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On the way out to Los Olivos for a wine tasting event, we stopped at Brander.  I’d served Brander’s 2008 Purisima Sauvignon Blanc at a wine dinner a few weeks ago.  I’d been meaning to come back to buy more ever since.  One of the guests at the wine dinner, a self-proclaimed “reds only” guy, tasted it and said “I’ve been wrong about white wine my whole life”.   Truly a high compliment – and a worthy wine.  Many Sauvignon Blancs, especially those with aromatics of grass or “cat pee”, are totally lost on me.  This Sauvignon Blanc has heady floral aromatics and a great balance of fruit and acid.  It will be a great match for seafood!   In addition to the Purisima Sauvignon Blanc we tasted a number of other wines from Brander.  The 2008 Cuvee Nicolas, a blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon, was another well balanced white from Brander.  It spent 5 months in neutral French oak before it was bottled.  It is slightly rounded on the palate, though it still has good acidity.   An all-around great food wine!   We also tasted some of Brander’s red wines.  The 2008 Brander Merlot is really wonderful with flavors of black cherries and chocolate.  It only spent 5 months in French and American oak – so the flavor of the fruit really shine.  Priced at $20 a bottle (or $216 a case), this wine is an incredible value – lots of bang for the buck!    Another great red is the 2007 Brander Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  Even though it is young, there is already fabulous flavor integration and it is drinking well now.  I grabbed a few of these so that I can have Cabernet to drink while I am waiting for my Napa Cabs to sufficiently age.  =)

Bob Lindquist, Ethan Lindquist and Paige Lindquist

Bob Lindquist, Ethan Lindquist and Paige Lindquist

After Brander we headed to Los Olivos to the Qupe tasting room where winemaker Bob Lindquist lead a tasting of all the wines that Qupe makes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard.  It was an impressive lineup of whites and reds:

2008 Qupe Bien Nacido Cuvee – this is a blend of 50% Chardonnay/50% Viognier.  Qupe has been making this blend since 1992.  For this blend the Chardonnay fruit is picked underripe and the Viognier is picked slightly overripe – resulting in good structure, freshness and balance.

2008 Qupe Chardonnay Bien Nacido Y Block – This wine is made from fruit picked at varying times which means that the wine is both crisp (from earlier picked fruit – at 21 brix) and lush (from later picked fruit – at 25 brix).

2007 Qupe Chardonnay Bien Nacido Reserve Block 11 – This Chardonnay has 22% Roussanne blended into it which gives the wine headier aromatics.   Bob Lindquist says that “this wine can age beautifully for 10-15 years.”

2007 Qupe Roussanne Bien Nacido Hillside Estate – Roussanne is a challenging grape on many different levels.  It is difficult to grow well and it is also challenging in the cellar.  This wine is fermented and aged in barrels that were used once for Chardonnay.   This year’s vintage is more crisp and minerally than past vintages and should develop into a more complex wine over time.

2006 Qupe Roussanne Bien Nacido Hillside Estate – Named “Best New World Wine” by Decanter magazine, this is a perfectly balanced 100% Roussanne grown in Block 10 of Bien Nacido.  The vines are Tablas Creek clones; these are originally from Chateau de Beaucastel in the Chateauneuf du Papes.

2000 Qupe Roussanne Bien Nacido Vineyard – At 10 years of age, this balanced wine is drinking really beautifully.  The fruit for this wine was the first crop off of a custom planting at Bien Nacido.  It was fermented and aged in one year old Francois Freres French oak barrels (that had been used once for Chardonnay) for 15 months.

2007 Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido – 3% of the Syrah fruit was sourced from the new Sawyer-Lindquist Vineyard.  The weather during fruit set was very windy, which caused yields to be low and increased the intensity of the flavors.   Lindquist says that this one can be cellared for 8-12 years.

2006 Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside Estate – The fruit for this Syrah is from a 5 acre southwest facing slope called Z block.  This block is farmed organically to Qupe’s specifications.  This is Qupe’s 20th vintage of Syrah.

2006 Qupe Syrah 25th Anniversary Bien Nacido X Block – The block where this fruit was grown is farmed biodynamically by the Bien Nacido team.  Lindquist used 50% whole clusters in the fermentation which adds layers of spice and complexity.  He made this wine specifically to cellar – he says you can lay this one down for 20-25 years.

1999 Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside Estate –  Lauded by critics (96 points from Wine & Spirits magazine) since its release in 2002, this wine is drinking beautifully in 2010 with flavors of fruit, spice and smoke.  1999 was rainy and cold and the grapes ripened very slowly.  In fact, the grapes for this wine were harvested on November 18 at 22.5 degrees brix – later than any other Qupe vintage to date.

Lindquist was clearly in his element pouring wine with help from son Ethan and daughter Paige.   After we tasted through the entire list of wine, Lindquist told stories.  He said that Paige’s first word as a child was “cheese”.   Of course!    We also played a few rounds of 1960’s music “name that tune”.   Jason and I didn’t recognize a single song; sadly we didn’t win any wine.  Oh well, we didn’t go home empty handed – we picked up a few bottles of the 2007 Qupe Central Coast Syrah, 2006 Qupe Syrah Alisos Vineyard (one of my favorites!) and the 2007 Qupe Grenache Purisima Mountain Vineyard.

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