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.
2015: Vineyard in Balance
July 15, 2015 4:1am > Written by Pete
One Cluster per Shoot Thinning all of our Syrah to one cluster per shoot might be the most striking example of Stolpman’s dedication to quality at the sacrifice of quantity. Key to Dry Farming Ruben will not water any of our Syrah once the vines set grapes in mid-May. The vines’ fight through the summer will yield naturally concentrated, vibrant, and nuanced Syrah. Thankfully, Syrah …
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.
Para Maria de los Tecolotes
June 15, 2015 11:1pm > Written by Pete
The entire Stolpman Vineyards team spent the evening of May 30th enjoying the vineyard to celebrate La Cuadrilla. On the lawn under the magnificent Oak, we gathered to relax and take in the natural beauty of the vineyard. Of course, we enjoyed plenty of wine together, the fruit of our combined labor. The day prior, Ruben slaughtered a lamb to slow cook in a vat …
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 …