The Acumen Story
Acumen: keenness, depth of perception, and discernment
Founded by proprietor Eric Yuan, and guided by a team that includes legendary Winemaker Phillip Titus and renowned Viticulturist John Derr, 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 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), 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, pioneering winegrowers like Jan Krupp have long known what a remarkable region it is for growing grapes,” says Winemaker Phillip Titus. “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 are essential to great Bordeaux-varietal 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 Malbec and Henrik Poulsen, 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, means 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. Today, Attelas and Edcora are stewarded by master Viticulturist John Derr, who has farmed acclaimed vineyards for Kapcsandy Family Winery, Blankiet Vineyards and Gamble Family Vineyards. Working closely with gifted Vineyard Manager Jesus Gonzalez, John applies his decades of winegrowing experience to the goal of establishing Acumen as Napa Valley’s next great wine estate. “Atlas Peak is one of Napa Valley’s great mountain AVAs,” says John. “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, the winemaking at Acumen is guided by famed Winemaker Phillip Titus, who is thoughtfully building on the stylistic foundation established by Henrik Poulsen and the late Denis Malbec. Because Acumen sells the majority of its grapes to a who’s who of top Napa Valley wineries, Phillip 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 emerged as new benchmarks for Atlas Peak, recognized for their vibrant purity and precision.
Acumen offers two captivating expressions of its mountain terroir. Its small-production PEAK wines come from the finest estate 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 enthusiasts, Acumen also makes a vibrant and alluring Mountainside tier of wines.
“Both our PEAK and Mountainside wines are rooted in the character of the growing season, and the complexity of our Atlas Peak estate,” adds Phillip. “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.”