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2002 Qupe "Bien Nacido Cuvee" White Meritage, Central Coast

After a recent review of a nice Edna Valley wine, let's move south and west along the central coast to the Santa Maria Valley and this all-purpose white from Qupe Wine cellars.

Qupe shares a production facility with the famous Chardonnay producer Au Bon Climat, which is a cult favorite from the Central Coast appellation that commands hefty prices on the market. Qupe was founded Bob Lindquist who got his start, like many of today's small producers as a cellar rat for Zaca Mesa winery where he met and learned from winemakers Ken Brown and Jim Clendenen. After seven years "under the influence" Bob decided to begin winemaking under his own label, and founded Qupe in 1982 in order to produce primarily Rhone Style wines, which were his first and abiding love.

In addition to these Rhone varietals, Bob also continues to produce Chardonnay (from the grapes he shares with Au Bon Climat) and this wine, which his an even 50/50 split of Chardonnay and Viognier. "By itself the Viognier is quite ripe and rather alcoholic with low acidity. The Chardonnay reigns it back in and balances the wine perfectly," says Bob, who recommends the wine as a warm weather aperitif as well as to complement Asian cuisine.

Tasting Notes:
The color of pale straw, with a distinctive greenish tinge, this wine has a typically heady Viognier nose of jasmine and orange zest. In the mouth it has a nice acidity (thanks to the Chard) and more than a little oak on it, with flavors of lemon, some mineral characteristics, and a clean finish. While this wine was a little heavy on the oak for me, and the aromatics of the Viognier weren't backed by really solid fruit, I think that many people will find this very drinkable, especially those looking for a break from Chardonnay.

Food Pairing:
I first had this wine at a Raclette cheese party with some friends and it didn't fare very well with the strong flavors of the cheese and the starch of the accompanying potatoes. I'd try serving it (nice and cold) with Vietnamese Imperial Rolls, or other light, slightly spicy dishes.

Overall Score: 8.5

How much?: $17

This wine is available for sale on the winery's Web site.

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