My dad is no fool. When the blocks at Stolpman Vineyards began to hit maturity & produce some unprecedentedly great wines, he decided to name a new reserve after his wife, my mother, Marilyn. Her mother, my Grandma Mary, came from the walled Tuscan town of Luca, on the West side of Northern Italy & her last name, Angeli – literally means Angels in Italian. Today, Tom jokes that this gesture got him out of his perpetual dog house more than once…
The concept of the Angeli label was to separate only the best few barrels of each vintage as a limited production wine. This way we would ensure that the quality of Angeli would always be outstanding, and by only taking a few barrels out of the other Stolpman bottlings, our varietal wines would continue to over-deliver.
By creating an entirely separate label, we tried to convey to our customers that this wine embodied a revolution in wine quality that had never before been attainable.
The very first Angeli made, for the 2001 vintage, comprised of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Sangiovese. We left the varietals off of the back label because we had a hunch we would be changing the composition in years to come. After all, it was Sashi’s very first vintage at Stolpman and he was still learning the ins and outs of each micro block.
2001 marked the beginning of aggressive vineyard redevelopment and planting. With Sashi as an inspiring force, Ruben cut irrigation to the entire vineyard and we started ripping out any block that wasn’t giving us extraordinary quality. Plans began to take shape for new high density blocks so we could attain even lower yields and higher concentration.
In 2002, the very best few barrels all happened to be Syrah, so Angeli became 100% varietal Syrah rather than a Super-Tuscan blend. For every year since, we’ve reached the same conclusion: each vintage there’s a lot of Syrah that simply blows any thing else out of the water. Therefore, Angeli wines from 2002 to 2010, and assumedly onward, are 100% Syrah.
We now plan for this and make sure that any Syrah blocks with potential Angeli Magic get extra TLC in the vineyard. Because these lots are always so powerful, we employ only new French 300 liter Hermitage Cigars (long barrels shaped like a cigar). The tight grained oak from the Vache forest gives the brooding intensity of the wine an added-backbone and texture.
Tom Stolpman’s largest single reinvestment in the vineyard occurred in 2004, when we planted two large blocks of high-density vineyards. Along with packing in up to 3,000 vines per acre, the plants are also trained low to the ground to fit extra horizontal training wires so La Cuadrilla can exert further control of growth. As expected, from the get-go, these blocks gave us incredible fruit and with the first full crop, we were able to make a bit more 2008 Angeli Syrah.
However, about a quarter of these new HD blocks were planted to Sangiovese. From here we aged some incredibly smooth and aromatic Sangiovese in 500 liter Puncheons that blew our pants off. Part of the deal Sashi had made with Tom when they were discussing the extremely capital intensive planting was that if we were going to go for it, Tom wanted to push the envelope of potential quality with our Sangiovese program as well as Syrah. Tom’s gamble paid off & he didn’t have to think too hard about a name Sangio degli Angeli or the Blood of the Angels – And the 2nd Angeli was born.
Fast forward to the 2009 vintage and things at Stolpman were flying. I had come on full time to run the day-to-day operation and sales, and after 8 years of vineyard work, Sashi took 88% of the vineyard to bottle in the winery, up from barely 50% in 2007. This meant we had even more diversity in the flavor profiles coming into the winery. Sashi’s spice cabinet had just expanded.
Stephen Tanzer’s 95 point review of the 2009 Angeli stated, “…I was reminded of La Landonne, but this wine will offer much more early appeal…” Reading the review put us on Cloud 9! Our Syrah to be compared to arguably the world’s most prestigious 100% Syrah from E. Guigal in Cote Rotie is perhaps the highest accolade Stolpman Vineyards has ever received…
I was in Washington DC when the review came out and I immediately called Sashi to congratulate him. At the end of the conversation he asked me to meet him at the winery that Monday, my first day back from the East Coast -Sashi had a 3 Cigar lot to show me. With the cooler vintage of 2010, Sashi had a beautifully delicate Syrah on his hands that he decided to play into, making the high-toned red fruit flavor even more intense and aromatic with a huge 10% co-fermentation. Here lay a fantastic coincidence: Sashi had created a Syrah of our highest quality but with two times more Viognier than we had ever added in years prior. Without knowing Stephen Tanzer’s later reference to Guigal’s “La La”, Sashi had already created a wine that mirrored La Landonne’s sister wine, La Mouline, also Syrah with a 10-12% Viognier co-fermentation.
The wine clearly possessed the quality of Angeli, but the Viognier co-fermentation totally separated itself from the 100% Syrah Angeli we had also barreled. With our vineyard Villa hopefully on its way to completion & the common “V” of Viognier, we decided to create a third Angeli: Villa degli Angeli or House of the Angels.
This 90 case lot may not be produced every year – but for now, we’re proud to introduce you to our Three Angels – too bad my Dad’s name isn’t Charlie.
Look for the words Sangio or Villa on the bottom-right of our Angeli labels to see which wine you’re drinking. If you don’t notice, it’s not the end of the world, as all three are stunners.