This is far and away the youngest Hillside I have ever had. Typically they trickle into restaurants and shops with 5 or more years on them, and this was winery-direct. I’m always torn between the Sonny’s bottling and the Bien Nacido Hillside from Qupé, but I feel objectively you can fairly guarantee the Slide Hill will be chubbier and more densely-fruited than the Santa Maria Valley version. The Hillside always seems tighter, tautly brighter at young age, and with a bit more funk built in, and probably a better aging candidate. This wine underscores those opinions. Even bright-red ruby throughout, fading to barely pink-purple at the rim. The fruit in the nose is green and firm, bright and high-spirited, while still showing the dark, brooding ash, smoke, loam and rocky asphalt I love from this vineyard. It’s the best of both worlds, with lily and natal plum adding floral wrapping over a package bursting with seedy, acidic berry. Decanted heavily.

In the mouth, all the beauty I keep old ones in my cellar for displays itself in its youthful and primitive construction. Actually quite light-feeling on intake, the fruit a thin unsweetened cherry and pomegranate piquantness NOT shoveling out some of the over-ripened ills burdening many Central Coast Syrahs. Insular to the *bigger-is-better* crowd, it gains immediate points for the cool-climate personality and structure-ridden middle and finish. It’s not a light wine–don’t read this the wrong way–and Qupé fans will KNOW the context in which I speak. It’s just ridiculously young and bright, calving off acidic sheets of ice into briary meadows, citrus minerality a calm introduction to mouth-wracking tannin. The bitter, grainy fruit carries itself strongly through the finish, ethereal dryness its chariot, brilliant stone-fruit its steed.

Despite the nattering nabobs of negativity from the stalwart, I’m not ready to give up on this brand yet. I think they would be a fool to ruin these upper-end bottles with crowd-pleasing manipulation. I’m guessing the new owners know that too, and this wine fits perfectly into both the classical line-up and the niche the fans look for. Buy a case: drink one a year.

2017 QUPÉ ‘Hillside’ Syrah Bien Nacido Santa Maria Valley California 14.0

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