GREAT WINES IN THE SHED FOR OVER 20 YEARS!
Last year, along with my long time friend and contributing editor Ed Lazarus, I visited Au Bon Climat, Qupé, and Chanin at the winery facility in Santa Maria. Au Bon Climat and Qupé are now pioneer winemakers in the area and start up Chanin Winery had joined them in their facility. I wrote an article entitled “The Holy Trinity of Wineries” (to read that article click here ). This year Ed and I returned for another visit. When we arrived we found that Chanin Winery would soon be moving to another winery just down the road. And, since that time has relocated. So in this article I am going to focus on Au Bon Climat and Qupé and later will have an article on Chanin Winery. But, first a review of the background and early beginnings of Au Bon Climat and Qupé.
Since 1989 Au Bon Climat and Qupé have been housed in one facility in Santa Maria. This facility is affectionately referred to as “The Shed.” Au Bon Climat Winery (which means “a well exposed vineyard”) was founded in 1982 by Jim Clendenen and Adam Tolmach. Qupé Winery was also started in 1982 by Bob Lindquist. Au Bon Climat and Qupé are pioneer wineries in the Santa Maria/Santa Ynez area. Jim Clendenen, Bob Lindquist, Adam Tolmach, and Tony Chanin started at Zaca Mesa Winery. Zaca Mesa was built in 1978 and was one of the earliest wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley. In the early days, to learn more about wine, Jim and one of his co-workers at Zaca Mesa, Tony Chanin, started coming to some of the tastings we used to do for the old Underground. Tony is the nephew of my good friend Edward Lazarus who has been involved with the Underground from the very beginning. (Tony soon left to join his family’s business and in 2007 Tony’s son, Gavin, would join his father’s old buddies and then go on to start making his own wines under the Chanin label.) In those early days, we would gather up the wines we wanted to taste, get some food, set a time and a place and then invite people to attend and share the cost. We did the tastings at different homes, but mostly at places like The Wine House in West Los Angeles still there and going strong today ( www.winehouse.com ), Red Carpet in Glendale (www.redcarpet.wine.com  ), and Lawry’s California Center in Los Angeles (sadly closed about 20 years ago). These wine tasting and food events were widely attended by many different people and Tony and Jim were among the youngest participants.
Later, as mentioned before, Jim would go on to start Au Bon Climat with Adam Tolmach and at the same time Bob Lindquist founded Qupé. In 1991 Adam left Au Bob Climat to start Ojai Vineyards. This is a trend that follows the philosophy of Paul Draper and Ridge Vineyards. (To see my article on Ridge Vineyards click here)  It is a trend that is gaining momentum as the wines on steroids phenomenon is showing signs of fatigue (for more on this subject click here ) Today, after over 30 years of making wine, it can be said that Au Bon Climat and Qupé, under the direction of Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist have made, and are continuing to make, some of the best and most age worthy wines in California. If you are not familiar with these wines, it’s time that you made yourself acquainted. As the notes below attest, I think you will be glad you did. Also, to visit the websites and join the wine clubs and purchase the older library releases click here  for Au Bon Climat and click here  for Qupé.
At the winery earlier this year we tasted wines from barrel and some bottled wines with lunch. Later that evening Jim, Bob, and Gavin joined Ed and my wife and me at our house for dinner and to drink some wines including a number of old California wines. Ed and I had started the night before our visit drinking a few old California wines with dinner. We had a few others set aside for the next night which were augmented with some wines from Jim and Bob. Later, I would taste Au Bon Climat and Qupé wines including recently released wines and some library wines currently being offered for sale. These tastings were done over a period of several weeks and each wine was tasted over a 1 to 2 week period. Every wine remained fresh over that period of time and most benefited from the extra time, especially the red wines and the Chardonnays and White Rhone varietals.
Following are the notes in three parts:
Au Bon Climat wines tasted at the winery from barrel and bottle
Recently released wines and library wines currently being offered for sale from Au Bon Climat and Qupé
Old wines tasted at our house including wines from Ed’s cellar, my cellar, and library wines from Au Bon Climat and Qupé.
AU BON CLIMAT AND QUPÉ WINES TASTED AT THE WINERY
We tasted quite a number of Au Bon Climat barrel samples including some from Chanin who was still housed in the facility at the time of our visit. (The Chanin wines will be reviewed in an upcoming article). Many of the wines we tasted had not yet been blended and those notes are excluded. Suffice it to say that the 2010s and 2011s tasted from barrel are very successful across the entire range. We had numerous wines with an excellent “simple lunch” prepared by Chef Jim for staff and guests alike. Most of those were also tasted later and are included in Part II.
AU BON CLIMAT
2011 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Sierre Madre Vineyard Santa Barbara County.
This is a lovely wine at an early stage in its evolution. It has a gorgeous perfume and great fruit with an underlying crispness. There is also a slight tropical element that gives the wine an extra element of complexity – Outstanding Potential.
2011 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Elke Vineyard Anderson Valley.
This is an elegant Chardonnay with floral citrus notes and a lovely flavor. It has a nice underlying crispness and nice balance – Very Good Potential.
2010 Au Bon Clima tPinot Noir Knox Alexander Santa MariaValley.
This wine is always a blend of the best barrels from estate vineyards in Bien Nacido and Le Bon Climat. The wine was blended and about to be bottled at the time of our visit. It showed beautifully with a gorgeous perfume and lots of berry fruit intermingled with floral spice nuances. The wine has elegance and great style, but is also deceptively rich with a lasting flavor impression on the palate – Outstanding Potential.
2009 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Arroyo Grande Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley.
Light yellow in color this Chardonnay has a nice floral perfume with a kiss of vanilla. It has lovely fruit and is rounded with hints of citrus and vanilla – Highly Recommended.
AU BON CLIMAT AND QUPÉ WINES RECENTLY RELEASED AND LIBRARY WINES CURRENTLY BEING OFFERED FOR SALE
AU BON CLIMAT
2010 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Santa Barbara County.
This is a lovely, beautifully crafted Chardonnay. It is balanced and has finesse and flavor. The wine is light yellow gold in color and there is a nice floral citrus tinged perfume. The flavors suggest citrus and peach with floral and citrus undertones. A nice underlying crispness enhances the wine’s appeal – Highly Recommended. $20
2010 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay XXX Anniversary Estate Bottled Nuits Blanche au BaugeSanta MariaValley.
This wine is a 30th anniversary bottling made from grapes harvested on estate vineyards – 56% Bien Nacido Vineyard K Block and 44% Le Bon Climat Vineyards. Nuits Blanche au Bauge is a designation for barrel fermentation and additional wood aging to add an extra element of richness while still maintaining a bright acidity. As Jim says, “The 2000 vintage XXth anniversary cuvee marked a style reconciliation. The richness and aggressiveness of the Nuits Blanches style would be tempered with the balance, acidity, and complexity of the Au Bon Climat ‘Bauge’ style.” There were 1000 cases of this gorgeous 2010 Chardonnay produced. Light yellow gold in color the wine has a lovely floral perfume with hints of citrus, peach, and apricot and just a kiss of vanilla. It has lovely fruit and also has richness and depth with a nice underlying crispness. Floral and citrus flavor accents are also accompanied by faint hints of vanilla and spice. This is a Chardonnay that is delicious to drink now and keep well beyond. It should continue to improve over the next several years as the flavors integrate – Outstanding Plus. $40
Santa Barbara Historic Vineyard Series
For many years Au Bon Climat has been sourcing grapes from vineyards that are now as old as 40 years. In the 1970s vineyards and wineries in Santa Barbara County were just starting to be developed. As the earliest vineyards aged, Au Bon Climat began to designate them as Santa Barbara Historic Vineyards on the label. Thus, was the beginning of the Santa Barbara Historic Vineyard Series to honor the historic significance of these early vineyards. These vineyards include Bien Nacido, Los Alamos, Sanford and Benedict, and Sierra Madre. In 2009 only 500 cases of each wine were produced. Below are notes on three of the 2009 Santa Barbara Historic Vineyard Series wines. Each is different and distinctive.
2009 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyards Santa Maria Valley Santa Barbara Historic Vineyard Series.
This is a gorgeous Chardonnay with balance, finesse, and flavor. It has a light yellow color with a faint golden hue and a lovely floral perfume accented by hints of citrus and spice. The flavors are refined and well integrated showing floral, peach, and citrus notes and a kiss of spice. With a nice crispness on the finish this is a Chardonnay with great purity and style – Outstanding. $30
2009 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Los Alamos Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley Santa Barbara Historic Vineyard Series.
It was on the site of Las Alamos Vineyard that Au Bon Climat first began making wines. This is a lovely Chardonnay that has great early appeal. It has an intense perfume with floral, tropical, honeyed and citrus nuances and kiss of vanilla. It is supple and lush with great fruit showing hints of peach and citrus with a floral honeyed accent. A nice underlying crispness provides a very nice balance – Outstanding. $25 ***
2009 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Sanford and Bendict Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley Santa Barbara Historic Vineyard Series.
This is a lovely Chardonnay with a nice floral perfume accented by hints of citrus and peach with a faint pineapple nuance. It has great style and flavor and is crisp and very elegant with hints of citrus and peach and a faint kiss of vanilla – Outstanding. $30
There can be no question that the Au Bon Climat Chardonnays are crafted to age and gain complexity over time. At the end of this article is a note on a superb 1990 Au Bon Climat Bien Nacido Reserve Chardonnay. And, below are notes on other old Au Bon Climat Chardonnays that were tasted at the winery last year and published in last year’s article (to see that article click here )
1997 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Le Bouge d’ CoteSanta Maria Valley.
Light golden yellow in color this Chardonnay has a deep perfume that is honeyed and faintly spicy and waxy. It is rich and round with lots of honeyed flavors and hints of citrus and spice. At a peak now this wine is a real treat to drink – Outstanding.
1988 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Benedict Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley.
Made with only 12.5% alcohol, and at over 20 years old, this is a gorgeous Chardonnay. Golden in color the wine shows a lovely honey tinged perfume with faint hints of caramel. It is rich, full and rounded with lovely fruit and hints of honey, caramel, citrus and a faint touch of spice – Outstanding.
2008 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir La Bauge au Dessus Estate Bottled Santa Maria Valley.
The name “La Bauge au Dessus” translates into “the decadent party up above.” This is a reference to the highest Pinot Noir vineyards at Bien Nacido Vineyard which are the source of the grapes for this wine.
This Pinot Noir has a deep color and a lovely floral berry perfume tinged with spice. It is an elegant wine, but also has structure and depth. There is lots of spice tinged berry fruit with a floral nuance and a nice underlying crispness. This is a wine that will repay some additional time in the cellar – Highly Recommended Plus. $30
2008 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Estate Bottled 20 Years In The Shed With Bob Bien Nacido Santa Maria Valley.
This wine was made with a selection of the best barrels of Bien Nacido Pinot Noir to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Au Bon Climat with Qupé winery relationship. There were only 200 cases produced. Like the 2008 La Bouge au Dessus, this wine will benefit from some additional bottle age.
Deep in color this Pinot Noir has a gorgeous floral perfume with hints of berries and spice. It has lovely fruit accented by hints of floral spice. The wine is structured and flavorful and needs just a bit of time to come together – Outstanding. $75
2009 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County.
This Pinot Noir blended with another grape variety may not be so unusual, but it is unusual for the blend to be disclosed on the label. This is as it should be! In my opinion, California labeling laws are antiquated and abused. I mentioned this in an earlier article on “What is Wine?” Here’s part of what I said…“California varietal wines can be labeled with the name of the grape so long as at least 75% of that grape is used in the wine. The other 25% can be anything and does not have to be disclosed any where on the label….” (to read my article on this subject click here )
This Pinot Noir consists of 24% Mondeuse and 76% Pinot Noir. The Mondeuse grape is responsible for many of the red wines from the Savoie region of France. This wine actually tastes more like Pinot Noir than many other California Pinot Noirs that are blended with Syrah. The Pinot Noir/Syrah blends often taste more like Syrah than Pinot Noir, but there is no designation on the label. So congratulations to Au Bon Climat for this wine and for the designation on the label! There were 12,000 cases produced. This is one to try!
This is s fruit driven wine with early appeal. It has a deep color and a lovely mulberry perfume. The wine has lots of fruit and is very tasty. Over a period of nearly 2 weeks the wine evolved beautifully and became very supple. To drink now decanting is recommended or age for a year or more – Highly Recommended. $22
2009 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Sanford and Benedict Vineyards Santa Ynez Valley Santa Barbara Historic Vineyards Collection.
This Pinot Noir has a deep color and a nice spice tinged berry perfume with a faint floral undertone. It has very nice spice tinged fruit and a good underlying structure. It opened over a period of several days and needs a bit more bottle age to come together. If consumed now, decanting is recommended – Highly Recommended Plus. $50
2009 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Talley Vineyard Rosemary’s Santa Maria Valley.
With a total area of 17 acres, Rosemary’s Vineyard is a small part of the nearly 200 acre Talley Vineyards property. Only 100 cases of this wine were produced. This wine has a deep color and a lovely perfume with floral nuances and hints of spice and green olive. Finesseful and very elegant there is an abundance of fruit with a touch of spice and green olive. Over a period of time the wine becomes more lush and rounded. This is a delicious Pinot Noir to drink now or keep for an extended period – Outstanding. $100
2009 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Estate Bottled Knox Alexander Santa Maria Valley.
This wine is named for Jim Clendenen’s son and was first made in 1996. It is made with the best 40 barrels of estate Pinot Noir planted by Jim since 1994.
This 2009 is a gorgeous follow up to the 2008. It is beautifully balanced and very elegant. The wine has a deep color and a gorgeous floral perfume with hints of raspberry and a faint spiciness. The fruit suggests cherry and raspberry and there is a complex hint of spice and green olive. This is a very stylistic Pinot Noir with a long life ahead – Outstanding. $45
2009 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Isabelle California.
This wine was first made in 1994. It is named for Jim Clendenen’s daughter and is always a selection of the best 40 barrels of single vineyard Pinot Noir made that year.
This 2009 is really lovely. The wine has a deep color and a lovely floral perfume with hints of cherry and spice. It has lovely fruit and is supple with a nice underlying crispness. Beautifully balanced and very pure, this is a Pinot Noir that is delicious to drink now yet will age effortlessly for many years – Outstanding. $50
Clendenen Family Vineyards
In 1998 Jim purchased 100 acres of land in Sisquoc along the south side of the Sisquoc River and directly across the Santa Maria Valley from the Bien Nacido Vineyard. Wines made from grapes grown on these vineyards as well as some estate vineyards in Santa Barbara County are bottled under the Clendenen Family Vineyards label. The Clendenen family consists of Jim and his children Isabelle and Knox. Listed below are notes on recent vintages of some of the Clendenen Family Vineyards wines.
2008 Clendenen Family Vineyards Chardonnay Estate Bottled Le Bon Climat Santa Maria Valley.
There were 500 cases of this wine produced. It is light yellow gold in color and has a deep perfume showing floral nuances along with hints of peach and citrus and a faint tropical quality. Lush and rounded, this Chardonnay has richness and depth with lots of tropical tinged fruit and a kiss of vanilla and spice followed by a nice citrus tinge on the finish – Outstanding. $30
2010 Clendenen Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Stallion Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley.
Only 100 cases of this wine were produced. This is a very refined and tasty Sauvignon Blanc. It is pale yellow in color and has a lovely floral herbal perfume with hints of citrus. It is crisp yet rounded with herbal citrus nuances and a nice finish with a slight mineral tinge – Highly Recommended. $18
2010 Clendenen Family Vineyards Viognier Estate Bottled Rancho La Cuna Santa Barbara County.
Light yellow in color this wine has a lovely floral perfume with hints of citrus and coconut. It is rounded and supple with lovely fruit showing a faint floral tinge and a suggestion of citrus and coconut. This is a really lovely Viognier – Outstanding. $18 Best Buy
2011 Clendenen Family Vineyards Viognier Estate Bottled Le Bon Climat “The Second Coming” Santa MariaValley. Only 100 case of this lovely Viognier were produced. “The Second Coming” refers to the second crop. The wine is pale yellow in color and has a gorgeous floral perfume with citrus nuances and hints of peach and apricot. The flavors show a floral nuance and an exotic quality that suggests lichee nut with a lemon lime undertone. This is a delicious Viognier with great breed and style – Outstanding Plus. $50
2004 Clendenen Family Vineyards Nebbiolo Reserva Bricco Buon Natale Bien Nacido Estate Bottled.
Nebbiolo is the red Italian grape variety responsible for the wines of Piedmont in Northern Italy – Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara, and Ghemme. It is a rarity in California. Tasted last year at the winery, this 2004 Nebbiolo has continued to evolve and now seems to be at peak in its evolution with a long life ahead. Only 500 cases were made and the wine spent 6 years in barrel before bottling. It was released for sale this year.
The wine has a deep color with some amber and a woodsy, spicy, cherry tinged perfume. The fruit is amazingly pure and really begins to show at its best after a lot of aeration. Tasted over a period of a week, the wine remained very fresh. The fruit flavors are berry and cherry with a spicy, woodsy complexity. The wine is rounded, but also has a lot of backbone which really makes it sing. This is a distinctive wine with great structure, flavor, and character – Outstanding. $35
2008 Clendenen Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Le Bon Climat Santa Maria Valley.
There were 500 cases of this wine produced. It is a Pinot Noir with very pure fruit and gorgeous balance. The color is deep and the wine has a lovely berry cherry perfume with a kiss of spice. It is has loads of fruit with a faint underlying floral spiciness and is supple and very tasty – Outstanding. $50
2010 Qupé Bien Nacido Cuvée Santa Maria Valley.
This is a unique and delicious wine made with 50% Chardonnay and 50% Viognier.
There were 10,000 cases produced so it should be relatively easy to find. This is a wine you really need to experience. It is the type of wine I have long advocated for California. That is wines made from different grapes that complement each other. This one really works!
The wine is light yellow in color with a great floral perfume showing hints of peach and a touch of citrus. It is lush and round, but with elegance, flavor, and balance. The fruit is a combination of peach and citrus with a faint floral undertone. This is a wine that is easy to love and so easy to drink – Outstanding. $20 Best Buy
20009 Qupé Chardonnay Bien Nacido Reserve Block Eleven Santa Maria Valley.
There were 1000 cases of this wine produced. It is a really lovely Chardonnay with great early appeal. The wine is light yellow gold in color and has a great floral perfume with hints of peach, apricot, and citrus and just a kiss of vanilla. It has lots of fruit with richness and depth and is balanced with finesse and a nice underlying crispness – Outstanding. $30
2011 Qupé Marsanne Santa Barbara County.
This wine is made with 79% Marsanne and 21% Rousanne. There were 1100 hundred cases produced. It is light yellow in color and has a lovely floral perfume with hints of almond and citrus. The wine is delicate and finesseful with floral citrus undertones and a faint hint of almond – Highly Recommended. $20
2009 Qupé Roussanne Estate Bottled Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Santa Maria Valley.
There were 1000 cases of this wine produced. It is an absolutely beautiful wine that was tasted over a period of a week and continued to evolve and develop over the entire time with absolutely no sign of fatigue.
Light gold in color the wine has a stunning perfume with floral, pear, and citrus notes accented by a kiss of vanilla. It has great intensity and balance with pear and citrus flavors and a faint touch of spice. This is a delicious Rousanne to drink now or for many years into the future – Outstanding Plus. $40
2011 Qupé Viognier Ibarra-Young Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley.
Only 100 cases of this delicious Viognier were made. It is pale yellow in color with a floral citrus perfume and a faint hint of spice. It is finesseful and balanced with lovely flavors that show hints of tropical fruit with a floral citrus undertone. A faint citrus tinge gives the wine lift and enhances the underlying richness – Outstanding. $20 Best Buy
In recent years Bob Lindquist’s wife, Louise Sawyer Lindquist, has also been making wine under the Verdad label from grapes grown on their Sawyer Lindqust Vineyards in the Edna Valley of San Luis Obispo. The emphasis is on Spanish varietals. The recently released Albarino is lovely.
2011 Verdad Albarino Sawyer Lindquist Vineyards Edna Valley.
There were 1000 cases of this wine produced. It is light yellow in color with a gorgeous perfume of melon and citrus with a faint floral herbal nuance. The wine has great fruit with hints of melon and citrus and a faint suggestion of pineapple. This is a really gorgeous wine made in a finesseful and most appealing style. It is, in a word, delicious – Outstanding . $22
2010 Qupé Grenache Sawyer Lindquist Vineyards Edna Valley.
There were only 480 cases of this wine produced. Grenache as well as Tempranillo are grape varieties that deserve more attention in California. This is a gorgeous Grenache that was tasted over a period of 2 weeks and showed much better with some air and held beautifully for the entire period.
The wine is deep in color and has a gorgeous berry perfume with hints of rose petals and spice. The fruit is very pure and shows faint spicy floral nuances. There is a elegance and refinement that evolves over time and the wine is beautifully balanced with a lovely finish – Outstanding. $35
2010 Qupé Syrah Central Coast.
This is no big numbers sip and spit wine (to read that article click here )
However, it is a lovely understated Syrah that is a pleasure to drink with a wide variety of foods – meats, pastas, cheeses, etc. There is a difference. Give it a try!
There were 12,000 cases of this wine produced in 2010. It has a deep color with a lovely berry perfume showing just a faint floral undertone and a kiss of spice. The wine has very pure fruit and is rounded and supple with a nice underlying crispness – Highly Recommended. $20
2009 Qupé Syrah Bien Nacido Single Vineyard Selection Santa Maria Valley.
This vintage produced a total of 12,000 cases of this wine that checks in at 13.5% alcohol. It is a beauty! The color is dark and this Syrah has a gorgeous perfume with hints of blackberry and plum with a very faintly spicy smoky nuance. There is a great intensity of fruit and layers of flavors. Plums, berries, spice, smoke, and a floral nuance are intermingled in a wine of complexity and balance. This is a wine that can be consumed now or laid away for many years – Outstanding. $25 Best Buy
2009 Qupé Syrah Sawyer Lindquist Vineyards Edna Valley.
The 2009 production was 1000 cases. Dark in color this wine has a lovely perfume with floral blackberry nuances and a faint hint of exotic spice. It has very pure fruit showing blackberries and plums accented by a hint of spice. This is a Syrah that developed beautifully over a period of nearly two weeks after being opened. It is structured and flavorful and will age for many years – Outstanding. $35
2009 Qupé Syrah Sawyer Lindquist Vineyards Sonnie’s Edna Valley.
This wine is 100% Syrah from the Sawyer Lindqist Vineyard in Edna Valley. It is a strict barrel selection of the best barrels. The production in 2009 was 100 Cases. The wine is dark in color and has a gorgeous perfume of mulberry with hint of spice, green olive, and herbs. The flavors show a myriad of fruits with spice tinges and a faint exotic nuance. The purity, balance, and structure of this wine suggest that there is a long life ahead – Outstanding Plus. $55
2007 Qupé Syrah Bien Nacido Estate Bottled Hillside Estate Santa Maria Valley.
This wine is made from 100% Syrah grown on the Z block at Bien Nacido. It is a 5 acre block that was planted in 1992 on a southwest facing slope. There were 1200 cases produced in 2007. The wine has 13.5% alcohol.
This Syrah is dark in color and has a deep perfume with berries and plums and a faint spicy smokiness. It is rich and concentrated with balance and a lot of flavor. Plum like fruit is accented by faint hints of chocolate and just a tinge of spice and smokiness. This is a wine that was tasted over 2 weeks and got increasingly supple and complex over that time with no indication of fatigue. Drink it now or put it away for an extended period. This is a great Syrah – Exceptional. $40 Best Buy
SOME OLD WINES TASTED AT OUR HOUSE INCLUDING CHAMPAGNE AND CALIFORNIA WINES FROM MY CELLAR AND ED’S CELLAR AND LIBRARY WINES FROM AU BON CLIMAT AND QUPÉ
These Champagnes all came from my cellar. I have enjoyed many bottles of each of them over the years. They have been gorgeous to drink for many years, but are now at their peak and seem destined to remain there for many more years.
1990 Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil.
At 22 years of age this Champagne is just now hitting its stride. It is great. Light yellow in color this Blanc de Blancs has a gorgeous complex floral perfume with exotic nuances and hinting of spice, citrus, and minerals. The wine is creamy with great finesse and complex flavors that have a exotic fruit nuance with hints of citrus, a touch of spice, and a faint minerality. The finish is long and lingering. This is a great Champagne with a long life ahead – Exceptional.
1988 Drappier Blanc de Blancs.
The house of Drappier makes consistently great Champagnes that have an incredible ability to age. This 1988 I have enjoyed many times over the last 10 years and it is still going strong. Light golden yellow in color the wine has an intense honeyed citrus perfume. It is elegant, yet lush with a delicious creaminess. The flavors are complex and suggestive of honeyed citrus with nice underlying minerality. This is delicious now, but will be great for many years to come – Outstanding Plus.
1988 Piper Heidsieck Rare.
This is the prestige cuvee from the house of Piper Heidsieck which is Chardonnay based. The wine is appropriately named since the production of this Champagne is very small with reportedly only a few hundred cases coming to the USA in each vintage. Add to that that there have only been something like 8 vintages declared in the last 30 years and you can get some idea as to why the name is appropriate. The 1988 vintage has been my favorite Champagne vintage to drink for quite a number of years now. This is one of my very favorite 1988s and one of my very favorite all time Champagnes. I have gone through a couple of cases of this Champagne so I know it well. It has been consistently flat out great. After pulling this bottle, I went back to where I was supposed to have another case. Alas, it was not there! Hopefully, it was just moved to another location. I would hate to think that I have consumed my last bottle. But, be that as it may, here is my note.
Light yellow in color with a faint golden hue this Champagne has an absolutely fabulous perfume that is faintly floral and exotic with spice and citrus nuances. It is creamy and rich, but with great finesse. Balanced and just stunningly complex with flavors that linger on the palate this is a Champagne that is well nigh perfect and still has a long life ahead – Exceptional Plus.
1990 Au BonClimatChardonnayBienNacidoReserveSanta MariaValley.
This wine is listed at 13.2% alcohol. It has aged beautifully. This bottle came from the Au Bon Climat library. Interestingly, not knowing what would be brought, I had this same bottle set out to serve!
This Chardonnay has a light gold color and a stunning perfume with hints of spice, citrus, apricot, and hazelnut. Still possessing great fruit, there is a lot of complexity expressed through well integrated flavors of honeyed apricot and spice with hazelnut nuances. The wine is rounded and lush, but a citrus tinged backbone shows through on the finish and gives the wine definition and balance. At 22 years of age this Chardonnay is at a peak and shows no sign of decline – Exceptional.
1990 Mt Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Estate Bottled Santa CruzMountains.
This wine is also listed at 13.2% alcohol. There were 11,392 bottles produced. This wine was from my cellar. I have enjoyed this wine many times over the last 10+ years and it never fails to impress. This bottle being slightly more advanced than a bottle I drank earlier this year.
Light golden in color this Chardonnay has a deep perfume with tropical citrus nuances and a faint whiff of butterscotch. There is great fruit with a honeyed citrus complexity and a distinct tropical quality. The wine is lush and rounded with a long crisp finish and is a pleasure to drink – Outstanding Plus.
1990 Long Vineyards Chardonnay Napa Valley.
This wine is listed at 13.1% alcohol. This was my last bottle and I don’t ever remember drinking it. It was surprisingly delicious. Golden in color the wine has a nice fresh perfume with hints of citrus, melon, and spice. It is lush and rounded with great citrus tinged fruit that shows a faint honeyed quality. Balanced with a long crisp finish this is amazing for a 22 year old Napa Valley Chardonnay – Outstanding.
1999 Qupé Roussanne Alban Vineyard Edna Valley.
This wine came from the Qupé library. It is listed at 14.0% alcohol. Now approaching 15 years old the wine is stunningly delicious. This is yet another great example of why the great white Rhone varietals deserve more attention!
Golden in color this Roussanne has an intense perfume that is faintly smoky with hints of exotic fruit and roasted almonds with a very faint herbal honeyed quality. The wine has great fruit and balance with complex flavors hinting of honeyed pear, roasted almonds, and a faint spiciness. The finish is long and lingering. This is a great wine by any standard – Exceptional.
1976 Caymus Pinot Noir Napa Valley Special Selection.This wine was listed as 13.5% alcohol. The notation on the label read “Produced from a portion of our Pinot Noir vineyard in which soil, clone, and climate conditions combined have created our finest Pinot Noir.” This bottle came from Ed’s cellar and we must have tasted it somewhere along the line, but I don’t remember. What a surprise!
Dark in color with an amber tone and an amber edge the wine has a deep spicy perfume with hints of plum and an underlying earthy foresty nuance. There is lots of spicy plummy fruit with a faint foresty undertone and the wine is supple and rounded. This is an amazingly rich and complex wine and at over 35 years old shows no dryness and no sign of decline – Outstanding.
1976 Joseph Swan Zinfandel Sonoma County.
This wine is listed as “Table Wine.” Joe did not like high alcohol wines so it seems certain that the alcohol is this wine was relatively low. This is the second bottle of this wine that I have had in the past year. Both were off the charts great.
Dark in color the wine has just a faint amber hue and a tinge of amber at the edge. The perfume is just stunning with an exotic spice element that is remarkable. The wine has heaps of fruit and flavor, but maintains a great elegance. Exotic fruit and spice are in evidence on the palate there is a supple lushness that is more like a great Pomerol than a Sonoma County Zinfandel. This is an absolutely stunning wine by any measure – Exceptional.
1970 Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel Geyserville Trentadue Ranch.
As opposed to the Joseph Swan Zinfandel, this Ridge Geyserville checked in with 15.6% alcohol which is surely one of the highest ever alcohol levels for this property. Some 40 years ago, here’s what Paul Draper had to say about the wine on the back label:“1970 was one of the great vintages of recent years. The severe spring frosts did heavy damage to quantity, but accentuated quality, The Trentadue vineyard produced a full, rich wine that completed its malolactic fermentation only after the second summer. Its warmth is balanced by its characteristic fruit and though it has begun to soften this big wine will not reach peak maturity for at least five more years. PD 10/73”
Deep in color with an amber tone and a amber edge the wine has a gorgeous plummy perfume with cinnamon nuances. It is soft and rounded and is very lush with gorgeous spice tinged fruit showing a faint exotic quality. At over 40 years of age, with no heat and not even the faintest tinge of dryness, this is simply an amazing wine – Outstanding Plus.
1978 Buehler Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley.
I remember visiting here at around the time this wine was made. The wine has aged remarkable well. It is listed at 14% alcohol.
This Cabernet has a deep color with some amber. The perfume is still very fresh with floral blackberry nuances and a hint of cedar. The fruit is still very fresh and pure with blackberry fruit accented by hints of spice and cedar. Only the color give an indication of its age. The wine is amazingly youthful – Outstanding.
1978 Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley.
The label notes that this is a “Vintage Selection of the Napa Valley.” There is also a notation that there were 3300 case produced and that the grapes were picked in September and October at 24.4 degrees brix. The alcohol is listed at 13.9%. This is another winery that we visited in the 1970s. This bottle was in my cellar since release. I have not had a bottle in at least 20 years. This was yet another surprise.
Dark in color with a faint amber tone this wine has a gorgeous perfume with a floral berry quality and a touch of cedar. It had great fruit and flavor and is supple and rounded with lovely balance. Seamless and very pure it would appear that this wine will keep for a long time into the future – Outstanding Plus.
1996 Qupé Syrah Estate Bottled Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Santa Barbara County.
This wine came from the Qupé library. The alcohol is listed at 13.8%. It is made from the oldest cool climate Syrah vineyard in the state which was grafted to Syrah in 1986. It is yet another indication of why this is the type of Syrah you want to lay away in your cellar for long term pleasure.
Dark in color with a faint amber tone this Syrah has a deep berry perfume that is faintly smoky with hints of spice and cedar. It has great fruit, depth and balance with well integrated flavors showing hints of spice and a faint smoky nuance. This is a terrific Syrah that drinks beautifully, but with a long life ahead – Outstanding Plus.
The bottom line is that Au Bon Climat and Qupé are making some of the best wines in California. They have been doing it for over 30 years and the wines are beautifully balanced and very age worthy. If you are like us and appreciate older wines that become increasingly attractive over time, then these wines are for you. The wines are attractively priced and offer value and enjoyment. I encourage you to seek them out at retail stores, in restaurants, and direct from the winery. Again, to visit the websites and join the wine clubs and purchase the older library releases click here  for Au Bon Climat and click here  for Qupé.