Our 220-acre property, of which 153 acres are currently planted to grapes, lies on three major limestone ridgelines in Santa Barbara County. By implementing revolutionary viticultural techniques, we push our dry-farmed limestone vines to unprecedented levels of quality.
For the first five years of a vine’s life, we irrigate in order to let the trunk and roots grow. We then wean the plant from irrigation over the next 1-2 years. After that, we do not water our vines to force them to fight for nutrients and moisture. We’ve found that the vines have a memory of years past, and soon begin to self-regulate the size of their crop. By naturally yielding fewer grapes, each vine pours all of its energy into ripening concentrated, vibrant, undiluted and balanced grape clusters.
A one to three foot layer of clay topsoil, above the 300 foot deep Limestone slab, retains fog moisture and night-time cold temperatures along with creating a nutrient rich environment. Our topsoil’s clay content is key to enabling dry-farming.
Irrigation through the growing season, common practice throughout the West Coast, artificially pumps vines full of vigor to grant large commercial yields. Because of irrigation, over-zealous vines often generate high levels of sugar, forcing winemakers to add water, acidify, and filter wines to balance them. At Stolpman, due to the stress of living without water, our vines run out of energy and with their last breath of life, give us phenolic ripeness.
Even in severe drought years like 2014, we do not irrigate our vines after set, when the flowers turn to tiny grapes in May.
Dry Farming: Pushing the Limits
May 17, 2016 8:1pm > Written by Pete
Walking the vineyard on July 13, 2015 the vines themselves appear to be in perfect balance. Perhaps the most important word in fine wine, most wine drinkers don’t realize that balance – seamless deliciousness – must come from the vineyard. A balanced vineyard creates a balanced wine. How can a vineyard be in balance? The grape clusters are small and loose, hanging with space between …
Upon taking over vineyard management in 1994, Ruben Solorzano quickly assembled a dedicated vineyard team. In 2003, in order to provide both a unique training program and a sense of ownership in the vineyard, Ruben began to give the crew a 2 acre block, or “cuadra” each year. By withholding any instructions for that block, Ruben forces the members of “la Cuadrilla”, Spanish for the crew, or “people of the block” to learn how to proactively cultivate the vineyard from pruning through harvest. Each year, winemaker Sashi Moorman takes the wine from the crew’s block and blends in other lots, augmenting the production of the wine we call La Cuadrilla. The members of this highly specialized crew receive the profits from their blend as an end-of-year bonus.
Because the members of La Cuadrilla are the Best of the Best, Stolpman Vineyards can engage in complex and sometimes unprecedented trellising techniques to push the envelope of quality. The members of La Cuadrilla are invaluable assets in our quest to meticulously make ‘vineyard crafted wines.’
We are proud to employ this dedicated Cuadrilla full-time. We believe a luxury product like fine wine should benefit all parties involved, and not take advantage of anyone.
Peter Stolpman and Ruben Solorzano founded the La Cuadrilla Foundation in order to expand their commitment to sustainable employment. The non-profit involves other wineries also committed to the well-being of their vineyard workers and donates all proceeds to local Health clinics. Plans for the La Cuadrilla Foundation include sponsoring college scholarships for the children of Agricultural workers in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Winter Rain and its Implications – Drought, Weeds and Sheep
March 16, 2017 10:1pm > Written by Pete
Vineyard Manager Ruben Solorzano returned from his research trip to Burgundy brimming with excitement and new ideas. Ruben identified the major difference in approach between French vintners farming old, healthy vines versus those that routinely rip out mature vines due to lack of productivity: The former group fixates on the natural flow of the vine’s energy. Ruben immediately implemented Flow Theory technique into our younger …
On October 30th, 2013 the TTB published Ballard Canyon as an official American Viticultural Area. The largest vineyard in the AVA, Stolpman Vineyards is considered the founding vineyard of Ballard Canyon. Over a dozen other vintners followed Tom Stolpman into Ballard Canyon and based on the results of our experimentation, all have decided to focus on Syrah. Our first blocks of Syrah, planted in 1992 and 1994, are bottled with the name, Originals, as they are not only Stolpman Vineyards’ first planting, but also the origination of the Ballard Canyon Syrah movement. The oldest vines create a concentrated Syrah with a firm structure built for aging.
Today, 60% of the vines planted in Ballard Canyon are Syrah and an additional 20% are other Rhone varietals including Grenache and Roussanne.
Beginning with the 2012 vintage, Stolpman Vineyards bottles Estate Syrah, Originals Syrah, Hilltops Syrah, and Ruben’s Block Syrah in the Ballard Canyon Custom Bottle Mold. The eight Ballard Canyon grower-producers focused on Syrah use the same bottle, with the words Ballard Canyon engraved three times around the bottle neck. The Ballard Canyon bottle will soon become synonymous with great Syrah for wine lovers around the world.
Upon publication of the AVA, Peter Stolpman was elected President of the Ballard Canyon Wine Growers Alliance. Through his travels promoting Stolpman Vineyards around the world, Pete is spreading the word about Ballard Canyon’s commitment to Syrah.
Our neighboring vineyards in the canyon include Larner, Jonata, Beckmen (Purisima Mountain Vineyard), Rusack, Kimsey, Boa Vista, Harrison-Clark, Jorian Hill, Tierra Alta & Saarloos and Sons.
The Ballard Canyon Bottle: Syrah Identity for the Syrah Territory
February 13, 2014 11:1pm > Written by Pete
The Best Article on Stolpman Ever On February 5th, Author Evan Dawson published perhaps the most spot-on article about Stolpman Vineyards written in our 24 year history. He interviewed Sashi and I for the story and ended up taking the angle that the extremely high prices of Cote Rotie and Hermitage will lead wine connoisseurs to drink Stolpman. I can’t pop $120-$380 bottles of Cote …