Qupé 2010 “Bien Nacido Cuvée” (Santa Maria Valley) – Viognier and chardonnay, the former deliberately picked ripe and the latter deliberately picked underripe. I understand why they do this, even absent their explanation, but to my palate they’re still not getting what they appear to want. Peach blossom and the typically lurid flower-based soap aromas to which viognier is so susceptible and into which it is so easily pushed. Dense and sticky. The acidity comes through on the finish, but by then it’s a bit too late. Whatever trick they wish to use to re-introduce acidity into a blowsy, lurid viognier, they’re going to have to find a way to get it better-integrated with the wine at a far earlier stage.
Palmina 2006 Nebbiolo Sisquoc (Santa Maria Valley) – Freshly-crushed fruit, dark and forward, buried under a shower of funereal black lilies. Earthy and a bit bitter. Despite the forward fruit, there’s a persistent inner herbality and won’t – and shouldn’t – go away. It’s a little strange (OK, a lot strange), but I really kind of like it. At the very least, nebbiolo appears to be attempting to make some sort of contribution here. (11/11)
Arcadian 2006 Pinot Noir “Jill’s Cuvée” (Santa Maria Valley) – Starts pianissimo, with just a few little bursts of ripe, reddish fruit. These develop into a theme, then a theme with variations, as decorative contrapuntal nut shavings and wet soil aromas enter the work. What starts in subtlety ends in restrained lushness, full-fruited but with elegance that does not diminish even as a piercing trill of acidity rings and echoes long into the coda. There is still an air of rehearsal to this wine, and more work and refinement yet to come, and it will probably never be the most complex of works. But appealing? Oh, yes. You’ll find yourself humming the melody the following day. (11/11)
Bonny Doon 2005 Syrah Bien Nacido (Santa Maria Valley) – Soulful. A beautiful nose (a sequel to the tedious Russell Crowe flick) of blackberry and leather, plus mint, promises much. The texture is plush, but without sacrificing a pleasantly herbal earthiness not usually found amidst this level of luxuriance. Balanced and very structured, with the clear intention of and potential for ageability. If there’s a flaw, it’s a touch of stretch and green to the tannin, which is worth keeping an eye on as the wine matures. (9/08)