artisanal project from three Napa Valley wine stars. Denis Malbec is Acumen’s winemaker. Malbec grew up at Château Latour and worked there as cellar master and enologist in the 1990s before moving to Napa Valley, where he has made wine for estates including Kapscandy and Blankiet. Viticulturists for Acumen are Steve Matthiasson and Garrett Buckland. Matthiasson, who makes wine with his wife under his own Matthiasson label, was the San Francisco Chronicle’s 2014 Winemaker of the Year, and he is widely seen as one of the leaders of a group of California winemakers producing what they call more “balanced” wines. The trio is making wine from 116 acres in the Atlas Peak AVA. Acumen produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab blends and Sauvignon Blanc.
Napa Valley AVA is the most famous winemaking region in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. With nearly 43,000 acres of vineyards and more than 300 wineries, it is the heart of fine wine production in the United States. Winemaking started in Napa in 1838 when George C. Yount planted grapes and began producing wine commercially. Other winemaking pioneers followed in the late 19th century, including the founders of Charles Krug, Schramsberg, Inglenook and Beaulieu Vineyards. An infestation of phylloxera, an insect that attacks vine roots, and the onset of Prohibition nearly wiped out the nascent Napa wine industry in the early 20th century. But by the late 1950s and early 1960s Robert Mondavi and other visionaries were producing quality wines easily distinguishable from the mass-produced jug wines made in California’s Central Valley. Napa Valley’s AVA was established in 1983, and today there are 16 sub-appellations within the Napa Valley AVA. Many grapes grow well in Napa’s Mediterranean climate, but the region is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay is also very successfully cultivated, and about 30% of the AVA’s acreage is planted to white grapes, with the majority of those grapes being Chardonnay,