Qupé, a Santa Barbara winery specializing in Rhône-style reds, has been purchased by Charles Banks and Terroir Selections, adding to the investment group's growing portfolio of wine brands. Founder and winemaker Bob Lindquist will stay on, assuming the role of partner. The sale price was not disclosed.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Bob for a long time and love his wine,” Banks told Wine Spectator. “It’s a chance to take a Rhône-focused winery in California and take it to the next level." Qupé has been expanding production in recent years, but Banks suggests he wants the winery to refocus on what it does well—Syrah.
Lindquist is known as a leader in Santa Barbara Rhône-style wines as well as Chardonnay. He first worked at Zaca Mesa Winery, alongside other Santa Barbara winemaking pioneers Ken Brown of Byron, Adam Tolmach of Ojai and Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat.
Lindquist founded Qupé in 1982, and the brand will continue to share a winery with Au Bon Climat. The property sits on the esteemed Bien Nacido Vineyard, a source of some of Qupé’s wines. While Qupé does not own any vineyards, Banks confirmed that it will continue to purchase grapes from Bien Nacido. He also says he may acquire vineyards for the winery.
Lindquist has been looking for capital in recent years. In 2011, Bacchus Capital Management, another wine-related investment group, signed a deal to provide growth capital to Qupé. At the time, Lindquist said he hoped to double production by 2016. Shortly after Terroir announced its purchase, Bacchus released a statement saying it had exited its investment in Qupé. "Bacchus helped us at a time we needed help financially at the tail end of the recession," said Lindquist. "But I had been looking for a long-term financial partner."
Banks founded Terroir Capital in 2009, after serving as a managing partner at Jonata and Screaming Eagle wineries. Through Terroir Selections, the group owns South African brands Mulderbosch, Fable and Marvelous. In California, its holdings include Sandhi, Leviathan, Agharta and Wind Gap. They also own Burgundy’s Maison L'Orée and Cultivate, which makes wines from around the world, raising money for non-profit organizations. Banks is also a partner in the Blackberry Farm restaurant in Tennessee, a Wine Spectator Grand Award-winner, and recently partnered in Mattei’s Tavern in Santa Barbara.
Earlier this year, Banks joined with the Schottenstein family to purchase Napa Valley’s historic Mayacamas Vineyards. When the purchase of Mayacamas was announced, Banks made it clear he didn’t intend to change the style of the wines. He said he believes that approach has given him credibility as an investor and led to Lindquist reaching out to him.
“I feel like I’m an opportunist. I don’t have the vision,” said Banks, adding that he prefers to help other people with their visions. “Qupé is a 30-year-old brand and winery, and it doesn’t feel in any way like Bob is winding it down. I want to help with that vision. I think Qupé has grown, and in some ways they were doing a good job growing, and in other ways not. I want Bob to get back to focusing on Rhône varieties and Syrah in particular.”
Lindquist confirmed that he reached out to Banks after reading about his work at Mayacamas—he asked sommelier Rajat Parr, who is a partner with Banks at the nearby winery Sandhi, for an introduction. "Charles is going to handle the business and sales side, and I'll handle the winemaking side," said Lindquist. "We both feel Syrah is one of the great wine grapes. For whatever reason, it hasn't caught on with consumers. Now we're seeing that changing again. With more and more wines of structure and balance—the kind of wines I've always made—now consumers are embracing them."
Tom Miller — Birmingham, AL — October 12, 2013 10:20am ET
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