Sunday, September 7, 2014

#WBC14 Vineyard Tour of Bien Nacido Vineyards with Qupé & Hitching Post Wines

My favorite event during the Wine Bloggers Conference is the mystery vineyard tour, where participants board random buses and are taken to a mystery winery. For this year's conference,  I was fortunate enough to board the Stripper Pole School Bus and after departing, Nicholas Miller, announced our destination: the famous Bien Nacido Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley AVA.  Famous in that Bien Nacido Vineyard is the most widely bottled single vineyard designate wine in the world. The vineyard's high quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, and Syrah grapes are in high demand and when wineries source fruit from the vineyard, they are obligated to produce a vineyard designate wine. The Miller family purchased the property in 1969 and planted the original vineyards on their own rootstock since the sandy soil is resistant to the louse.

When our bus arrived at the vineyard, Gray Hartley, winemaker for Hitching Post Wines, greeted us with unique Hitching Post glasses of rosé.  Outside vehicles are not allowed in the estate so we boarded their  “CHOOL BUS for a vineyard tour.  While driving around layers and layers of vines, Bien Nacido Vineyard Manager Chris Hamell discussed the region and vineyard's history. Our destination was Z Block, the source for many highly rated Syrah wines and in fact the Millers were the first in California to grow cool climate Syrah. Arriving at the hilltop we were poured wines from a few wineries that source fruit from Bien Nacido: Qupé Chardonnay, Foxen Chardonnay and Steele Pinot Blanc. Check out the labels - all labeled with the Bien Nacido name. During this period we enjoyed the view of the 600 plus acre property; walked through rows of grapes entering verasion and over recently dropped fruit; and conversed with Hartley, Miller, Hamel, and Luke Lindquist from Qupé.

Returning to the main facility, we were provided with a barbecue of grilled meats and vegetables and loads of wine. We are talking Qupé Roussane, 1998 Hitching Post Pinot Noir, and a 1997 Hitching Post Highliner Pinot Noir. Over dinner Mr. Hartley discussed his relationship with Qupé, Bien Nacido, and the Hitching Post as well as his part in Sideways. None of us wanted to leave. Can you blame us?

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