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The hilltop vines grown straight in Limestone rock without benefit of topsoil, exposed to sun throughout the day, and blasted by howling winds; all combine to produce wines with concentration and rich textures. Like the other 2011 wines, the Hilltops Syrah is not only about this immediate gratification. I taste the excitement of the vintage that began with frost. I sense the vines telling me “we reigned victorious, we were knocked down, got back up, and we gave you this extraordinary product”.
Ripe Plum, sangre-iron, with hints of oak; this wine reminds me that I am a carnivore. Despite being rich and lavish, there is energy in this wine that makes me want to tear into some flesh. This wine is going to be a big hit. Forget being a carnivore, this wine makes me happy to be alive. Excitement bursts through the dense core and beams out, almost with revelatory radiance.
The 2011 Hilltops Syrah is the wine that folks spend all year looking for; the wine that steals the show at a geeked-out tasting group; and the wine your dinner guests say, “oh wow, show me that label”.
As the Syrah vineyards have matured, the Hilltops Syrah, picked only from vines growing on ridgelines and crowns, has become the most Hedonistic and Calfornian of our extensive Syrah offering. Barrel aged for an extended 6 months on 25% new French oak, the wine is typically the most impressive and upfront upon release. 94 pts from Steven Tanzer
If you don’t like this wine, we’re in trouble. This bottling represents the largest annual production of any Stolpman wine by at least threefold. Being the largest, flagship wine from the vineyard each year, Estate Syrah is the truest representation of our Terroir and the best indicator of an individual vintage’s unique conditions. Estate Syrah serves as the introduction to Stolpman Vineyards for customers around the country and occasionally the world, so we pressure ourselves to make this wine sing, and price it reasonably to attract new devotees. Part of this equation entails keeping higher-end Syrah production small, so as not to remove all of the magic from the Estate Syrah.
2011 Estate Syrah final blend: 94% Syrah, 3% Grenache, 2% Roussanne, 1% Viognier (co-fermented)
The 2011 Estate Syrah still shows its true heart of darkness despite blending. The dark purple color; the brooding aromas of charcuterie and plum dominate the wine with pretty red, wild berries, and purple flowers on the periphery. My first thought upon smelling the wine prior to bottling was, “this is going to be a bruiser.”
The 2010 Villa Angeli will stop you in your tracks. A high density block of syrah fermented whole cluster and with 10% Viognier. Aromatically its off the charts. It's mouthwatering in the finish and my guess is you will regret sharing this wine with anyone other than your dearest, dearest. One of the most delicious wines we've ever made.
After visiting Renee Rostaing in January 2006, Ruben returned to Ballard Canyon inspired. He set out to replicate Domaine Rostaing’s limestone riddled Cote Blonde vineyard.
Cote Rotie consists of east facing mountain sides perched on the Northern tip of Syrah’s motherland. Farmers there cram as many vines in as possible leaving just enough space between to climb through. They are unburdened by the constraints of tractor widths on the hillsides too vertical to navigate. Because of the lack of topsoil and overall fertility, each vine produces tiny yields, so in order to make the vineyards viable, high density plantings are used not only for concentration through root competition, but as a necessary means to make enough wine.
To capture as much sunlight as possible during each morning’s Eastward exposure window, every two vines are trained to a single vertex on top. 2 vines end up casting the shadow of one, allowing the sun to penetrate through to bath each leaf with energy. In the warmer, sunnier sites further south such as Hermitage, St. joseph, and Cornas, the vines are planted in similarly tight spacing, but trained vertically as sun exposure is no issue.
When Ruben returned from Europe, he focused on the steep East facing hill above Ballard Canyon Road that Tom Stolpman previously wrote off as too steep to plant. He own-rooted (no root stock) over 6,000 Syrah vines just one meter away from each other and staked them diagonally just as he had seen in Cote Rotie.
Even with the similar East facing exposure as Cote Rotie, Ruben’s Block still receives mush more sun Intensity. Today, we see the benefit of the diagonal training as a moderating effect on the vines. As Ruben watches his block throughout the day, he observes that each vine receives quick respites of shade. These siesta breaks allowed Ruben to commence dry farming the block in 2007, just a year after he planted the vines.
Because each head-pruned vine tasks itself to ripen only a few clusters, Ruben’s Block ripens 2-3 weeks before any other Syrah. The result is phenolic ripeness at much lower alcohol. Ruben’s Block Syrah carries a much more elegant, old-world mouth-feel due to less glycerol, but complex flavors stemming from the low vine yield are tightly stuffed into the lightweight package. Because of this, much like traditional Cote Rotie, Ruben’s Block Syrah takes years to unfurl and open. We release an extremely limited portion of this wine three years after harvest. The rest is held for further maturity.
We look forward to conducting side-by-side tastings of Ruben’s block with Cote Rotie Syrahs and down the line, we will do the same with our new “Cornas Block”. All of these wines are intended for long-term cellaring.
By coincidence, the blend of the 2012 vintage represents each varietal’s respective acreage planted on the vineyard: 60% Syrah, 20% Sangiovese, 15% Grenache, and 5% Petite Sirah.
Being that the blend comes from the perfect, warm 2012 vintage, the wine is darker with fresh blue and black fruits abounding. It already is drinking great so raise a glass and toast “Salud!” to the crew!
This year’s label is titled “courage and loyalty” in honor of the strength, fortitude, and dedication of our passionate full-time workers, La Cuadrilla.
While the 2011 La Croce rivals 2011 Hilltops Syrah for stealing my heart, the La Croce’s firm structure calls for a more sophisticated, structured appreciation. It’s not that the wine is tight and needs time although it is certainly 5-10 years away from peaking. If anything, the Sangiovese and Syrah are so well integrated through co-fermentation it becomes difficult to pick apart individual flavors.
This is the perfect girl who you brush off as way out of your league; beautiful, well-adjusted, intelligent; and if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle, tasting 2011 La Croce might remind you of waking up to realize you’ve married that girl!
The depth and richness of the 2011 La Croce exemplify the best of New World winemaking and what Italians set out to accomplish by blending more expansive varietals with medium bodied, tannic Italians.
Planted throughout the early and mid 90s at the demand of self proclaimed “Italophile” Tom Stolpman, Sangiovese has flourished on Stolpman Vineyards, especially under the supervision of international consultant Alberto Antonini PHD. Dr. A dictated dry-farming the Sangiovese, and later, we were able to extend the practice to every mature block on the ranch.
The 2010 Estate Sangiovese carries on the “Cherry Leather Chocolate” trifecta to bring joy to devotees, and further bedevil critics who obsess over the definition of “new world Sangiovese”. The 2010 carries an air of brightness with hints of red violet. The tannins are already coddled by lapping waves and layers of red fruit on the finish, but like the vintages prior, the Estate Sangiovese will fill out to become a mature beauty over the next few years.
After reinvesting in perfected high density planting of Sangiovese clone 23 on a single ridgeline simply labeled “Block A” (A for Alberto Antonini?), and tasting fruit from the 20 year old Sangiovese Rodino Clone vines on the wide Block 3 Hilltop; we decided to hold the most intensely beautiful lots of Sangiovese for an “Angeli” bottling. Sashi selected the first bottling of Sangio degli Angeli from the 2008 vintage, and both that wine and the 2009 to follow, sold out shortly after release.
Marilyn Stolpman’s Italian Family name Angeli, Angels, presents the perfect brand opportunity for us. Sangiovese meant Blood of the Gods in ancient Roman, so we translate, Sangio degli Angeli, to Blood of the Angels. The Angeli wine remains the very best few barrels of 100% Syrah.
For the Angeli line of wines, we strive to bottle complex “Wines of Meditation” that overwhelm the senses with deliciousness and evolve throughout a glass or bottle to surprise and delight with each discovery of nuance.
Everything about this wine is pretty and opulent. The red spectrum of color goes from deep red to Bordalesque velvet to shimmering rose around the rim.
We took a long break from Viognier, making one last in 2001 before the 2010 harvest when Sashi fell in love with the fruit profile enough to jump back into monocepage production. The main lot behaved as expected, and we made a 2010 Viognier exactly as described, pure and simple. However, one small lot didn’t want to cooperate. The cool, windy growing season must have reminded some of the vines of home in Condrieu. When this precious fruit made it into the winery, the juice decided to take its time with fermentation. We scratched our heads and let the sugar levels rise at a snail’s pace. Primary fermentation ended up lasting over a year, and early on we decided to transfer the juice into neutral barrels. We’ve heard stories of long fermentations in Condrieu, and there are some wines that rest two years in barrel before bottling, so we felt better at least with the knowledge of precedents in Viognier’s motherland.
If this wine was going to take on the complexity of a long, native fermentation, we wanted to add texture from oak to back up the flavors. We also allowed malolactic fermentation to occur to allow the wine to fill out. The result is a wine that evolves in the glass mirroring it’s maturation in barrel.
The color is rich gold. After first popping the cork, the fruit flavors are dried and mature. But with a few swirls; ripe Apricot, nectarine, and then pineapple; all drizzled in honey, remind me of my favorite post-sushi palate cleanser. As the nose opens up, fresh Hawaiian pineapple becomes even more vivid, and takes me right back to my honeymoon in Oahu as it wafts out of the glass after a few more minutes. The extended oak aging and lactic acid add weight to the finish, and the wine shows great viscosity with a touch of mint that I often pick up in our 2007 late harvest Viognier.