(Updated to add places of interest)
…and since I have been back it has been to hell and back for TB. Thought I had fully recovered from my ‘throatectomy’ but ended up with a severe infection that took everything out of me: unable to read, unable to write, unable to focus. Quite a trifecta that!
So here we go…a week ago today we were in one of our favorite places on earth, the Hotel del Coronado. It was our third visit there and while the cost has gone up over the past 20 plus years, so has the service. It is a world-class resort!
We were there for the marriage of our close friend’s daughter and the culmination of a trip that began ten days earlier. We flew into LAX arriving at 8:30am, got our car and headed north on the 405 – zipping along in the carpool lane, which was sparsely populated, while the rest of those silly Angelenos crawled in traffic (true Angelenos detest carpooling…loathe it!). We then got on the 101 headed towards Santa Maria where we had a luncheon engagement at Qupé/ABC vineyards and still managed to arrive at noon while the traffic going into L.A. was still bumper to bumper (what kind of hours do those people have?).
We were honored to have been invited to lunch at the winery as the location is not marked, only their two tasting rooms in Los Olivos and Santa Barbara (at the end of this column get a chance to see this remarkable working winery for an incredible experience with two of the finest winemakers not only in California, but globally (doubt this? In the book, 1001 Wines to try before you die, one of EACH of their wines made the list: their Qupé Syrah, and the Au bon Climate Santa Maria Pinot Noir, both deservedly so!).
Assistant winemaker Marissa Beverly, took us on a tour of the barrel cellar where she ‘thieved’ some samples for us and then we saw the must from the grapes that had been pressed, fermented, and were being moved into barrels to begin the long aging process.
Then we sat down at a beautiful table (actually two together which were beautiful panels made from tree trunks with Katie O’Hara who handled the arrangements for us, Jim Adelman, General Manager. In the center of the table were eight bottles of wine which we were instructed to try each one as part of the ‘deal’. The first was a Qupé Marsanne (75% Marsanne, 25% Rousanne), which we found incredible. Next came an ABC Bien Nacidos 2011 Chardonnay from the vineyard that adjoins the winery and is the most famous in the area. Next came two ABC Pinot’s a 2011 Santa Maria ‘La Bage Au-dessus , a Pinot lovers dream. Next came a bigger Pinot, the 2012 Isabelle which had incredible balance and flavor.
All of these wines went well with a spicy tilapia that at first looked like bruschetta since it had diced tomatoes on it, along with a spinach salad. We then had a Qupé 2012 Grenache, one of my favorite wines. About this time It occurred to me that I had missed the second Pinot, the ABC 2012 Isabelle which had incredible balance and flavor. For that mistake I was told I had to start at the beginning for my sin/omission. Once the laughter subsided they said they were joking.
Another Qupé followed…another of my ‘go to’ wines, the 2010 Syrah, also from Bien Nacido, and it did not disappoint.
Then came two wonderful surprises! Bob Lindquist and his wife make an incredible 2011 Tempranillo from the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard. Absolutely loved it. The finale was from the Clendenon Family Vineyards, an unbelievable 2010 Petit Verdot from the Bien Nacido Estate. These last two were my favorites, but I ended up buying a mixed case to taste and distribute on the rest of the trip.
Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, I met with another old friend from the Central Coast Wine Tasting days, Lane Tanner, arguably ‘la grande dame’ of the Central Coast and the first person to have a winery that only produced Pinot Noir…mostly from Bien Nacido. I met Lane when I was representing Lamborn Family Vineyards at the tasting. She looked familiar and I asked if she was Heidi Barrett (winemaker, consultant and producer of the great Screaming Eagle cabs). Her answer shows how down to earth she is: “No, I’m Lane Tanner, I wish I was Heidi Barrett.” That statement spoke volumes about her. She gave up the winery and has a new project now, Lumen Wines, with Will Henry of the Henry Wines Family, who has returned to the Central Coast from New Zealand where he was a winemaker. They are now ‘garagistes’, a term that is well known in Europe and there are several in the Central Coast region, that love and produce great wines in small quantities. Lane was very busy, as was Will but they gave me some of their precious time to fill me in on their operation. While I didn’t get to try the Pinot Noir yet, there is a wine reviewer called the Pinot Report by the Prince of Pinot, that rates only Pinot Noirs, that gave Lane a 95 point rating on her 2013 Sierra Madre Vineyard Pinot, the highest he has ever given to a wine from that vineyard. Only 50 cases were produced.
We visited a friend and former client in Templeton by Paso Robles that lives on a large estate just out of town. Very secluded and beautiful. When we left they presented me with a bottle of wine I had never heard of from the area a Saxum 2008 Booker Vineyard Syrah from Paso Robles, a powerhouse wine, or as some would say a fruit bomb, 15.8%ABY, a lot for an old man like me. A very nice present.
From there we began our trip southward, first to Bakersfield for a reunion with friends, then to Pasadena to see another friend and her daughter, then to Costa Mesa with more of our close friends, distributing and sampling the wines we had purchased along the way. The remaining four bottle of wine went to the bride and groom who have developed a taste for red wines and will indeed enjoy them.
That left us with just the Lumen and the Saxum to put in insulated bags since thanks to the TSA, they had to be in checked luggage but they survived the trip home with no problems…no just letting them settle again.
You now have a preview of what my book will be about and who the three representatives from the Central Coast will be. They meet all the criteria: long time acquaintances, recognized in the wine community, and passionate about what they do. They have all stood the test of time.
As promised, here is an opportunity of a lifetime…or at least the next six months. The only way I was able to visit the Qupé/ABC winery was that I had met Bob and Jim years ago and they were interested in working with me on my project. We had just set up the visit when a favorite restaurant of mine in Oakland, Bay Wolf, had requested they come for one of the final week dinners. They always had duck on the menu and I believe they were the biggest seller of their wines. I know I had a few ABC’s there with my duck in the past. I just found this on the website however:
Places of interest…if you’re going:
I used to send everyone I knew to the Far Western in Guadalupe, home of Santa Maria barbecue. but found out on this trip it has moved a bit south to Orcutt and is not the place it used to be, so am withdrawing all recommendations for it.
Will you be there on Sunday, October 11th, 2015? Then don’t miss this opportunity:
11 am to 3 pm Qupe/Au bon Climat winery…and more!
The winery, located within the beautiful Bien Nacido Vineyards in Santa Maria, is usually closed to the public but opens twice a year for this amazing event. Current releases and library editions will be available (over 70 wines!) for tasting and sale from Qupé & Verdad along with Au Bon Climat, Clendenen Family, Barham Mendelsohn, Vita Nova, Ici la Bas, and more. Towards the end of the day, Bob has been known to open some rare, library wines in large format. A wonderful, hot lunch is included. It’s a deal at $20 per person. Wine Club members of ABC or Qupe are free (2 per membership). No reservations are necessary. The winery is located at 4665 Santa Maria Mesa Road, Santa Maria, CA 93454. For more information, call the tasting room at 805-686-4200.
If you are in the area, planning to be in the area, or can arrange a trip…it’s just three hours from L.A., by all means do so! You won’t be disappointed and will have a chance to meet these two great winemakers! If not, this is a twice a year event so mark you calendars for April 2016!
To those planning a trip to the area, I highly recommend staying at Petit Soleil, a small B&B in San Luis Obispo. Incredibly nice owners and there are no big picnic tables were you have to sit with people you don’t know but many small tables for two or four in a beautiful dining room or out on the terrace. It is the country inn you look for but seldom find in France. Highly recommended!
Our final destination was the beautiful, historic, 125-year old Hotel del Coronado for a wedding of one of our closest friends daughter. It did not disappoint…definitely a world-class resort that cannot be replicated. Highly recommended!
Also found a new and exciting Italian restaurant in downtown Los Angeles:
The Factory Kitchen, 1300 Factory Place (off Alameda). A really nice upscale Italian restaurant. The Assistant Manager, Francesco Sinatra (I kid you not!), will go out of his way to make your visit memorable.
After dinner, try Perch, a rooftop lounge in downtown which is a beautiful sight at night from amid the highrises. 448 South Hill St.
Las Brisas, 360 Cliff Drive. Stunning views of the bay from San Clemente Island to Catalina. This is the old Victor Hugo Inn (where TB and his wife dined on our honeymoon, 46 years ago!). Owned by, but you would never guess El Torito! Just do it!
Wow…that wasn’t so hard…
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