Wine Talk

Snooth User: Richard Foxall

Qupe Central Coast Syrah, revisited.

Posted by Richard Foxall, Jul 6, 2011.

Not by me, however, at least not yet.  Wine writer Laurie Daniels (doesn't dmcker know her or do I misremember?) just published a column about Syrah here: http://www.mercurynews.com/laurie-daniel Although she generally was disappointed with the Syrahs she was asked to judge, she found much to like in the basic bottling of Qupe's Central Coast Syrah.  This was in contrast to my own experiences over the last few years of the same bottling (different vintages, but it seemed to be getting blander every year), so maybe it's time I tried it again.  Two things concerned me: Bob Lindquist's stated intent to increase the amount made and the fact that the price was listed as $17.  Most of the time, I've seen the bottle for a few dollars less. Unless he's going to contract for more of the Bien Nacido fruit (his better bottling is BN designated and there was often a little bit of BN in the Central Coast blend), I don't see how he can increase production without damaging quality.  Perhaps that is the explanation for the higher price, too.  What will that do to his and other Bien Nacido-sourced Syrah, like the $40 Bonny Doon she also liked? Maybe he has found another Central Coast vineyard that produces high quality Syrah at a good price, but the best Syrah on the CC does not come cheaply.  (Some well known vineyards owned by the Garys, Pisoni and Franscioni, grow great Syrah, but it's not $17 a bottle. Maybe he's getting it from Chalone?  But all those are pretty far north of his stated area of interest.)

Kudos to Daniels, who tasted the Qupe blind, and to Lindquist if it really is back up to par.  For a long time, I thought it was a very good value and often available in restaurants that didn't have large or adventurous wine lists.  Also a good bottle to take to a party or to a friend as a housewarming/host gift. 

If you've tried it recently, let me know what you think.

Replies

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Reply by gregt, Jul 6, 2011.

Tried it a few times recently - 06, 08, 09 in the last 3 months.  Hadn't had them for quite a while so on a whim picked one up and liked it.  Wife loves it so we bought a half case and then some more.  It's one of the best values out when it comes to Syrah from CA IMO.  Never jammy, never tarry, usually has great acidity and a meaty quality that you want but don't get all that often.

I seem to remember a few years ago I was kind of bored with it, so maybe it's just that I haven't had it for a while, but I have to agree w the author on this one - it's worth looking at.

That doesn't go for everything they do however.  Their Grenache is not particularly good, their Marsanne / Roussane is fine, but more of a curiosity than anything. I gave it 85 - OK, not exceptional.   

 

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Reply by JonDerry, Jul 6, 2011.

I remember you talking about how you were down on this wine.  I keep hearing about Bien Nacido being prime real estate in the central coast AVA, is there any other similar areas or is BN king?

Anyway, this sounds like a great value, will try to seek some out.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 7, 2011.

BN has a huge rep. Pretty well deserved but like anything the winemaker can always screw it up or make stylistic decisions that a particular drinker doesn't like. 

Can't recall the last time I had Qupe CC Syrah, but it was a few years ago, so add another couple years for aging and we could be talking '06. For a few years when I first started drinking Syrah and paying attention it was a QPR reference point.  I also really liked the Cambria Tepesquet Syrah. Funny, because I thought their PN was overrated. 

JD (there, you own the initials now) is correct, I was down on them.  But that's why I posted this: I can't say Daniels is the most original writer, but her comments make me think I should take a look at this again.  Especially if I can find it for $15 or so-which she made a little harder. 

Lindquist gets points for championing Syrah and for never succumbing to jammy, syrupy trends. As I said, I'll revisit the wine--and report back.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 9, 2011.

Well, that was quick: Right after posting yesterday, I found the 2009 on sale a block from my office.  Two bottles came home with me.  Problem is, I can't keep up with the wine I've already got coming in, so the taste test will have to wait.  (Just had a Chinon with dinner--comments will appear in the Tour de France thread tomorrow.  In a word: delicious.)

Oh, right, the price was less than $15, closer to the old price of $12 or so. 

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Reply by napagirl68, Jul 14, 2011.

Maybe little ole me can shed some light?

I tasted Qupe first at Rhone rangers SF  last March and loved them... I even rated them best Syrah at show (yes, even over my second fave, Big Basin Vineyards Rattlesnake Vineyards).

 Then I visited the tasting room in Los Olivos in April. I was so jazzed to taste... they poured syrah after syrah that was, well,  mediocre and disappointing.  I mentioned that I wasn't tasting what I thought I should, and that I had tasted at RR, and they said, OOOHHH.... you had THIS...  2008 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, Edna Valley Syrah. I am holding a bottle of it now, to scribe the name accurately.    They told me that they do not usually pour it, nor is it distributed.  But for some reason, they highlighted it as their wine at Rhone Rangers.  So go figure.. it's the only syrah from them I like.  It has that white pepper, earthiness that reminds me of some of the quality syrahs from Paso Robles.  

So that's my story...And yes, their white rhones were decent, even good, but nothin to write home about.

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Reply by dmcker, Jul 14, 2011.

What a surprise, you mean they poured different wines at a competition than at their tasting room, much less whatever they ship to whomever? Who would think?!

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Reply by napagirl68, Jul 14, 2011.

So they did, Dmcker... so they did.   No surprise for some "big" wineries, but perhaps a "one hit wonder" for Qupe?  Hopefully they can reproduce said wine, cause it's flippin' damned good.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 14, 2011.

Qupe is, as far as I know, independent, but not exactly small, from my experience--I can find their wine many places that don't carry wines from CA in any depth.  (The "visiting relatives in Jersey" test.)

White pepper?  Earthiness?  Throw in bacon and you've got a pretty typical description of N. Rhone Syrah, not (at least originally) Paso Robles.  Time to drink a little Cornas, Ermitage, Crozes-Hermitages (just had one that was excellent), etc.

For $12 at CostPlus WorldMarket, I am not expecting a best of show wine, but something tasty and true to the variety--with Syrah, a grape that can be chamelionlike, that's going to mean it is strongly influenced by the growing conditions (okay, terroir), but with a blend like the CC bottling, we'll see how that plays out.

I'll report back with my findings soon--but this is our 10 year anniversary weekend in Big Sur, so my next wine worthy of note is going to be 2001 Montelena Estate CS. 

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Reply by dmcker, Jul 14, 2011.

How about the 'multiple stores in Tokyo' test? Qupe passes that one, too. Wasn't impressed with the 2007 central coast syrah I just had, but to start with, no wine over here will ever be in the condition it is at the cellar door (NYC might be somewhere inbetween here and CA local, though hopefully closer to CA).

The wine suffered from a little flaccid/bland attenuation with not enough acid for good balance or even interest, I felt. The price at current exchange rates was creeping north of $30, and at that price I've had better results from bottles from the Rhone.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 14, 2011.

I like that Tokyo test, d. Now, after I find time to talk to people in Tokyo in real time, I have to go there--we opted for Bangkok on the way back from Nepal a few years ago, and no regrets, but Japan's gotta be on the list.  Of course, my kids have been to Kathmandu but not LA or Portland, so we have to do Oregon first.

I think your description gets what I felt about that couple of vintages that weren't doing it for me.  As I said, not expecting miracles, but it just wasn't doing it for me.  NG was in that same ballpark, too, as I read it. 

Given how far the wine travels, some of the good deals on Rhones even here, and Japan's probably high tariffs for almost any wine, I'd probably opt for Rhones over Cal syrahs--much as I love some of our syrahs, they're all over the map and, on average, not as appealing to me as even run of the mill Rhone Syrah, although I've had individual bottles/labels that were ultra-enjoyable.

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Reply by napagirl68, Jul 15, 2011.

Foxall,  You are correct... I actually didn't mean to say Paso with regard to syrah...  I really meant Dry Creek/Sonoma County. I actually prefer paso for white rhones and mourvedre.   Although I like the wine from Qupe that I mentioned, I was not partial to the syrahs in general from that neck of the wood (santa barbara county- we primarily tasted in Los Olivos, but the grapes were from vineyards around the county).  I also do not have a fav syrah from Paso.  I do very much like Big Basin Vineyards' syrahs (santa cruz mtns), but to be honest, I was just not a syrah person until I discovered Sonoma's syrahs.  That said, I promise to give N. Rhone a try since I am venturing out of CA more so these days, wine-wise, that is. 

 I was beginning to write about Sonoma, and decided to start a new topic rather than completely hijack this thread.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 3, 2011.

Okay, I drank the first bottle of the Qupe.  I won't waste a ton of words on it.  It was okay, but far from exciting.  Of course, I've had much more expensive syrahs from Cuvaison and the like that were about the same.  (Thank goodness I didn't pay the regular tariff on that one in particular.) I've also had Cline's basic Syrah, which is right around $10 and it's as good as the Qupe I had, in my recollection.  The Qupe was competent, but no strong sense of syrah's virtues, nothing very distinct in the sense of terroir (okay, it's a broad appellation wine, probably blended, but nothing even said cool weather or warm weather). Minimal finish.  It did get a little better over the several days it was open.  (VacuVin and refrig between drinkings.) I probably will NOT give the other bottle away because my friends expect wine with a little more personality when I bring it.   For the same price, I can drink Creta, a pretty good RdD, or a host of other things with more verve.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 3, 2011.

Similar response over here regarding the same Qupe bought in Tokyo...

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 4, 2011.

Well, now you can feel sure it wasn't the shipping.  And I don't think that anyone's going to pirate a wine at that level without more name recognition--not when there are still lots of Bordeaux bottles to fill and Petrus labels to adhere. ;-)

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 4, 2011.

Japan doesn't have pirating issues--unless some private individual buys from a questionable vendor or auction in Hong Kong or Shanghai. In my personal experience such pirating is almost exclusively a Chinese phenomenon....

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 4, 2011.

 What's to stop a shop or restaurant from buying something at the lowest price from a new vendor?  I'm not familiar with Japan's trade restrictions, esp on alcohol, but there are Chinese made goods for sale there, right? There's lots of grey market European wine in the US.  Does Japan have some way to keep it out? The knock-off specialists are selling imitation Italian belts and handbags in Italy, the United States... does Japan keep that out, too? Just wondering.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 4, 2011.

Fashion knockoffs are a recognized sub-segment in specialty shops known for what they are. No street vendors like in NYC, etc.

Select shops for wine, or supermarkets--whether famous one-offs or chains--wouldn't be able to sell any more wine if knockoffs were found on their shelves. Bottom-level restaurants could theoretically be an issue but middle or upwards would have the same problem mentioned for stores. Wine professionals in the industry are serious about what they do to an exceedingly anal degree in major cities. Any fringe importer who brought mislabeled crap in from China would be outed, at least within the industry, and then publicly, relatively quickly.

'Grey area' needs to be defined. So, I suppose, does 'pirating'. I assumed you were talking counterfeit.

To the extent of my knowledge, and I know quite a few professionals, it's a pretty well policed issue here. Though I'm not talking about some world-class counterfeiter who does some small-volume, high-price private sale to a wealthy ignoramus. In the commercial markets, the volumes someone could sneak in wouldn't warrant the hassle. The only segment where I could see it making sense would be with Yakuza involvement to captive nightlife spots (hostess clubs and the like). Besides that specialty market, why jump through all the hoops required in the general Japanese marketplace if they can just ship to another part of China, or somewhere else in southern Asia, so much easier, and effectively just as profitably since even if sales price is lower, so are marketing costs?

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Reply by JonDerry, Aug 5, 2011.

This topic brings to mind "Proof", the epic mystery novel by Dick Francis. 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 5, 2011.

Thanks, d, for that.  My facetious and offhand comment led to a primer in Japanese commerce that I enjoyed.  I was referring to the actual counterfeiting of wine that I imagine is going on in some markets--but it does not make sense of course to counterfeit wine at that level and for that market.  Makes a lot more sense to counterfeit bottles that are never going to be opened at all, or will be opened by newly wealthy individuals who mix it with Coke, a phenomenon discussed elsewhere in these forums.Sounds like, in general, the pirating/knockoff/grey market is much more under control in Japan than in the US and other parts of Asia. I recently had occasion to deal with someone from the world's biggest footwear company who is assigned solely (sorry for that pun) to brand protection and the amount of fake or unauthorized product that reaches the shores of the US is considerable. 

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 6, 2011.

Such soles pound the Japanese pavement, too. Very different market than for wine.

Might be interesting if you were to look at the proportion of European fashion brands revenues that come from Japan. The French and others are, of course, salivating enough to flood their river systems at how they might be able to train the Chinese markets to evolve in similar directions....


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