Victorian Los Olivos

The 1880s were a time of tremendous growth in California, with people immigrating here from the East, as well as various parts of Europe.  One Easterner who believed his future was in California was Alden March Boyd.  Due to health issues, he was forced to drop out of college.  He visited Europe, as well as various locales in The Sunshine State before purchasing a small ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Wishing to improve the quality and landscape of his home, he planted an estimated five thousand olive trees, calling his estate Rancho de Los Olivos.  The name had a nice sound to it, and when the Pacific Coast Railway completed their line extension through the area in 1887, they decided to call the town Los Olivos.  Although more commonly known nowadays for its wineries rather than olives, the picturesque town is thriving with tourists and elegant architecture.  Most Victorian dwellings have high ceilings – usually around 9′ to 10 tall’.  The added ceiling height helps to regulate indoor temperatures.  It also, from a feng shui standpoint, helps to better circulate the flow of chi (energy) within the indoor environment.   Many of the new condo and apartment buildings being constructed today have returned to using historic design elements – including 9′ ceilings.   Those Victorians knew what they were doing.   Most modern ceiling heights are 8″, which is not bad.  But 9″ is more optimal for chi flow.

On my recent trip to Los Olivos, I visited the Qupe/Verdad/ Ethan Tasting Room.  Housed in a beautiful Victorian style building (above), the wines here were rich and luscious. This is a family business, with the patriarch of the family, Bob Linquist, as creator of Qupe Vineyards (pronounced cue-pay), while his wife Lousia makes the Verdad label, and his son Ethan makes – you guessed it – the Ethan label.   As impressed with the wine as I was, I was really taken with the layout of the tasting room.  They use a variety of vintage design styles here, especially focusing on that of Gustave Stickley.   A furniture designer, Stickley visited Europe in 1898, where he was introduced to the Arts and Crafts movement of the era.  The Arts and Crafts movement was somewhat of a rebellion against mass production, focusing more on products that were hand constructed by small groups or individuals rather than in factories.  The design style features simplistic lines and influences from natural surroundings.  Here at Qupe, it can be seen in many ways, from the classic mission style furniture, to the elegant Qupe motif of a poppy.   As you can see, wood and fire are the dominate elements used in the tasting room decor.  Nostalgic reproduction lamps act as a perfect example of fire energy, with the light green walls representing wood.  The wood furniture and bar are beautiful to behold.  I also really liked the carved front door, and the side table that uses a wine barrel end as its top surface.

As I meandered through the space, enjoying the tastings of the select wines I sampled, I noticed a bookshelf of wine.  I immediately felt comfortable and at home.  Of the wines I had, my two favorites were the Verdad 2009 Tempranillo, and the Verdad 2007 Tempranillo.  Both held a mellow and spicy appeal that warmed my soul.   A bottle of the latter came home with me.  The Qupe 2010 Viognier was also intriguing.

A private  chamber in the back provides more intimate tastings on the weekends.  Keeping true to the Arts and Crafts theme, I noticed a cunning wine rack made from barrel slates and reclaimed wood.  Not only it is green in its design, I’m guessing it’s also handcrafted locally, and fits in perfectly with the Stickley style.  I would have this in my home.

In feng shui folklore, the poppy is a symbol of romance and loyalty between lovers.   Displaying two together, especially in hues of red or orange, can help to draw romance to an area.  Poppies also symbolize sleep and rest.  Upon the suggestion of wine connoisseur Ann Johnson, Bob Linquist settled on the poppy motif in the window above to symbolize Qupe Wines.  Found in a vintage design book of the Stickley School of Design, the motif was meant to be embroidered on bed linens to help one sleep.   And Qupe is the Chumash word for poppy.    The elegant poppy motif is also on their over-sized wine glasses, which are available for purchase, or as a gift with a new wine club membership.

If you happen to be in the Los Olivos area, I highly suggest visiting the white Victorian house of Qupe/Verdad/Ethan Wines.  Unlike poppies, their wine will not put you to sleep – but could help to transport you to a more nostalgic time.

Qupe /Verdad / Ethan Tasting Room

2963 Grand Ave, Los Olivos, CA 93441

805 686-4200

Hours:  Tasting room open daily 11:00 to 5:00

http://qupe.com/

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The Road to Melville

Herman Melville was one of the greatest novelists of the nineteenth century.  His most popular book, Moby Dick, illustrates the adventures of a sailor called Ishmael and his experiences aboard the ship Pequod.  Bent on revenge, the captain of the ship, Ahab, relentlessly pursues  a large whale who destroyed his last boat and bit off his leg.  While I have never read Moby Dick, I can understand Ahab being somewhat angry at the whale.  I also appreciate his tenacity at the continual hunt for this grand creature, Moby.  It reminds me of my never-ending exploration for good wine (without the revenge or blood-loss).   On my recent travels, my friends and I stopped at Melville Winery in Lompoc  to sample their vineyard creations.  The main tasting room is in the rotunda-esque portion of the building (above), with beautiful grounds perfect for picnics and relaxation.

This winery is rich with color!  On the day we visited, elegant wisteria was in full bloom, adding a beautiful wood element to the front of the building.  This flowery plant also adds  a little fire energy with its calming violet color.  The mustard hue of the stuccoed walls and the reddish tile add a lively earth element to the environment.  Most shades of yellow are symbolic of earth or mountains, and tend to put one immediately at-ease.  This, I found, continued as we journeyed inside.

An expansive tasting bar lined the back wall of the room that I now call “the tasting rotunda.”  I fell in love with the beautiful marble that covered the bar.  Marble, real or faux,  is a stylish and tactile way of adding an earth element to any environment.  This specific marble takes it one step further.  Notice how the patterns on the stone almost looks like a map of some sort; maps and globes are another way of how earth can be introduced symbolically into ones surroundings.

Another auspicious aspect of the environment are the potted trees inside.  An example of this is pictured below.  Living trees and plants indoors can add a beneficial wood element to the area, as well as improving air quality.  Faux plants are also good, but they will not aid in improving the indoor air as real plants.   Notice also at the top of the picture there are beams on the ceiling.  Beams, from a feng shui perspective, can greatly affect the health and emotional relationships of an area in a negative fashion.  They can  symbolically apply pressure to those in the room, and can cause quarrels or discord among people as well.  Being that this is a business, it’s not as bad as if it were a residence, but I’m not fond of it.  This was the only negative I noticed in the surroundings.  I love how all the windows let in natural sunlight, bringing more nature in from the outside.

And now on to the delicious wines:  Here’s what I tasted:

  • 2009 Estate Chardonnay – Now, while I am a red lover by heart, there is nothing like a white wine on a warm California day.  Referred to as their core chardonnay, this was my favorite of all the wines we tried.  Pineapple, lemon, and sage are very evident in the aroma.   Truly excellent and crowd pleasing.
  • 2010 Estate Viognier – A crisp white wine with hints of pear and ginger.  Not as sweet as other viogniers, but I quite enjoyed it.  Would be great with Chinese food.
  • 2010 Estate Syrah – A sultry red with suggestions of plum and elderberry.  Very tasty.
  • 2010 Estate Pinot Noir – A deep, rich pinot full of spices.  One can taste black pepper, cumin, and ginger among others.  I loved the ruby color of this wine.  Sophisticated and complex.

The grounds of Melville are well-manicured and pleasing to the eye.  My friends and I took advantage of this and brought a picnic lunch to savor the gorgeous day.  We also purchased a bottle of the 2009 Chardonnay to accompany the meal.  Definitely one of the best picnics I’ve had in a long time.   I will definitely be visiting Melville again when I’m in the Lompoc area.

Justina Cross, Shaun-Mathieu Smith, Wendy Cross and Andres Acevedo. Photo courtesy of J. Cross.

Melville Vineyards and Winery

5185 East Hwy 246, Lompoc, CA 93436

805 735-7030

Hours:  Tasting room open daily 11:00 to 4:00.

http://melvillewinery.com/index2.html