As the harvest was in full swing, I was lucky enough to find myself just north of Los Angeles, in Ventura, for some sustainability advisory work with a leading company.
On Saturday September 17th I had kept a day free and had been frantically emailing all the sustainably-minded winemakers I could, in order to try and secure a few visits and to record some interviews for this blog.
A few replied, and so I hired a car and drove north on Saturday morning. It was going to be a long and intriguing day. I knew virtually nothing about Central Coast wines, and had had little time to prepare. You’ll hear that in my slightly bumbling interview below.
I was also about to taste some superb wines, and receive some typical Californian hospitality.
There are two other posts in this series, both more focused on Pinot Noir, a little further south.
My first stop was at Qupé, well known for making some very good central coast of California wine. In particularly Syrah and other Rhone varietals. But not only those.
Bob Lindquist and his charming colleagues treated me to lunch in the winery, whilst they took a brief break from bringing in the Grenache harvest and crushing and pressing the grapes for fermentation.
A fair bit has been written about Qupé.Here’s how Berry Brothers & Rudd describes their work:
“Bob Lindquist turned a one time hobby into a full-time job when armed with a small bank loan he established Qupe Vineyards at Santa Maria in Santa Barbara Country. Today he produces 20,000 cases a year with all the wines being made at the same winery as those of Au Bon Climat.
He produces 3 different bottlings of Syrah – Central Coast, Los Olivos (blended with 40% Mourvedre) and Bien Nacido. Lindquist specialises in Rhone-style wines but aslo produces superb Chardonnay. The Bien Nacido Cuvee is a deliciously rich and aromatic blend of two-thirds Chardonnay and one-third Viognier.” More on Qupé here.
After a very Tuscan/Toulouse style lunch in the winey (photo below) Bob and I stopped off in his office to record a podcast on where we where, the wines he makes, and how he views sustainable wine making practices in California.
Rather than repeat the history of Qupé, you can read about it in their own words here.
You can check out the audio I recorded with Bob here. It’s about fifteen minutes long. It’s also ’embedded’ below:
Here’s a short video I shot of the Grenache grapes going into the crusher:
They are also very active on Facebook, so take a look here for more.
Here’s some of the pictures I took, with captions below.
The edge of some of Qupé’s vineyards, set in some pretty stunning scenery
The road to Qupé, about thirty minutes drive north of Los Olivos, central coast, California (inland from Santa Barbara)
Arriving at Qupé, the scale of the operation is immediately obvious
That’s a lot of French oak
Qupé prefer to use French oak, because the tighter grain wood gives off fewer flavours into the wine. Costs per barrel can be $500 or more. Not cheap.
Lunch with Bob (left) and his wife Louisa Sawyer Lindquist. Also in the picture, their assistant wine maker and pressing expert.
As described in the podcast, they make quite a few wines, but for me, the 2012 and 2013 Syrah are the stand-out wines
This is an excellent early and easy drinking Tempranillo, made by Bob’s wife Louisa Sawyer Lindquist, a respected wine maker in her own right. I found it highly accessible and with some excellent complexity and balance
A very drinkable and rounded Viognier made at Qupe.
Out in the vineyard, the Grenache was ready for picking
Grenache vines right next to Qupe’s winery. Their Syrah comes from another plot
Another shot of the Grenache vines
Same again, I can’t get enough of these kinds of shots so please indulge me
Close up of a Grenache vine, obviously
Freshly picked Grenache awaiting the crusher
Fresh grapes, always a wonderful sight
Bob hard at work dropping crates of Grenache into the crusher
Removing the stems etc post crushing for re-use in the vineyard and locally as compost
The crusher hard at work on the newly-picked Grenache
Fermentation tanks at Qupe
Top of the fermentation tanks
The end of the crushing process for stems etc