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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.