As the resident wine writer, I’m also often the resident somm. No problem. I geek out enough on wine and wine pairings, I don’t mind shouldering that responsibility honestly. But I’m going to admit that the night I drank Qupé Syrah, I did not pick it. Not my idea. And it was the best idea I never had.
If you’re a regular down the grocery store wine aisle, then you are no stranger to Qupé Syrah. I see it all the time and that’s probably why I pretty much rode them off, figuring I must have had it at some point and didn’t think much of it. But, with no notes here on the site, I couldn’t really vouch that opinion. And who am I to say no to my partner in wine crime when he flat out says, “This is the wine I want tonight”?
About the Wine: Qupé is pretty much synonymous with Rhône style wines. In fact, winemaker Bob Lindquist was one of the first to advocate American-made Syrah and other Rhône varietals such as Grenache, Roussanne, and Marsanne. (Qupé’s current releases include two single varietal Grenache’s and one GSM blend — I’ll take one of each, Bob!).
Also, it’s worth mentioning that since Bob and his wife started their self-named vineyards (Sawyer Lindquist Vineyards) in 2005, they’ve been dedicated to biodynamic farming. Kudos, you two — it completely comes through in the flavor profile of this wine for sure.
The 2013 vintage of Qupé is made from 98% Syrah grapes from both Santa Barbara and San Louis Obispo counties. The last 2% is a combination of Mouvedré, Grenache, and Tempranillo. According to the winemaker’s notes, 63% of the grapes came ffrom cooler climate vineyards in Santa Barbara County and Edna Valley, and 37% from warmer climate vineyards in Paso Robles. The vineyards are: Bien Nacido in the Santa Maria Valley 42%; French Camp in Paso Robles 35%; Sawyer Lindquist in Edna Valley 11%; Chabot in Santa Barbara County; Ibarra-Young in the new Los Olivos District AVA 4%; and Carriage in Paso Robles 2%.
Each lot was fermented separately and aged in French oak barrels for a minimum of 18 months. The wine was lightly fined with egg whites (a tannin-softening technique).
Flavor Profile: Visually, Qupé Central Coast Syrah has a tinge of brown around it darkening the otherwise purple-y red wine. And the aromas match that visual. The initial nose is of plump, dried fruits like dates and figs, mixed with darker fresh fruits like plums and blackberries. But those undertones — I guess they’re not too far under because you can’t help but smell a bit of wet-wood-earthiness.
From eyes to nose and then to the palate, the theme is intensified further. The initial taste will be of those plump juicy fruits (both fresh and dried), but there is a distinct farm-funk right in the midst of the mid-palate (that brown in the glass, that wet-wood on the nose coming to fruition on the palate). And yet, the whole thing is so light and (borderline) refreshing! Minimal tannins, elegant use of acidity — it’s a pure celebration of the fruit, the land, and blessed rain water.
Food Pairing: Best food pairing was what I had the night I drank the Qupé Central Coast Syrah: fettuccine tossed with braised fennel, portobello mushroom, and fresh herbs (namely basil and sage) immersed in a tomato bisque sauce. The best part was celebrating the wine’s farm funk with a few shavings of truffled gruyere on top.
More Info: I’m sorry, Bob and Louisa, that I completely by-passed Qupé all this time. I’m genuinely impressed with this Syrah. It’s not only a wine I would recommend, but one I would seek out again (and again and again) and share with friends. And I’m even more enthused to try some of their other offerings as well. Now, instead of avoiding Qupé in the grocery store, I’m going to keep an eye out for Qupé in the grocery store.
I found the Qupé Central Coast Syrah at Safeway (Sale Price: $10). For more information about Qupé, their Rhône-style wines, and biodynamic farming, please do visit the Qupé website.
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