Our Wine Ambassador, Dave Lofstrom, dives into an unlikely addition to the Qupé family: Pinot Noir.
When I first came to work for Qupé, I was surprised to find out that Bob was producing Pinot Noir. When I think of Bob Lindquist and Qupé, I think Syrah. Bob was the first person to produce Syrah in Santa Barbara County. He is a founding member of the Rhône Rangers and a pioneer for Rhône varietals here in the area. I did know that the Sta Rita Hills, and Santa Barbara County in general, are well known for Pinot Noir. So when I learned of Bob’s Pinot, I assumed Bob was getting fruit from the Sta Rita Hills or, perhaps more likely, the Bien Nacido Vineyard. When I found out that the Pinot was being sourced from a tiny section of the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard (SLV), my interest was peaked.
The Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Pinot Noir is a project that Bob and his wife, Louisa Sawyer Lindquist (winemaker for Verdad), work on together. The fruit comes from the Biodynamically farmed Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard located in the Edna Valley, which is an optimal location for cool-climate Pinot Noir. Only an acre and a half of Pinot Noir is planted at SLV. Harvested with acidity and structure in mind, this Pinot is native yeast fermented with 45% whole clusters. Only 10 barrels of the 2011 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Pinot Noir were produced.
The Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Pinot Noir is strikingly different from the Pinot Noir produced in the Sta Rita Hills. The SLV Pinot Noir has cranberry and cherry on the nose and palate, but it is not nearly as soft and round as you typically find in the Sta Rita Hills. The oak is also not as overt. There is a nice toasty character from the new Burgundy oak used in this wine, but it is not nearly as prominent as it is with other producers.
The 2011 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Pinot Noir is a pure expression of terroir. Like the Syrah from the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, this Pinot Noir is earth and herbs driven. It has great acidity, structure, and plenty of finesse. When you taste it, you can tell that it is from a cool climate. However, this Pinot Noir distinguishes itself from other cool climate Pinots (like the Willamette Valley in Oregon) because it has just a touch of California sunshine coming through in the fruit character and in the body of the wine.
The Rhône wines from Sawyer Lindquist have received a lot of accolades and press for such a young vineyard. The 2011 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Pinot Noir now joins their ranks with 93 points from Wine & Spirits Magazine and was included in the magazine’s “Year’s Best” category.
Bob and Qupé are not known for Pinot Noir and I can assure you that we will not be producing large quantities of it in the future. That said, I think that it’s admirable that Bob is trying his hand at something new and something that he is passionate about. This small side project is a wonderful expression of terroir. The Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Pinot Noir does not taste like the Qupé Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Syrah or Qupé Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Grenache, but you can definitely tell that they all come from the same place.