Tough Job – Staff Meetings: First Taste of our 2011 Vintage

tasting1Prior to our April 1 Release, the entire tasting room staff sat down with me to taste through the newly bottled wines. Sashi and John usually join us for these mandatory – tough job – staff meetings, but they were both in France on a research trip – yes, even tougher jobs.

2012 Rose: The Grenache (60%) portion of this wine was peachy in color and tasted like it looked, peachy, out of barrel. The Sangiovese (40%) was much redder in hue, and delivers bright, tart red fruit. The final product is vibrant salmon-pink. The searing red Sangiovese hues mesh with the fleshiness of the Grenache while neutral oak barrels give just a bit more texture akin to our Bandol favorites.  The main problem with this wine is that those of us who’ve brought bottles home “just to try it” have been unable to resist the temptation to finish the bottle. Good problem to have, especially given this wine’s low alcohol, just under 13%.

tasting22012 Sauvignon Blanc: A bit of a departure from the lime-melon of the frost-intensified 2011 vintage. Aromas of Grapefruit Sorbet waft from the 2012 with a hint of ripe stone-fruit fuzz. In the mouth, the wine is lively and vibrant, no doubt helped by the free CO2 Sashi leaves in these wines as a preservative rather than adding Sulfur Dioxide.

2011 Golden Point: The second installment of the Golden Point blend, this white wine represents our strategy of balancing the richest, most opulent and GOLDEN colored Roussanne lots to a POINT of balance with early picked Chardonnay, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc. This year’s blend has an increased percentage of Roussanne, 82% up from 64% last year, and the addition of a touch of Viognier (4%) along with Chardonnay (7%) and Sauvignon Blanc (7%). Carol, our Direct Sales Manager, loves the pure green apple flavor of the wine where Tasting Room Passionista Emily Read commented on how subtle and fresh the new blend is already!

tasting32010 L’Avion: The much anticipated release of the 2010 100% Roussanne scored big when tasted by the Wine Advocate last year, landing a 92-94 point review. Because we employ 100% New French 500 liter puncheons to age the Roussanne for over a year, we now let it integrate in bottle for another year before release. If anyone has an older L’Avion vintage cellared, pop it, and I think you will agree this “Red Wine Drinker’s White” gets better with age! Passionista Chris McIntyre noticed that the 2010 is lighter on its feet, with a higher-toned balance, than the 2009. With our increased plantings of Roussanne, we will continue to declassify at least half the crop into Golden Point, leaving only the perfect lots for L’Avion.

2012 Viognier: Unlike the L’Avion cuvee where we obsess over perfect balance and complexity worthy of meditation, we adopt a “let ‘er rip” attitude towards our occasional Viognier bottling. The only precedents for this wine were made in 2001 and then again in 2010, which were both hits. In 2012, secondary fermentation completed simultaneously with primary; a further sign this vintage wanted to be rich, seductive, and approachable. While the texture defines “voluptuous” the flavor profile is piercingly focused and pure. Just say “yes”.

2011 Grenache: Out of the entire new lineup, the staff was most excited to try the 2011 Grenache. Veteran staff member Andreas Pyper added to Sashi’s written description of ‘alpine strawberries’, exclaiming that this year’s Grenache indeed tastes like strawberries, but ‘dipped in Chocolate’.  I definitely tasted a mocha malty texture.  In agreement with Andreas, I happily credit him with this corny tasting note – His charming South African accent allows him to get away with it!  Chris thought the Grenache tasted like bubble gum – this guy’s palate has impressively evolved since joining the team less than a year ago. Dad (Tom Stolpman) noted how complex the Grenache was, especially being so young.

tasting5The 2011 Grenache is flat out delicious whether you love bubble gum or delicate, complex perfume. At 275 cases produced, the Grenache is going to fly out of the tasting room within a couple months.

2011 La Cuadrilla: Everything about this wine thrills us. Let’s start broad and work in:
1.  Profits go to our full time vineyard crew “La Cuadrilla”. Not only do we take care of our land through organic farming but we also take great pride in taking care of our people through Sustainable Employment.

2.  The wine boasts ripe berry and spice AND is delicious!

3.  At 62% Sangiovese, 8% Grenache & 32% Syrah, not only does this blend mimic our old ‘Poetry In Red’ that our long-time customers love so dearly, but it also:

4.  Allows my Dad to tell everyone in the Tasting Room that this wine is “SGS” – not Sangiovese-Grenache-Syrah but “Seriously Good Shit”

2011 Originals: To quote Dad again, “O” doesn’t stand for Originals, but instead, it’s “Orgasmic”.  This wine is definitately a step above SGS to SOS in the famous Tom Stolpman ranking scale (that he is no longer allowed to use in the tasting room or public appearances)

So many secondary flavors of meat and blood I close my eyes and I think I’m tasting a great 2010 St. Joseph: Tobacco and a hint of oak smoke and bark. Originals was picked entirely from our Original (very first) plantings of Estrella River and Durrell Vineyard Syrah Clones. This wine is particularly momentous in that the immediately recognized quality of the Originals Block fed the planting frenzy that created Ballard Canyon.

2011 Angeli: Upon reaching the grand finale and tasked with describing just how amazing this wine tastes, I was thrilled to have our resident South African wax away for me. I quote Andreas:

“While our other wines hug my palate, the 2011 Angeli slow dances across it and lingers.”

Enough said.

Over-all, the releases show an elevated level of freshness and complexity that further define Stolpman as a unique producer within California and the greater world of wine. Sashi’s program has veered further away from the modern trend of monolithic beast wines but without sacrificing concentration. Increased whole cluster fermentation, carbonic fermentation, and concrete tanks have all played a role in the winery’s evolution. And of course, with another year, the vines are more mature, and in 2011, we had unprecedented low yields due to frost. As always on Stolpman, the inverse ratio of quality v. quantity reigns supreme.