Rain at Last!

The past two months, Stolpman’s vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano has been stressed over the lack of rainfall we’ve received thus far in 2012.

A dry winter is always nerve racking as the vines are parched from the day they bud through the growing season. With no water for relief, any heat spike in August or September pushes the vines to the brink of death.

This year, the dry winter spells even more potential harm. The vines are still reeling from last April’s frost when all of our new buds were killed. In a quest for survival, the vines rebounded from the frost with a conservative second growth. The vines grew new buds within a few weeks, but because of the delay, the vines only had enough time to ripen a couple clusters each. Vines are smart especially at Stolpman! and the second growth had just a few grapes that each vine knew it could ripen in the shortened timeframe.

11 months after last year’s frost, with parched ground approaching April, the vines would likely go into survival mode for the second year in a row, setting only a couple clusters that even with limited moisture might ripen under duress. Two tiny harvests in a row would mandate wine price increases and even skinnier margins, and Baron and I are skinny enough!

So when the rain began to fall Friday night, all of us were in a mood to celebrate!

With 2 inches of rain spread out over short, saturating waves, the vines now can set a healthy crop, under the impression that there’s plenty of water for growth and fruit ripening.

In joyous, thankful moods, Jessica and I jumped into the mini cooper and sped up Figueroa Mountain to let Baron Von Stolpman play in over half a foot of freshly fallen powder, just a few miles from the vineyard.

After screaming down the one-track road, we eagerly accepted Sashi’s invitation to come over for dinner.

To celebrate the rain, Sashi popped a bottle of J Lassalle Premier Cru Chigny les Roses 2002, a very special bottling of Champagne selected by several grower-producers on a committee.

Of course, Sashi is the most incredible chef I’ve ever encountered in all of my travels. Trained in the best East Coast restaurants, Sashi shifted his passion from food to wine back in 1996, but loves to occasionally moonlight and BLOW MY MIND.

Sashi presented chilled, boiled asparagus, 2 Amy’s burrata, and freshly baked bread from our new brick oven in Lompoc and of course, plenty of Stolpman Olive Oil.

 

To pair with the superb ingredients of the first course, only the benchmark of all Sauvignon Blanc would do: Didier Dagueneau’s 2001 fume de Pouilly “pur Sang” (pure blood). Even our wildest, experimental Sauv Blanc techniques like whole grape fer

mentation and aging were first tried by the late, great Didier. And of course, with 11 years of age, the Didier had all the nuance and richness that new world Sauv Blanc producers can only dream about. If only I could live on Burratta and DD!

On the heels of the Dagueneau – Sashi brought out one of my favorite wines in the world. Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage Blanc 2001. A Roussanne Marsanne blend, if every California wine drinker could try this wine they would never drink another non-Rhone varietal white wine. After recently popping a 2006 Beaucastel Chateau Neuf du Pape Blanc Vielle Vignes, the parent vines of L’Avion, I am officially in love with the intense aromatics, rich textures, and voluptuous beauty found in the Rhone Valley.

Sashi’s main course centered on homemade wide-cut pasta ribbons sculpted from Flour milled earlier in the day in the Lompoc Bakery. Sashi says “just add truffles and enjoy!” if only it was that simple. For good measure, Sashi added a Pot Roast cooked over oak and lightly smoked Stolpman Vineyards Carrots, both orange and white varietals.

Sashi decided to focus on the 2001 vintage as he monumentally took the reigns of Stolpman Vineyards that fateful year. We continued the hit parade with the 2001 Domaine Clape Cornas which was simply perfect, brooding, dark smoothness with some serious youthful pop proving years of life still to come. What would a dinner at Sashi’s be without an all star Syrah?

Jumping over to my mo

ther’s homeland, the 2004 Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino was a bit overshadowed by what was waiting decanted behind it: from my glorious birth year, 1982 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco, it really could never get better, especially with a cheese plate in front of me.

After midnight, with the rain falling once again, we finished the night with a Robert Weil 2002 Auslese Rheingau that gave me the sugar rush to reawaken, listen to the rain bounce off the windows, and thank Mother Nature for cooperating!

Not only was Saturday a great day of rejoicing, but also thanks to Sashi, it was an awesome chance to try wines that we will forever measure ourselves up against.