After 26 years spent producing some of the finest Rh’ne varietal wines in the county, Qupe Wine Cellars’ owner and winemaker, Bob Lindquist, is taking the plunge into retail with a new Los Olivos tasting room set to open in mid November. Or, rather, as he put it, “I’m coming full circle. In 1979, I managed the first retail wine shop in Los Olivos, so I guess you could say what goes around comes around.”
This time around, it’s a family affair. Bob’s wife, Louisa, son, Ethan, and daughter, Page, are key players in the project. Ethan and Page will be responsible for managing daily operations. Both Louisa and Ethan produce their own wines under the Verdad and Ethan labels respectively, and their wines will also ultimately be available at the tasting room. “I’m really excited to be working with my dad and sister,” explained Ethan. “It’s a good opportunity for me and the location is great.” In this day and age of corporate anonymity, it’s nice to see a true family business in action.
So, why now? “Page and Ethan want to run it,” is Bob’s short answer. Qupe’s CFO, Michael Meluskey, explained, “We’ve been talking about it for a while and, [with Page and Ethan], we finally had someone we could trust to manage it. Staffing is always a challenge.” He continued, “Qupe is known for great quality at great value. Our prices haven’t changed very much in recent years and having a retail outlet allows us to absorb extra costs without having to raise prices.”
The tasting room is located at the north end of Los Olivos, at 2963 Grand Avenue. Those following county politics might wonder if Qupe faced any extra hurdles in getting permits for the project. Los Olivos is in the midst of a growth spurt that is taxing the town’s limited infrastructure-especially with respect to wastewater. “We did have to get a change of use permit, which required us to go through some extra steps,” explained Bob, “but we sailed through that without too many problems.” Confirmed Meluskey, “We had to acknowledge and accommodate the wastewater issue.” Toward that end, the facility will not have a dishwasher, so, as is becoming more common, customers will purchase their glass as part of the $10 tasting fee. And, as is the case for neighboring tasting rooms, restroom facilities will be external. The town has established a bank of port-a-potties for public use as a temporary solution to the problem.
“There probably are too many tasting rooms in Los Olivos,” admitted Bob, “but prime retail space has gotten very expensive and a lot of other retail businesses can’t afford to pay those rents.” Clearly, the town is facing a bit of a catch-22: addressing infrastructure issues will require revenue, but generating that revenue will require a thriving business community with lots of customers. This is not a problem that will be solved overnight.
In the meantime, opening the tasting room will provide Qupe’s many fans with a long-awaited venue to taste and purchase their favorite wines. As Rob Fry, who oversees marketing and special events for the winery, observed, “Qupe has made Wine & Spirits magazine’s top 100 wineries in the world list for eight out of the last nine years. We get calls every day from people wanting to taste and buy the wines.” Now, he’ll finally be able to give them a happy answer.
Qupe Wine Cellars will open a tasting room in Los Olivos in mid November at 2963 Grand Avenue. Call 686-4200 or see qupe.com for more info.