We recently had a great vineyard tour at Stolpman Vineyards, located in the Ballard Canyon AVA within the Santa Ynez AVA. It was a warm December afternoon and we were met by Joe Neenan who took us on a driving and walking tour of the vineyards. We wrote about that tour in the prior post.
The vineyards are a short drive from the Stolpman Vineyards tasting room in picturesque Los Olivos. After the vineyard tour, we drove back to the tasting room and tasted through the Stolpman Vineyards wines with Joe.
All of the wines at Stolpman Vineyards are produced from Estate fruit. Vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano and winemaker Sashi Moorman collaborate to produce fruit that expresses the soil, climate and terrain of the vineyards. They use a variety of creative pruning and planting techniques to achieve their goals.
Joe explained that all oak aging is done in French oak, and only in barrels produced by Ermitage Cooperage. Moorman uses whole cluster fermentation in some of the wines and produces a range of styles from drink now to those capable of bottle aging. Here’s what we tasted.
NV La Cuadrilla White
This release is 100% Viognier with partial malolactic fermentation and a bit of oak aging. The current label depicts Ruben Solorzano, vineyard manager (and ‘grape whisperer’).The label is redesigned every year. It is a non vintage release, as there is blending between vintages. A portion of the profits from this wine is shared with the members of the highly-skilled vineyard workers —la cuadrilla. There is a Red version as well.
NV La Cuadrilla White is light yellow in the glass, tropical fruit, citrus and minerality pair with good acidity and a nice weight in the mouth. Drink this now. Its pleasantly flavored and well balanced.
In order to achieve even ripeness of the grapes, the vineyard crew hand-turn each cluster of Roussanne. Yes, you read that correctly.
This is a “big white wine”. It goes through malolactic fermentation and new wood aging. In spite of oak aging, flavors of the fruit are still present.
2010 L’Avion shows vegetal hints on the nose, and is viscous in the glass with scents of spice, melon and great acidity. This is a big flavorful white wine that will not shy away from food.
2010 Estate Sangiovese
2010 Estate Sangiovese — perfume and medium red fruit on the nose. Bright fruit, spice flavors combine with a light body. Moderate tannins are well-integrated. Juicy acidity with lots of flavor and complexity in a light bodied wine…always a good thing. Easy to drink and enjoy with food.
2011 Estate Syrah
This is the largest production Syrah of the group, about 4000 to 5000 cases per year. It is intended to showcase the entire vineyard and is a blend of many vineyard blocks. To keep it approachable it is a blend of 94% Syrah, 1% Viognier, 2% Roussanne, 3% Grenache made with 10% whole cluster fermentation and only 10% new oak aging. Not too much of anything. A wine almost anyone will like.
2011 Estate Syrah is very young in the glass, ruby and violet still. Smoky aromas combine with red fruit. Flavors of plums, raspberries along and moderate tannins combine with juicy acidity and a fairly light body. There is a lot of flavor is this wine,. It tastes good now, but I’m thinking this could be really interesting with a bit more time in the bottle.
2011 Originals Syrah
2011 Originals Syrah comes from the original Syrah plantings on the vineyard, 23 years of age, planted on a sandy portion of the vineyard. These vines are not only the oldest planted on the Stolpman property, they are the oldest in Ballard Canyon.
La Chapelle, the Paul Jaboulet Hermitage produced from parcels surrounding the chapel on the hill of Hermitage, is the inspiration for this wine. Barrel aging is brief, only about 12 months in neutral puncheon. Lees contact in the larger barrels provides body in the wine.
2011 Originals Syrah is dark ruby in the glass with aromas of dark fruit followed by complex dark fruit flavors, chewy tannins and more weight in the mouth. This wine has bigger, richer flavors. Older vines, more complex flavors. Flavors are all fruit, not much influence from wood in this wine. Very nice.
2011 Hilltops Syrah
Produced from the B2 and B6 blocks planted on limestone soils at the highest elevation on the winery, about 1000 feet. The fruit is picked a bit later lending riper fruit flavors to the wine. It is produced using 30% whole cluster fermentation and 25% new oak.
2011 Hilltops Syrah is dark ruby in the glass. Dark fruit and spice aromas combine with dark plum flavors, baking spice and chewy tannins. More concentrated flavors and more texture in this wine. A pleasing combination.
2011 Angeli Syrah
Angeli is Tom Stolpman’s wife’s family name. This label is being positioned as a top-tier label at Stolpman. It is 100% Syrah, from select barrels, tends to have more whole cluster fermentation and a bit more oak aging. It is intended to be held to age in the bottle.
2011 Angeli Syrah is very dark ruby in the glass. Complex dark fruit aromas and flavors with back notes of spice, big, chewy tannins and a longer finish. This is a big wine, give it some time in the bottle. When all of the layers of flavor in this wine integrate, it should be amazing.
2010 Sangio degli Angeli
The most intense lots of Sangiovese are reserved for this bottling, a combination of younger high-density and 20 year old Sangiovese fruit. No whole cluster fermentation for this wine, with wood aging beginning in 10% new oak barriques then finished in neutral puncheon for an additional 10 – 12 months.
The 2010 Sangio deli Angeli releases ample dark fruit aromas and flavors with spice, significant tannins and a good weight in the mouth. This is a riper more intense Sangiovese compared to the Estate Sangiovese. It is intended to spend a few years in the bottle. Both are delicious. You can drink the Estate Sangio while you are waiting for the Sangio degli Angeli to age.
Stolpman Vineyards was a unique experience for us. We have never had such a detailed tour of a vineyard. The variety of terrain, soil types and vineyard trellising techniques was so interesting. Thanks to Joe Neenan for the tour. It is an excellent reminder that a great wine starts in the vineyard.
Stolpman Vineyard wines are crafted at the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. They were the first winery to operate in the location, and Tom Stolpman may have been the first to call it the Wine Ghetto. In any event, on our next trip to Santa Barbara this spring we plan to visit the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. We are left with many questions about the winemaking of Sashi Moorman.