It's been nearly two years since Santa Maria Valley winemakers Bob and Luisa Lindquist closed their very popular Qupe-Verdad tasting room in Los Olivos, and they’ve been sorely missed by locals and wine collectors alike.
Wine lovers of every level truly appreciate great tasting rooms such as theirs, as it provides the unique opportunity of being able to taste each wine before you commit to buying it. Their excellent selection of wines feature the classic varieties of France’s Rhone region under the Qupe label, and Spanish varieties and blends under the Verdad label, plus both make America’s favorite white wine, chardonnay. Every wine promises exceptional quality at reasonable prices.
Last Monday evening, my husband Dan Hardesty and I enjoyed being part of the festive grand opening at the Qupe-Verdad tasting room in the historic Village of Arroyo Grande. Not only did the new tasting room have a great turnout of local friends, they were also quite warmly welcomed by their peers in the wine community, including vintners and winemakers, wine shop owners, bloggers and this newspaper columnist.
Among the vintners and winemakers were Brian and Johnine Talley, of Talley Vineyards, and Bill and Nancy Greenough, of Saucelito Canyon, both in Arroyo Grande Valley; and winemakers Lane Tanner, of Lumen, and Ariki “Rick” Hill, of Tantara and Labyrinth, the latter all Santa Maria Valley wines. We didn’t stay all evening, so we surely missed other winemakers who visited.
Although they opened the new tasting room in Arroyo Grande, the wines will always be made in the Santa Maria Valley as they have been since the late 1980s. The Lindquists share the facility (located within the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard) with Au Bon Climat Wine Co.
Although both Lindquists are uniquely talented, Bob’s Qupe (pronounced kyoo-pay) wines cannot be poured at the new tasting room until late November due to delays in licensing permits. Fortunately, they will be able to serve it at private parties, but you cannot taste or purchase any until the license is finalized.
Bob Lindquist, one of Santa Barbara County’s early pioneers in the modern wine industry, has a long history of winemaking in the Santa Maria Valley. There’s a reason the brand is so popular: Most locals and wine experts far beyond our region are quite loyal to the Qupe brand. Understandably so. His wines have remained consistently impressive with every vintage despite some poor weather vintages. That’s the mark of a winemaker with an innate palate for making great wines. Not to mention that Bob advocated Rhone wines long before it became vogue to specialize in their classic wines (which most American had never heard of) like syrah, viognier, roussanne, marsanne, grenache and 22 other varieties and/or blends of them.
Bob was an inspiration to his wife Louisa to become a winemaker. She started out selling wine, but it was obvious he knew she had the palate to make great wines, too. He also inspired his children and other famous Santa Barbara County winemakers, including Jim Adelman, Gary Burk, Paul Lato and Gavin Chanin.
Louisa shared a story about their history we had never heard until now.
“When Bob and I first attended a trade tasting in Austin, Texas, together, we tasted an American-grown albarino for the first time. We were so impressed with it, we bought some sticks (albarino vineyard cuttings for planting the Spanish variety) from Brian Babcock to plant our own vineyard.”
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She went on to explain her love of Spanish wines and her decision to focus on their classic varieties.
“My wine career started in Long Island. But when I came to California, the region reminded me of my love of Spain, particularly so with all of the Spanish names.” They have always farmed the 40-acre vineyard under the strict Demeter Biodynamic Farm Standard.
When the Qupe-Verdad tasting room in Los Olivos closed in January 2016, the Lindquists planned to open a tasting room at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos with a new partner. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.
Last year, according to Bob Lindquist, they began looking for another location to open a tasting room. With their long history in Santa Barbara County, I was surprised but happy to learn they were opening a tasting room in Arroyo Grande. Not only is it much more convenient for me, a Pismo Beach resident, to buy their wines, it was ideal for them.
The couple moved to San Luis Obispo County’s Edna Valley in 2002, where they purchased an 80-acre ranch to plant their first grapevines, naming it the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard. Sawyer is Luisa’s maiden surname.
Among the impressive things they’re providing at the tasting room are special offerings for joining their wine club, which provides free admission to their biannual tastings at the winery in Santa Maria Valley, complimentary tastings with different rules according to the wine club level you choose, special wine club-only wines and access to library wines. They will honor local heroes, including teachers, nurses, firefighters, police, first responders on the first Monday of the month with a two-for-one tasting.
They also plan to soon offer cheese plates prepared by Fromagerie Sophie, the outstanding French cheese shop in San Luis Obispo, to pair with your wine tasting.
With the tasting fee of only $10 per person to try seven excellent Verdad wines, that’s less than you would pay to taste one glass of wine at any upscale restaurant.
For more information, visit www.verdadwine.com.