The Indifference of Roussanne

IMG_6355We still can’t quite believe how early our red wine harvest came this year. We finished picking on Wednesday morning, October 16. We are now barreling down those last Grenache lots. Harvest came so fast in fact, that Ruben and La Cuadrilla had to frantically pick Sangiovese because the Grenache was already ripe and ready to be harvested on the heels of the Sangio. In a normal year, the winery has a lull in between Sangiovese and Grenache. Because the Grenache hung until it was very ripe, we’ll have an extremely crowd pleasing, high-octane style similar to the 2008 Stolpman Grenache, and not the high-toned, vibrant version we got in 2010 and 2011.
I’ll talk more about Stolpman Grenache next week, but in the meantime, I want to focus on the grape still hanging in the vineyard.

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The Nobly Stubborn Golden Grape
One grape seems to have ignored the dry winter and evenly hot summer: the eternally late-ripening, lazy Roussanne varietal. Sashi says we might be weeks away from harvesting. Over the past weeks, La Cuadrilla rotated many of the clusters to get an even “Rousse”, the namesake russet colored suntan, on the shaded green side of the grapes. Along with the color, the grapes’ sugar level increases once they turn golden brown. Cuadrilla has to wait until the Roussanne stems lignify, or turn dry and yellowed brownish, so that the stems will actually sit turned, rather than springily twist back.

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Over a month ago, La Cuadrilla pulled off all the leaves in the fruit zone up to a foot above the hanging clusters. This step allows direct sunlight penetration, and removes any obstruction to the ocean wind sweeping through the clusters to more effectively blow off fog moisture. All of this meticulous work will help us have another great vintage of L’Avion. Without the extra effort, we very well might give up on this uncooperative varietal along with the vast majority of the international wine making community.
Instead, we believe the strong, stubborn personality of the varietal is exactly what makes it such a dynamic wine. We further believe that Stolpman Vineyards is the only vineyard in the world that can create this benchmark style.

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• The Limestone rock of Stolpman Vineyards and cold Ballard Canyon nights allow the Roussanne to retain acidity even as it hangs so late.
• Our Southern location, parallel to Northern Africa rather than Europe, ensures powerful sunshine through November.
• Perched on Point Conception, in front of the Coastal Range, the crisp artic wind blows off any potential mold.
• Winter Storms blowing in from the north dissipate as they swing Southeast, and sweep through the Santa Ynez Vally chute without dropping significant rain through the Autumn months.
• Our highly-skilled dedicated crew pulls leaves, hand rotates clusters, and then selects only the perfectly ripe, golden rust colored grapes to be picked over up to 10 harvesting passes.
• Stolpman’s unique dedication to dry farming forces the Roussanne vines to grow conservatively, allowing the vine to dedicate its energy into only a few clusters per vine. The vines actually behave older and wiser than they actually are, much like their 100 year old parents in Chateau neuf du Pape.
While other vintners throughout the world turn to the easier varietals to farm, namely Viognier and Marsanne, we continue to dedicate ourselves to Roussanne. I guess us Stolpmans & Roussanne have that in common, we’re both stubborn.

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