The Acumen Story
Acumen: keenness, depth of perception, and discernment
Founded by proprietor Eric Yuan, and guided by a team that includes acclaimed Winemaker Henrik Poulsen and renowned Viticulturist Garrett Buckland, Acumen is dedicated to creating the next great Napa Valley wine estate. To achieve this goal, Acumen has established an estate that features 116 organically certified acres of vines, spread across two remarkable vineyards on Napa Valley’s Atlas Peak. From these coveted grapes, the Acumen team makes a small portfolio of estate-grown wines, with a focus on mountain-grown Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Sauvignon Blanc. Taking their inspiration from the great Napa Valley Cabernets of the 1960s and 1970s, Acumen’s classically structured wines are recognized for their balance, vineyard-driven complexity and uncommon age-worthiness.
In 2012, building on a love affair with wine that was first cultivated while studying in Paris, entrepreneur Eric Yuan came to Napa Valley to found Acumen. There, he set out to establish an estate vineyard program capable of producing wines of classic balance, beauty and structure. With the help of renowned founding Winemaker Denis Malbec (a veteran of Château Latour) and acclaimed Viticulturist Garrett Buckland, he found what he was searching for high on the slopes of Atlas Peak in Napa Valley’s famed eastern mountains, where heat spikes are rare and the temperatures average 10 degrees cooler than on the valley floor.
“While Atlas Peak is very remote, and extremely difficult to plant due to its steep slopes and rocky soils, legendary winegrowers like Jan Krupp have long known what a remarkable region it is for growing grapes,” says Director of Winemaking Henrik Poulsen. “With its high elevation, relatively cool climate, and volcanic soils, it is a place where the grapes can ripen perfectly, while retaining the complex structure and tannins that define our wines. We believe that Atlas Peak is Napa Valley’s next frontier for great mountain-grown wines.”
Acumen acquired its first vineyard on Atlas Peak in 2012. Originally planted in 1992, and featuring 32 acres of vines with a northeast exposure, the Attelas Vineyard was the ‘home vineyard’ of Dr. Jan Krupp, predating his famed Stagecoach Vineyard by three years. The next year, Acumen crafted its debut vintage of estate-grown wines. Made by Denis and Henrik, Acumen’s inaugural wines were immediately recognized for their nuance and complexity, and heralded the arrival of a new vision for mountain-grown winemaking on Atlas Peak. In 2014, Acumen expanded its estate program with the acquisition of the Edcora Vineyard, which features 84 acres of vines 350 feet higher up on Atlas Peak. Like the neighboring Stagecoach Vineyard, Edcora’s high altitude, along with its southwestern exposure, mean that it is 10-to-15% warmer on average than Attelas, adding to the diversity of Acumen’s estate program.
Together, Attelas and Edcora offer a rich and vibrant tapestry of vineyard blocks, with a focus on exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. This provides the Acumen team with a remarkable palette of fruit during blending, adding to the layered sophistication of the wines. Since Acumen’s founding, Attelas and Edcora have been stewarded by master Viticulturist Garrett Buckland, who has farmed acclaimed vineyards like Araujo, Dalla Valle and Realm, and is the current president of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers association. Working with gifted Vineyard Manager Jesus Gonzalez, Garrett applies his decades of winegrowing experience, and encyclopedic viticultural knowledge to the goal of establishing Acumen as Napa Valley’s next great wine estate. “Atlas Peak has the potential to be one of Napa Valley’s greatest mountain AVAs,” says Garrett. “And, Acumen’s estate vineyards will one day be considered among the world’s finest—they are already on the cusp of being Grand Cru-caliber sites.”
Today, Acumen is guided by acclaimed Director of Winemaking and Executive Manager Henrik Poulsen, who is building on the stylistic foundation he helped to established alongside Denis Malbec, who sadly passed away in 2016. Born in Denmark, Henrik has winemaking experience on two continents, having worked in Bordeaux and Napa Valley. Throughout his illustrious career, Henrik has worked with some of the world’s greatest winemakers, including Denis, Luc Morlet, Jean Hoefliger and Michel Rolland. He has also made wines from many of Napa Valley’s most beloved vineyards, including Stagecoach, and Beckstoffer’s To Kalon, Dr. Crane and Georges III vineyards.
Because Acumen sells the majority of its grapes to a who’s who of top Napa Valley wineries, Henrik is able to focus on his favorite small vineyard blocks to create Acumen’s wines. Echoing the charm and longevity of the great Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons of the ‘60s and ‘70s, which are revered for their harmony and structure, Acumen’s wines have quickly emerged as benchmarks for Atlas Peak, recognized for this vibrant purity and precision.
Acumen offers two captivating expressions of its mountain terroir. Its small-production PEAK wines come from the finest vineyard blocks, and are then made as a selection of the best barrels from the best lots. Balancing lovely ripeness from the Napa Valley sun, with mineral and earth tones from Atlas Peak’s rugged mountain terrain, Acumen’s PEAK wines possess a classic sensibility with the elegance and structure necessary for long-term aging. In order to introduce the wines of Atlas Peak to a somewhat wider audience of wine enthusiasts, Acumen also makes its vibrant and alluring Mountainside wines, which, with the exception of the Mountainside Sauvignon Blanc, are all 100% estate grown.
“Both our PEAK and Mountainside wines are rooted in the character of the growing season, and the complexity of our Atlas Peak estate,” adds Henrik. “But they show their roots in different ways. This is the beauty and magic of Atlas Peak—it offers a rare convergence of elements that are ideal for yielding different expressions of the Bordeaux varieties we grow. Our goal is to share the wines from this remarkable mountain with the world, and for Acumen to become the standard bearer for Atlas Peak.”
Acumen will be breaking ground on a new 33,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art cave winery on Atlas peak in 2019.