It is with great pride that I introduce the first Stolpman wines to be labeled “Ballard Canyon” AVA. My father Tom began dreaming about and advocating for a Ballard Canyon American Viticultural Area over 20 years ago; by 2010 others saw the same light and our neighbors joined forces to begin the process of petitioning the Federal Government to officially recognize the uniqueness of our canyon.
The October 30th 2013 TTB publication of the Ballard Canyon AVA brings satisfaction and fulfillment to my parents who took the greatest gamble of their lives when they embarked on the journey that brings us these incredible wines.
Today, Stolpman Vineyards is the largest planted vineyard in Ballard Canyon and is regarded as the founding vineyard in the AVA. Our neighbors were inspired to plant around us by the quality they tasted from our land.
Given the opportunity to add “Ballard Canyon” to our label, our in house artist, Kari Crist took the opportunity to modernize our main black and white labels, and we are thrilled with the beautiful results.
As a happy coincidence, the creation of the AVA and launch of our new look coincides with the release of our two best vintages to date, 2012 and 2013. Taste these wines and you will surely agree with me in saying, “Ballard Canyon has officially arrived.”
The 2013 cépage of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Grenache reverses from the Grenache dominated 2012 blend. A deeper red hue results and the wine bursts with fresh tart pomegranate and rhubarb flavors. Along with a richer color, the wine seems to possess more depth in general, and despite having racy acidity and minerality, the wine’s body floats across the palate. From the color to the flavor profile, through the mouth-feel, everything about this wine cries out to be drunk. It will disappear quickly; both from your spring and summer-time parties, and from our inventory. Production is down almost half from 2012. We will run out long before Labor Day, so make sure to stock up early.
Why the switch to a Sangiovese dominated blend? In short, Sashi Moorman has fallen in love with whole-berry fermenting early-picked Sangiovese. The method of allowing fermentation to begin within the grape, also known as carbonic fermentation, results in high-toned fresh fruit and complex secondary flavors. After about 6 days, the juice, now pink from absorption of the skin’s pigment, is pressed off the skins. Sashi explains that most Italian red wines used to be made this way as the light wines could accompany food immediately. Tuscan villagers didn’t want to wait around for years, hoping for harsh skin tannins to integrate. Likewise, the 2013 Rose is already delicious!
2013 Sauvignon Blanc
Bottled in January after only a short Holiday break for the winery, I was curious to see if the high-acid Sauv Blanc would still be sharp and severe so young. I was relieved to find the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc already open, aromatic, and smooth. Much of the smooth richness derives from Sashi allowing malic acid to convert to lactic acid, giving the wine richer textures.
Ruben decided to pick early and caught the vines at their highest peak of energy. The 2013 Sauvignon Blanc possesses an electrifyingly pop of lemon that intermingles with wet stone, white blossom and fresh pear.
Because the limestone-driven Sauvignon Blanc has become so popular, we will run out of it again this year. Last month, Ruben own-rooted 3 more acres of the variety to help keep up with demand.
Sashi fermented the Viognier at extremely cold temperatures which result in a fresh wine with plenty of fruit flavor. Under the cold conditions, malic acid only partially converted to lactic acid, so the wine finishes crisp and tight. On the nose, the Viognier shows exotic spice, fruit, and jasmine; and finishes with mineral restraint.
Sashi kept the Viognier in tank and bottled the wine early to ensure the palate remains tight and coy; not blousy like so many New World Viogniers. Having a tank fermented white Rhone varietal provides a nice contrast to the barrel fermented Roussanne and L’Avion. It pairs with more delicate cuisine.
Now that we have 18 acres of mature Roussanne and one acre of Chardonnay on the vineyard, we hope that this new wine finds a permanent home within our lineup. The majority of Roussanne will go into this bottling with only the very best micro blocks, picking passes, and barrels being reserved for L’Avion. If we run into difficulty achieving even ripeness in future vintages, we will re-introduce the Golden Point line.
91% Roussanne and 9% Chardonnay, the 2012 shows weight and richness. From the first whiff, it’s clear that this is a serious white wine. Aged in 100% new French 500L puncheons, the toasted oak is still present but nicely bonded to the lime blossom, white stone fruit, and brûlée flavors. The Chardonnay gives lift and zest to the ripe Roussanne.
The wine will continue to integrate over the next year and should have a drinking window through 2018. Check out our VINTAGE CHART for ideal drinking age of all of our releases.
The 2011 exceeds our very high expectations for the opulent, nuanced “red wine drinker’s white wine”, the great tradition of age worthy L’Avion Roussanne. The new release drinks especially fresh and has evolved wonderfully over the year we’ve held it in bottle. What was mineral and oak dominated a year ago has transformed into honey suckle and sweet beeswax.
The mid-palate weight and structure ensure the 2011 L’Avion’s longevity. If you have the patience, open a bottle in 3-4 years as it begins to truly shine.
2011 Petite Sirah
I shudder to think that our small 3.5 acre block of Petite Sirah was on the chopping block a couple years ago. Traditionally, we’ve sold most of the fruit and employed tiny portions in Estate Syrah, adding slightly larger lots to intensify the La Cuadrilla blend.
In 2009 we bottled a small lot varietally for the first time. The 2011, our second effort, oozes tarry black fruit out of the bottle after 24 months in neutral barrel. The 2012 currently shows tremendous promise in barrel, leading me to believe we will make a small batch every vintage. I’m thrilled to have this inky black bottling in our quiver!
Petite Sirah can often drink so big and ripe the wine becomes monolithic. Not so with the cooler 2011 vintage Petite Sirah. The nose shows glints of creosote and black pepper. Thanks to de-stemming all of the clusters, the body is lush and forgiving on the finish. Even more unctuous and seamless after two years in neutral barrel, I think all of our Syrah fans will appreciate the Petite Sirah.
The 2011 Petite Sirah might be the top pick out of the current releases for grilled steak.
2012 La Cuadrilla
La Cuadrilla might be the ultimate testament to Sashi Moorman’s winemaking talent. He puts the vineyard crew’s training Cuadra together with several other lots, mixing the ingredients to hit a perfect balance. By coincidence, the blend of the 2012 vintage represents each varietal’s respective acreage planted on the vineyard: 60% Syrah, 20% Sangiovese, 15% Grenache, and 5% Petite Sirah.
Being that the blend comes from the perfect, warm 2012 vintage, the wine is darker with fresh blue and black fruits abounding. It already is drinking great so raise a glass and toast “Salud” to the crew!
This year’s label is titled “courage and loyalty” in honor of the strength, fortitude, and dedication of our passionate full-time workers, La Cuadrilla.
The 2012 Grenache has a special place in my heart as it is the first vintage to possess fruit from all three corners of the vineyard, blocks 1,3, and 5. The wine was fermented in our concrete open-top tanks 100% whole cluster. Sashi employed pump-overs to carefully manage extraction from the stems, skins and seeds. A firm structure still frames the wine which is otherwise opulent with a seductive confectionary sweetness on the nose.
The wine finishes with nice grip and white pepper and will benefit with at least a year of age. Grenache has become a cult favorite for our wine club members and 2012 is hands down our best effort yet.
The 2012 Angeli is one for the history books: The very best barrels of Syrah from our very best vintage to date. Because we had so much great Syrah to work with, we ended up with an Angeli production size much larger than we have ever made before. Sashi included about 2/3 whole clusters while de-stemming and sorting the other 1/3. All of the wine fermented in our new concrete open-top tanks and then the wine was aged in 30% new French cigars for 15 months.
The 2012 Angeli is quintessentially beautiful Syrah. Black & Kalamata olive nose with hints of blueberry. The body is aggressive and masculine while still retaining perfect balance and elegance. One can’t help but savor each sip and enjoy the meaty, saline edge to the finish. If you do pop a bottle soon, decant it to be rewarded with wonderful complexity packed into this beautiful beast.