It seems unbelievable after so many years attending their wonderful open house events, yet two of our most famous and beloved Santa Maria Valley wineries have announced a major change. This year’s spring event marks the end of their annual open house tastings and luncheons that take place every spring and fall at the winery for Au Bon Climat and Qupe wineries.

They are certainly among the most famous of our Santa Maria pioneer winemakers. Unfortunately, these two seasonal events were the only time of year when the general public could visit to taste their wines and it attracted hundreds of wine lovers, both locals and tourists. But with this change, the general public may not get these opportunities to visit their winemaking facility again.

Today, Sunday, May 5 — yes, cinco de mayo — will be the last day they offer this major tasting event to the general public. It’s also one of the best values during any wine event in Santa Barbara County.

The 37th annual Santa Barbara Vintners Festival will return to Santa Maria’s Rancho Sisquoc Winery on Saturday, when winemakers and winery owners will pour from their collections and answer wine-related questions. Held from 1 to 4 p.m., the festival will feature over 70 wineries, many pouring newly released wines. In addition to tasting from locally grown varietals, festivalgoers will enjoy local food purveyors, live music, culinary and wine demonstrations, and a silent auction.

For only $25 per person (free to club members of either winery), you get a commemorative wine glass, a hot lunch buffet, and tastings of over 60 different wines from Au Bon Climat and Qupe, plus tastes of their many varied labels. There’s also a bargain table of library wines priced very low to sell out quickly. It’s a sweet deal that’s difficult to resist.

This event doesn’t require reservations, you can simply drop in for a lovely tasting and luncheon. But it’s only open today, May 5th, future events remain to be seen.

The winery only opened to the public during these spring and fall events in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Vintners major annual festivals. They explained in their newsletter they may only open in the future with more intimate tasting events that are strictly for their wine club members.

That is a good thing, however, for the club members of both of these fine brands. It means you won’t have to wait in the long lines that typically occurred during their very unique wine tastings that included the lunch buffet. Normally, the excellent luncheons were prepared by Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, a man as talented at cooking as he is at winemaking. They would also, on occasion, bring in guest chefs to prepare the meals, like chef Rick Manson in Orcutt.

This change came about as a result of the sale of the Qupe label by founder Robert “Bob” Lindquist. Qupe wines will no longer be made at the winery in Santa Maria Valley, nor is Bob still involved in the winemaking. Hence this is the last open house event when you can buy the new releases of Qupe from Bob, who still owns an extensive library of his original wines (which will be sold at the Verdad-Lindquist Family tasting room in the historic town of Arroyo Grande).

From their newsletter, Bob and Louisa Lindquist provided this news:

“After 37-years of elevating the Qupe label into prominence, the brand has sold, and Bob is ready for a new chapter in his life. For those that love rich, deep syrahs, complex grinches, and Rhone blends, this is not the end. Bob is taking this opportunity to launch a new wine label, Lindquist Family Wines. The new venture focuses on varietals he made famous, cool climate Rhone varietals and chardonnay fro organic and biodynamic vineyards, but in smaller production. As always, pinpoint precision, clean wines with mounds of character. It also opens the door to the possibility of other varietals, styles, and blends Bob is interested in exploring.”

The Lindquist’s plan to offer new releases of their 2018 viognier/chardonnay blend and the 2017 Grenache Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in the month of May. You will get a preview tasting of these new wines under the Lindquist Family Wines label during the May 5th event. They also promised that syrahs and blends will be released soon. Please note, if you have been a Qupe wine club member, you are not automatically a member of the Lindquist Family & Verdad wine club. You will need to reapply to join their new wine club which will include Louisa Lindquist’s fine Spanish varieties under the Verdad label.

As they noted in the Au Bon Climat notice of the last open house tasting:

“As our wine club has grown, we are looking to focus on accommodating our most loyal fans with specialized events, so don’t be left out, become a wine club member now.”

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You can reach Kathy at Kathymhardesty @ gmail.com.