|Bob Lindquist likes Syrah and the Dodgers. Both are troubled these days|
Recently he held a lunch where, in addition to plenty of older vintages, he introduced MaxTap, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Tempranillo and Mourvedre. It's red, earthy, a little plum. It's not glorious, like his Marsanne or Edna Valley Syrah, but it's OK. I say this not to blast MaxTap, but to illustrate how hard it is to sell Syrah.
"I was in Sacramento yesterday and visiting accounts, and everyone said, I love Syrah, I love your Syrah, but we're having a hard time selling Syrah, so I'd like this MaxTap (for) by-the-glass," Lindquist says.
Roussanne is an even harder sell; at least people know what Syrah is.
"My sales manager says with Roussanne, (sommeliers) say they can't sell it, but they buy a 6-pack to take home for themselves," Lindquist says.
I believe it. I like a lot of Qupé's wines, and his 1999 Bien Nacido Syrah was glorious at this event, but the Roussannes were the find of the day. He ferments them in 1-year-old Burgundy barrels, and that adds an interesting effect to the young wines that disappears over time.
Qupé Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Santa Maria Valley Roussanne 2003
Lovely to drink, with a sensuous, honey mouthfeel that lingers. Aromatically it gives cantaloupe skin, and there's some cantaloupe on the palate, along with a hint of the ashy taste of age, but this is not a fruit-driven wine, and that's the joy. It's sumptuous, luxurious, without being heavy.
Qupé Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Santa Maria Valley Roussanne 2006
At an interesting stage of development, seven years in, with flavors and aromas of beeswax, and a texture like dry honey. Not as luxurious as the '03, yet. Who thinks that you're robbing the cradle with a 7-year-old California white?
Qupé Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Santa Maria Valley Roussanne 2010 ($40)
Here's the advantage in tasting all of these wines together, in context. The aroma of this wine is very white Burgundy-like, perhaps because of the barrels: toasty, leesy. Without putting it in your mouth, you might guess Chardonnay. Only when you drink it do you taste the beeswaxy Roussanne flavor, with some gravelly mineral notes. It's balanced, not fruit-driven, and now that I've had its predecessors, I realize I drank it too young. Order it here, and try it in a decade.