March 18, 2011 Qupé
United States (California)
marsanne (88%), roussanne (12%)
The altar cloth has been laid. I come to the art-deco chalice label with a sense of expectation. I am wondering if marsanne, a white Rhône transplant, can find suitable expression in California. Will it be bathed in something altogether new world and unredeemable?
Well, no. Bob Lindquist at Qupé has given marsanne the opportunity to do its own thing. Fitting for a man who in some ways credits The Kinks with leading him into a career of winemaking.
In 1979 Bob, the diehard fan, was managing a wine shop in the small town of Los Olivos when word reached him of a Kinks concert in the Santa Barbara County Bowl. He asked for the day off, but it came to nothing. His rock and roll bud, Jim Clendenen, assistant wine maker at Zaca Mesa winery, struck him a deal. Skip his shift so the two could go together to the concert and, if Bob got the shaft, Jim would put in a good word for him with his boss at Zaca Mesa. Well, the concert was a blast and Bob ended up on the street. But only long enough to get the call from Zaca Mesa. The rest is wine history.
By 1982, Bob had started Qupé. In 1989 he and his cohort Jim (who had since started his own winery, Au Bon Climat) together built a winery facility, which they use jointly. As The Kinks would say, “No More Looking Back.”
Qupé has focused on Rhône varietals, taking a traditional approach, seeking expression from what the vineyards offer, without undo manipulation. A key is the added acidity that comes from sites with a cooler climate.
The marsanne is a prime example of this approach. At 12.5% alcohol, a subtlety of fruit, and an absence of oak, it is far from the overly earnest, overly stretched wines typical of much Californian production.
It is a blend of grapes from both organic and biodynamic vineyards, picked at the early stages of ripeness to retain acidity. The fruit is whole cluster pressed, and chilled for two days. It is barrel-fermented, then aged in the same neutral barrels.
The aim is a balanced wine when young, but one that, according to the winemaker, can age (“All Day and All of the Night”) for up to 20 years. I’m afraid that might be cutting it a bit tight for me, so I go with the youthful option.
Qupé Marsanne 2007
It shows bright gold with the barest glint of green. Not a powerful nose, but rather a refreshingly clean and subtle one — nut-toned melon, ozone mineral freshness. In taste — very nicely balanced with pleasurable acidity, striking mineral clarity. Still young, of course, and without the fullness of its almond-honey future, yet very easy to admire, with a sense of sophistication. Seafood-friendly. In this case with a herb and tomato-based mix of mussels, shrimp, calamari and small chunks of swordfish. Qupé, “You Really Got Me”. $