HUNNICUTT Wines is owned and operated by Justin Hunnicutt Stephens and his father Don. After college Justin immediately entered the fast paced world of commercial real estate. During a flight back from a business trip it occurred to himself that he was always reading articles about wine making, wine regions, varietals etc and if he was really interested in real estate he would have been reading real estate journals. This was an “awakening” if you will, a point in one’s life where you find yourself not following your true passion and wish you were.
Justin followed his interest and changed careers (he was working with commercial real estate prior to his career as a vintner). He moved to the Napa Valley and began learning the hands on part of the business at Miner Family Winery. Soon thereafter he worked at other notable Napa wineries gaining additional wine making knowledge including Saddleback Cellars, Venge and Seavey Vineyards.
Their first commercial vintage was from the 2002 vintage. Justin’s production is very small at about 1000 cases total. All his wines are made under the management and direction of well-known winemaker, Kirk Venge and one of Justin’s close friends. Both Kirk and his father Nils have a long history of making wine in the Napa Valley and are involved in the ownership and consultation at several local wineries. Justin’s wife Seana is also involved having joined the winery in 2010 – pulling on her previous experience in advertising to help promote HUNNICUTT.
Tastings always private for your party, sometimes with Justin (he may stop by if he is on site) and are for serious wine enthusiasts. The forested property is located in a quieter part of the Napa Valley accessible via a steep driveway leading up from the windy Silverado Trail. Hearing the wind whistling through the trees and with no vineyards in site – one could almost be in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains rather then the Napa Valley.
The HUNNICUTT Wines are very reasonably priced based on the high quality of the source vineyards and the expertise and knowledge of Kirk Venge.
Their Zinfandel comes from the Chiles Valley region in the far reaches of eastern Napa county. This is a very fruit forward wine which is meant to be consumed with food. The 2005 vintage has aromas that slightly hint of oak, white pepper and cherries which lead to a palate with additional ripe cherry and strawberry flavors.
We also tried the 2005 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon which was not yet released at the time of our tasting due to the wine needing additional bottle aging. The fruit for this wine comes from three premium vineyard sites sourced from Rutherford, Spring Mountain and St. Helena. Each vineyard produces wine that is remarkably different from each other but when combined, form a very elegant wine. The tannins are firm yet delicate throughout and end with a very smooth finish. This is a well-balanced wine and is an excellent buy.
If you try some barrel samples you will notice the very distinct taste, color and aroma differences between each vineyard’s fruit. For example the particular wine from the Rutherford Vineyard has a lot of earthiness and a subtle nose when compared to the St. Helena vineyard which offers plenty of fruit in the aromas and on the palate.
HUNNICUTT keeps their wine from each vineyard barreled separately until the final blend…and it is these unique differences when blended that come together to form the complex final product. As of our latest update to this review, HUNNICUTT Wines also has released a premium Cabernet Sauvignon named 9-3-5 (ask about the 2 meanings behind this name) and a Chardonnay as well as a companion brand called CUTT under which they produce a Syrah, a proprietary red blend known as “Fearless Red’ and a Late Harvest Zinfandel from a nearby vineyard.
It should be noted that the HUNNICUTT red wines age very well – we recently tried a 2001 vintage of their Cabernet Sauvignon after 10 years. This was the HUNNICUTT Wines first vintage. The wine held its fruit and structure beautifully – there is a reason you age wine and this vintage is a good example of how it takes time for everything to integrate.
HUNNICUTT Wines purchased a beautiful piece of property (15 acres – mostly hillside) in 2008 on the Silverado Trail about halfway between the towns of Calistoga and St. Helena. An extensive 18,000 square foot cave was built into the hillside taking 18 months to drill out. The winery was funtional in time for the harvest in 2011. This cave houses the HUNNICUTT Wines as well as the wines for D.R. Stephens Estate. And Hunnicutt is also known among local vintners as being a premium custom crush winery – allowing other wineries to ‘rent’ space within their cave to make their own wines.
Those interested in their wines can join the mailing list. You can also find their wines in locally at Dean & Deluca and ACME Fine Wines – both located in St. Helena. For more information, visit: www.hunnicuttwines.com