Wine Cellars' National Sales Representative Rick Morrison
was in Day-twah two weeks ago to promote the Santa Maria, California
winery's line of fine wines with a luncheon at
Shiraz Restaurant, in Bingham Farms. The wines were
sampled casually in advance, and then favorites were poured by none
other than everybody's favorite "wine girl,"
Sommelier Madeline Triffon, of the
Restaurant Corporation during a four course sit - down. A past
winner of the
Times "Best Steakhouse in Detroit" Award, Shiraz provided a fine
setting for this affair.
in 1982 by Bob Lindquist, Qupé
specializes in Rhône
varietals, and also chardonnay, since it grows so well at Bien Nacido
Vineyard, where winemaking facilities are shared with
Jim Clendenen and his
Au Bon Climat
label. About half of Qupé's
wines come from Bien Nacido, with the rest being sourced from Ibarra
- Young Vineyard in Los Olivos and other Central Coast
I sipped on a few whites before the luncheon, while chatting with
friends and acquaintances in the trade.
Santa Ynez Valley Marsanne, 87% Marsanne (Ibarra - Young Vineyard), 13%
Roussanne (Stolpman Vineyard), $15.99 - 17.99: I got a very quick
"snapshot" of this pale to medium straw, and while I wasn't able to
revisit it, I enjoyed the tropical fruit, melon and hint of banana
character. With moderate acidity, decent length and a note of anise that
adds some interest, this is a good buy for the money.
Santa Maria Valley Bien Nacido Cuvée,
50% Chardonnay, 50% Viognier, $15.99 - 17.99: Another one that I was
only to get a quick take on, the viognier is obvious here, with it
effusive floral bouquet of honeysuckle and lilac; rich on the palate,
with decent acidity from the chardonnay, this is a good choice for a
"summer quaffer" or as a match for spicy Asian food.
Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay Bien Nacido Y Block, $19.99 - 21.99:
"Click," another snapshot: This pale straw, Qupé's
"regular" bottling, exudes a perfumed floral bouquet that follows
through on the palate, showing pretty pear and pineapple - chardonnay
fruit, with oak (French, 20% new Francois Freres) in good
proportion, decent acidity and good length. What's not to like here?
The call went out to be seated for lunch, and from there on I was able to spend a
little more time getting to know the wines.
Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay Bien Nacido Reserve Block Eleven, $22.99 -
25.99: The first vintage of a "reserve" block planted by the
Miller family (the owners of Bien
Nacido) for Qupé,
this medium straw colored chardonnay shows toasty oak (2/3 new and 1/3
one year old Francois Fréres)
first and foremost on the nose, and falls very much into the tropical
fruit spectrum. It shows good acidity on a medium bodied frame, and
presented an odd contradiction for this taster, because while it has
lots of what I normally don't care for in chardonnay, I like this one
just fine. And it's food friendly, as it worked well with the
Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, with Roasted Corn Sauce.
Edna Valley Roussanne Alban Vineyard, $22.99 - 25.99: Very much in a
different style than the previous selections, this medium straw shows a
much more "Franco" character than Cali - centric, with moderate oak (one
year old Francois Fréres)
at best and as much earth as fruit on the nose; this is not a "fruit
forward" wine by any means. The flavors show a certain stony quality,
and others agreed, throwing out descriptors such as "slate," and
"flint." Madeline herself found it reminiscent of "hay and dried
flowers, like gruner veltliner." The last Qupé
Alban Roussanne that will be made, and a very fine one indeed, this also
matched quite well with somewhat reserved flavors of the crab cake, and
shows good aging potential.
At that point, we switched to reds, starting with Qupé's
entry level syrah.
Central Coast Syrah, 86% Syrah, 6% Grenache, 4% Counoise, 3% Mourvédre
and 1% Cinsault, $14.99 - 15.99: Sourced from eleven different
vineyards in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, this dark
blend features fragrant plum and blackberry aromas that carry over in
the flavors with a touch of cream, a smooth texture and moderate tannins
and acidity. Aged in mostly neutral French oak; a good value and a solid
Santa Ynez Valley Tempranillo Blend, 67% Tempranillo, 17% Syrah, 16%
Grenache, $20: From the fledgling Spanish varietal project of
Sawyer Lindquist, wife of Bob Lindquist, this dark garnet blend shows
sweet oak over black currant, blackberry and black cherry flavors and
aromas, with good depth of fruit, good structure and tannins that need
three to five years to mellow some.
Santa Ynez Valley Los Olivos Cuvée,
53% Syrah, 27% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, $21 - 23.99: From fruit
sourced at the Ibarra - Young and Purisma Vineyards, the dark
garnet color of this Rhône
blend shows a purple - ish tinge, and the character of the wine lives up
to that French heritage, with tight, dark plum and blackberry shaded
with some underbrush on the nose, and earthy flavors to match. A good
dose of tannins and plenty of acidity give this a somewhat "burry"
quality on the palate, and while it needs at least a few years of
cellaring to show its best, the earthiness of the dark fruit works quite
well with the Warm Wild Mushroom Salad with
Wilted Greens and Basil Lemon Oil (which is different and
delicious, I might add).
Santa Maria Valley Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard, $25.99 - 28: Aged in
French oak (25% new, mostly Francois Fréres,
with some Remond and Taransaud) for 15 months, this dark
garnet shades to purple at the rim, and exudes a nice perfume of rich
dark plum, blackberry and black currant, all with a kiss of sweet oak;
flavors echo, with a creamy texture, and while the wine is dense and
full bodied, it's not at all ponderous. Despite obvious aging potential,
this is drinking very well right now, and matched up nicely with the
Roasted Lamb Loin with Prosciutto and Syrah
Demi - Glâce.
Santa Maria Valley Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard Hillside Estate, $42 -
46.99: Bob Lindquist calls this deep dark garnet (shading to purple
at the rim) "probably the best Syrah I've ever made," and while my
experience with his wines is fairly limited, it is indeed terrific
stuff. Made with grapes from the original "Z" block at Bien
Nacido, planted for Qupé
in 1992, it shows rich extracted dark plum and blackberry flavors and
aromas with subtle accents of underbrush and mocha. Despite significant
tannins and good acidity, there's a creamy texture to this, and while
those tannins clamp down some, they don't entirely restrain the length
on the finish. One especially interesting aspect of this wine is that
around day five of fermentation, some of the juice is drawn off (saignée)
into two new Francois Fréres
barrels and barrel fermented, then blended back into the final
assemblage, adding "a toasty mocha note in the aromas along with silky,
rich tannins," according to Lindquist. As per my notes, this is
quite evident when tasting the wine. Aged for 20 months in
barrels (2/3 new), it was was bottled unfined and unfiltered. No
reason to think that this is not at least a ten - year wine.
We finished off with a lovely Grand Marnier Créme
that needed no wine; cappuccino served admirably instead. It was a very
fine finish to an excellent effort by
Shiraz' Chef de Cuisine Jackie Williams. And of course, it's
always nice to see Madeline Triffon again.
As for the wines, they were all good to very good to even better than
that, and they're fairly priced for what's in the bottle. There wasn't
one that I wouldn't mind getting to know better, and some that I'd like
to acquire in numbers. And, these are by no means the only wines that
there are presently four other single vineyard syrahs, a 20th
Special Bottling syrah, a single vineyard grenache and a single vineyard
viognier being offered on their online "store."
Bob Lindquist is one of the original "Rhône
Rangers" in California, and he's obviously doing something very
"right," what with 22 years and counting since founding the winery, and
the quality of the wines tasted on this occasion solidly reinforces that
impression. Our past experience with Qupé
may be somewhat limited, but that will certainly change in the future.
Reporting from Day-twah,