Santa Barbara invasion: Day 3
LOS OLIVOS & FOXEN CANYON WINE TRAIL
Day 3 of the Vines & Steins end-of-the-year tasting trip will take us out to the northern stretches of the Santa Ynez Valley, to the small wine-centric town of Los Olivos and out along the Foxen Canyon wine trail in the direction of Santa Maria.
I first visited Los Olivos back in ’97….I remember going to the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium and meeting Bob Senn, who poured me several wines on my first very first tasting venture, including some Qupè Marsanne, of which I ended up bringing home a couple of 375 ml bottles. Qupè didn’t have their own tasting room in those days, and Bob’s job was to highlight and promote the area’s best producers. Bob Senn is no longer with us, and the Wine & Spirits Emporium is no more, but Qupè now has their own tasting room open in Los Olivos!
Qupè is hands-down one of the best wineries on the Central Coast, period. Proprietor Bob Lindquist was one of the original “Rhone Rangers” who eschewed the usual Cabernet/Chardonnay plantings that had (and still are) done to death in this state. If you like some variety among your varietals, and enjoy a California Syrah or Viognier, then you owe a little gratitude to folks like Bob Lindquist and other Rhone Rangers who bucked the prevailing wisdom and planted grape types from France’s Rhone River Valley. In fact, Qupè was the first commercial producer of Marsanne in all of California, if not the entire country. I’m a longtime fan of this winery, and looking forward to being able to visit their tasting room. If Bob Lindquist is anywhere on hand, he had better sign my bottles!
VERDAD & ETHAN WINES
Keeping it all in the family, Verdad is the winery of Bob Lindquist’s wife Louisa Sawyer Lindquist, and specializes in Spanish varietals like Tempranillo and Albarino, both of which I am partial to–Albarino would run a tight race with Marsanne for the title of white wine that I like that hardly any California wineries are making. Their son Ethan has just gotten into the wine business with his own namesake winery, and it appears they are doing tastings in the same building.
CONSILIENCE – I have a 2-for-1 tasting offer for this small family-owned winery. They make several Rhone varietal wines like Syrah and Grenache, plus a Pinot Gris and a Zinfandel, and they have a sister winery next door (TRE ANELLI) offers Spanish and Italian varietals.
From Los Olivos, we are going to hit the road and visit several of the best wineries located along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.
Their website doesn’t mention it anywhere in the history of their winery, but I could swear I first visited Curtis at a location along Alamo Pintado Road between Solvang and Los Olivos, and I know that I purchased a dry Orange Muscat (aforementioned in the post about Mosby) from them. (Possibly the current location of Lincourt?) Shortly after, Curtis relocated to Foxen Canyon under the ownership of the Firestone family (Firestone Vineyard & Winery being one of the early upstart wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley). Just like Richard Sanford did, the Firestones have sold off their namesake winery but have retained ownership of Curtis, which has been putting out great Rhone varietals under the expertise of winemaker Chuck Carlson for years. I used to be in their wine club about ten or eleven years ago, and it was all good stuff!
ZACA MESA – Zaca Mesa is the original Rhone Ranger winery. They were planting Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre back in the 1970s and this is where Bob Lindquist started out before he venture out with Qupe in the ’80s. Good stuff, epic Central Coast winery. ‘Nuff said.
RIVER BENCH – Now we are really getting out of the shadow of Los Olivos and coming into the Santa Maria area. This is one of the older wineries in this area, and with the influence of cooler breezes and fog coming in from the Pacific, we’re back to cooler climate grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay—which is all that they do here at Riverbench.
CAMBRIA – Their Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir is my wife’s favorite. We’ve never been here, so hope to taste some good things and bring home something you can’t find in the local markets.