Friday, May 15, 2009

Wine of the Week - 2007 Qupé Marsanne

2007 Qupé Marsanne, $22 east coast price, out west it costs $18. I know, it's a California wine! You don't read about many of them on this site. This is a special wine, though, very much old-world in style. It is the antithesis of today's typical high alcohol, overripe, overblown California wine. I bought it on a hunch, knowing essentially nothing about the producer. I knew that Qupé wines are supposed to be good, but that's it. The blend caught my eye first - 88% Marsanne and 12% Roussanne, and I've lately been exploring white wines made with these and other traditional Rhône grapes. Then I saw "12.5% alcohol," and that sealed the deal for me.

Wine maker Bob Lindquist at Qupé is doing something that I think is extremely sensible. He grows hot climate grapes like Syrah, Marsanne, and Roussanne in the Santa Ynez Valley of California, where it is dry and hot, plain and simple. And he works in an old-world frame of mind, trying to make balanced and food-friendly wines, wines that improve with age. I emailed Bob to ask about this wine and the one of the first things he said is this:

Marsanne tends to lose it's acidity fairly quickly as it ripens. In
California, I think it's important to grow Marsanne in cool climate so it has better acidity and gets to physiological ripeness at lower sugars.
And this sensibility really comes through in the 2007 Marsanne. The wine is perfectly balanced, with great acidity supporting the ripe fruit. It is completely dry, yet the alcohol is impossible to detect. The nose is very fresh with floral and tropical hints, bitter herbs, and a waxy mineral underbelly. There is good structure and length and the wine has great texture. It does not have the intensity of say, the 2007 Gonon St. Joseph Les Oliviers, but it's just delicious, really a pleasure to drink. And it's funny - I looked on CellarTracker and the comments are not particularly complimentary. People don't think the wine has any fruit. Those people must be used to jammy wines that are in the new world style. The fruit in this wine is ripe and sweet, but it doesn't take over or define the wine.

The bulk of the Marsanne for this wine is grown in the Ibarra-Young vineyard, which Lindquist has farmed organically since 1999. Marsanne fruit is also purchased from several sources, also organically farmed, including Demetria and Purisima Mountain. Qupé grows Roussanne in their portion of the Bien Nacido vineyard, but the Roussanne for this wine is purchased from Stolpman. Changes are coming, as one source lost their 2008 crop to frost, another decided to keep their fruit, and Qupé has new vines in Edna Valley. But Bob Lindquist says that the style of the Marsanne will stay the same going forward.

The grapes are whole-cluster pressed, the juice is fermented in neutral barrels and goes through complete malolactic fermentation. It is bottled after between 5 or 6 months in barrel. 1533 cases were made in 2007, as well as 200 cases of half-bottles. Lindquist says that although the 2007 is delicious young (and it is), it will age very well. He has been drinking his 1994 lately, and loving it with maturity - "it gets honied and nutty."

It's still not in my plans to buy a load of California wine right now, but I do plan on buying more of this wine. In fact, one bottle will go into my daughter's birth-year case. It is delicious wine that does well with food - we enjoyed ours with roast Blackfish with capers and tarragon. I wonder, for what is a big step up in price, are the other Qupé whites equally compelling? Maybe I'll find them in local stores next time I visit my in-laws in San Diego, as I haven't seen them here in New York.


Florida Jim said...

I had this wine on a recent visit to Sonoma and thought that it was a beautiful, fleshy, bright expression of the grape and a fine accompaniment to bistro-style food.
Even in a restaurant it wasn't over $35.
Very well done.
Best, Jim

bobatea said...

Well i nevr tried it, if Jim is right i can try it tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Dude, this wine's great. And Lindquist's totally right on with his approach. And in fact, Bien Nacido, at least Qupe's part of it which is on top of the hill, is very cool despite what one might otherwise think about the Santa Maria Valley.

Anyway, good thing you put this in your daughter's birth-year case: As Lindquist points out, it ages extremely well (the early 90s bottles are lovely).

- wolfgang

fillay said...

I love Qupe's roussanne, but it is a big step up in texture and intensity (and price). It's also finicky - I just tried an '03 that seems to be going through a mute phase right now.

peter said...

I was into their Syrah for a minute a few years ago, but sort of moved on. This looks enticing, and I'll be sure to look for it, since I love these grapes. I keep trying to get someone to try to grow Marsanne and Roussanne around here somewhere, to no avail.

Alfonso Cevola said...

Always loved this wine.

(I guess I should disclose that I sold it 15 years ago, to maintain ethical integrity:-)

Brooklynguy said...

Florida Jim - pleasure and an honor to have you stop by and leave your two cents. thanks!

hey wolfgang - i'd love to hear your thoughts on the Roussannes. have you been out to visit the winery? so wise of you to be putting wines like this away back then, when you were about 20 years old. when i was 20 I was a total idiot.

did you find it in nyc, fillay? can't seem to find those wines here.

hey peter - you're tying to get someone to plant marsanne and roussanne where you live? call me crazy, but i think you should plant a row of each and make your own wine. so up your alley, it's not even funny. i volunteer to taste from barrel.

Hi Alfonso - i regret to inform you that your previous representation of this wine relegates as false your affection for said wine, and requires that the readers of this site and myself not use this information regarding your false affections in any way to influence our own buying decisions. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Anonymous said...

Well, had I been stashing these wines away in the early to mid-90s it would have been a little strange as I was just making way through high school (I'll admit that I tried Zima before ever trying Qupe, but that was purely a question of circumstance).

That said, it's possible out here to come across older bottles of Qupe and when I do, I'm always excited to taste them.

I have been to Qupe (and Au Bon Climat; they share the same winery building) a number of times, and I've spent time walking around Bien Nacido. It's a lesson in paradox, given how cool the temperatures can actually get there.

Vinogirl said...

Try a Lavendar Ridge Rousanne, you won't be disappointed.
I considered planting a block of Rousanne recently but it is a fairly temperamental variety!

Unknown said...

i think Qupe is doing great stuff for the price point. their Syrah is quite good and very consistent. i picked up the Marsanne at the Wine Garage in Calistoga a while back just because i had never heard of the variety. love that bitter herb thing.

jason Carey said...

Hey I am just wondering if you have really spent any time trying some of CA's best Natural wines.. Clos Saron, Donkey and Goat, Edmunds St John, Dashe Enfante terribe..ect