After 22 years of operation, our white wine program still remains in a state of rapid evolution. Despite L’Avion reaching Iconic status with rave critical reviews, 2008 marked the very first vintage we were able to make the wine a pure Roussanne. Just recently, we surprised our fan base with a 100% Viognier, but couldn’t promise to ever make it again. The 2010 vintage will also be the launch year of a new white blend label – Golden Point – replacing the wine formerly known as La Coppa Blanc. It was only in 2008 that we began making Sauvignon Blanc in a significant quantity, after Kathy Joseph of Fiddlehead let go of her contract due to frost. *Disclaimer*- Yes readers – you are reading a Stolpman Blog Post about White Varietals, we’re putting our Battle for Syrah on hold to highlight & explore the few, refreshingly modest white grapes being grown here at Stolpman!!
Truly a peerless wine. 100% Roussanne, babied to unprecedented November ripeness and aged 15 months in New French 500 liter puncheons. Naturally acidified by dry-farmed limestone soils, and saved from botrytits by winds whipping in from Point Conception.
Robert Parker Quotes:
2004: “Its glorious nose of honeysuckle, buttered citrus, and tropical fruits is followed by a deep, full-bodied wine with layers of flavor, great purity, and little evidence of wood. It is a great example of what can be achieved in the Central Coast in terms of complex, highly nuanced, dry whites.” 95 Points
2005: “A worthy competitor to what I consider to be the finest dry whites from the south Central Coast area, Sine Qua Non” 94 Points
It took Sashi 6 years of making this varietal at Stolpman to finally risk making it pure. The time in between was spent training Cuadrilla – our full-time vineyard crew – and teaching ourselves how to hand-twist every cluster to achieve an even, golden grape suntan and how to select each cluster while picking, leaving others to pick on a later date. Labor intensive is an understatement, more like a totally out-of-control passion project turned obsession.
Stolpman’s plantings account for over 5% of the Roussanne planted in California. A huge factor in why L’Avion is unparalleled worldwide stems from our terroir and the skill of Cuadrilla, both of which enable us to wait to pick the crop at least a month after any of our neighbors. The result is simply concentration. Aromatically; wafting out of the glass. In the mouth; a rich, coating, glycerin mouth-feel that lasts all the way through the palate.
We routinely taste this wine against $200 Sine Qua Non whites (which were made from Stolpman Roussanne in earlier vintages) and $160 Chateau Beaucastel Vielle Vignes (Our vine cuttings came from this vineyard) and the L’Avion at the very least matches the concentration and nuance.
Past vintages of L’Avion might very well be the most sought after wine in our library. Customers are simply blown away when they revisit the wine after it has the chance to unfurl in bottle. We’ve heard club members are up in arms, thinking that 100% Roussanne in 2008 would never be as good as the 2007 with 5-10% Viognier. As a text to Roussanne’s aging potential, we ‘lost’ an extra pallet of ’08 L’Avion and re-released it earlier this year and it simply floored people.
We are preparing to bottle the 2010, which should be even better integrated than past vintages with 18 months of New French Puncheon aging. And perhaps most exciting, the current 2009 vintage has just recently blossomed into that signature beauty we all love.
Even with our obsessive “babying” of Roussanne from April through October, it still takes us 2 weeks to pick. Each morning, just after dawn, La Cuadrilla goes through the rows picking only the perfect clusters. It’s usually the first few days’ harvest that are dynamic and naturally balanced enough to make it into Sashi’s cut for L’Avion – he would be a brutal high school basketball coach, all 5’6” of him. Most of the lots that don’t make the cut are even richer and darker gold than L’Avion, as they were picked even later.
Sashi has found that blending in bright, stone-fruit flavored Viognier, usually picked a month prior and partially used for co-fermentation with Syrah, creates a delicious, more approachable entry level wine. We also grafted one acre of Chardonnay in case the Roussanne is ever so over the top we need to blend lean, racey high-acid Chardonnay to bring the Rhone varietals back to balance.
Last November I came out to the vineyard at 6:00 AM to congratulate La Cuadrilla on the last pick of Roussanne for the year. The southern winter Sun was weakly shining through the low, misty fog creating a magical glow. As I drove over to Lompoc I kept trying to verbalize the feeling of that dawn. When I arrived to the winery and Sashi poured me some Roussanne juice, I looked at the color and the concept of Golden Point was born.
Golden Point reflects more than the deep, beautiful color of the wine to signify all the work we do to get the Roussanne crop to that level of intensity. Then, Sashi and Ruben have to make the most important decision of all – to pick it on the perfect day, at the height of ripeness, before the grapes loose their balance and mutate into red raisins. Not only is this the Golden Point of ripeness, but because we wait until dawn to see which clusters to pick, La Cuadrilla works in the golden mist of the early morning fog.
Sashi chose to add a dollop of Sauvignon Blanc to the 2010 Golden Point blend to make sure the wine not only has the beautiful richness and fruit concentration, but also the acid backbone that will guarantee a long-lived wine.
The first intentional step towards bottling varietal Sauvignon Blanc took place in February of 2007, when we grafted over Viognier in Block 8. 2 months later, our original Block 5 Sauvignon Blanc planting was nearly wiped out by frost, leaving extremely low yields, and making way for an extremely dense inaugural vintage.
By 2009 the new grafts in Block 8 were giving a healthy, albeit small, crop. Sashi’s gamble, funneling in whole, uncrushed grapes into Neutral puncheons and letting the fruit ferment as berries, was already underway and getting attention from Rajat Parr. As the vines continue to mature, we think the Sauvignon Blanc’s signature bright flavor profile and the richness of low-yields and lees contact will only get better. Sauvignon Blanc has certainly cemented itself as one of our core white wines.
2009 L’Avion, 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Viognier & 2009 La Coppa Blanc are currently available for taste or purchase at both our Los Olivos & Lompoc Tasting Rooms or on Our Website – Check here for more info.