From Lifetime Achievement Award to a brand new enterprise.
On Wednesday it was announced that Bob Lindquist, one of California's most respected winemakers, will no longer be making Qupé wines, and as of 1 March he will no longer be involved with the winery. Vintage Wine Estates (VWE) has taken sole ownership of Qupé and is moving its winemaking from Santa Maria to their newly purchased Laetitia winery. Laetitia is located in San Luis Obispo County, and together the two winery purchases – Qupé and Laetitia – represent VWE's first expansion into the Central Coast. Previously VWE was focused entirely in the North Coast making brands such as B R Cohn, Layer Cake, and the cheekily named Game of Thrones wines.
Lindquist and his wife Louisa Sawyer-Lindquist will instead be launching a new project, Lindquist Family wines. The new winery will be focused on Rhône varieties, as well as Chardonnay, much as the original Qupé did under Lindquist's leadership. Lindquist's plan for his new winery, however, is to remain small. 'I only want one partner this time, and that's my wife, Louisa', he says. The couple will also continue making Verdad, a small-production label focused on Spanish varieties.
All Verdad and Lindquist Family wines will continue to be made in the winery tucked into the back of Bien Nacido vineyard that Lindquist and Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Clendenen Family wines have shared for decades (see Au Bon Climat – lunch and more). The first Lindquist Family wine, a 2017 Grenache from the Sawyer-Lindquist vineyard (a biodynamically farmed site in the Edna Valley), will be released later this spring after being bottled in April.
Partial ownership of Qupé was originally sold five years ago as part of a long-term succession plan. Terroir Wine Fund founder Charles Banks approached Lindquist with an interest in helping to expand production of some of the entry-level Qupé wines while continuing to make Rhône wine and Chardonnay in the style Lindquist established 30 years ago. Terroir purchased a majority share with the agreement that Lindquist's minority share would be bought out over time. However, after Banks' now-infamous federal charges, the future of Terroir Wine Fund became uncertain and the financial fund began divesting its winery ownerships. Pax Mahle of Wind Gap wines also announced this last fall that he had stepped away entirely from his partnership with Terroir in the winery he founded. While Wind Gap wine continues to be found on shelves throughout California, its future as a brand remains uncertain.
In November, Terroir sold the Qupé brand to Vintage Wine Estates. Lindquist's share in the winery was also sold, though he remained employed by Qupé as winemaker. As of 1 March, however, Lindquist will no longer be involved with Qupé. In the meantime he has helped oversee the movement of the Qupé wines and barrels to VWE's new Central Coast facility.
With the newfound space in the Clendenen-Lindquist Vintners winery (previously known as ABC-Qupé) following Qupé's departure, some of the various alumni winemakers who got their start making wine under Clendenen's and Lindquist's mentorship are likely to return.
In establishing Qupé in the 1980s, Lindquist's work with Rhône varieties helped transform expectations for California wines. His Syrah and Roussanne especially gained international respect for quality and ageability. Qupé has consistently been one of Wine & Spirits Magazine Top 100 wineries in the world since 1999. In 2015, Lindquist was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from California's Rhône Rangers. For the 50 Masters of Wine from 16 countries who recently toured California, Lindquist's Syrah and Roussanne were considered among the standout wines of the trip.
In addition to his work with Rhône varieties, Lindquist has also helped to increase interest in organic and biodynamic viticulture in the Central Coast. Through the biodynamic farming Bob and Louisa have practised, first in their Sawyer-Lindquist vineyard, and more recently in smaller sites they lease in Santa Barbara County, they have helped bring attention to the quality possible through such farming, and as such have effectively been an educational model for the region's farmers.
Recent years have seen an especially marked interest and increase in the number of sites in Santa Barbara County relying on organic and biodynamic farming. There has also been increased consumer interest in wines so produced.
Those wanting to stay up to date with new wines being released by Lindquist Family or Verdad wines can join the joint winery mailing list by contacting wine club manager Treeva Silva at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picture of Lindquist by Fran Collin.