Those who visit the vineyard catch only fleeting glimpses of Maria Solorzano. She zooms through the vineyard on her ATV inspecting blocks, occasionally jumping off to check in with La Cuadrilla members spread out on foot across the hillsides.
As forewoman of Stolpman Vineyards, Maria executes all of Ruben’s viticultural ideas. While Ruben consults on other properties, Maria takes care of the home ranch. Her husband’s smiling face appears in magazines and newspapers, but Maria, who often comes off quiet and shy, has yet to garner media attention.
When Ruben and I decided to partner together to make a wine, the concept of a label was easy: finally, we could recognize the unsung hero of the vineyard. The partnership between the Stolpman and Solorzano families would be For Maria.
In the tradition of Angeli, our best lots of Syrah and Sangiovese named after my mom’s Italian family, we take the opportunity of wine labels to recognize the women in on our operation who run the show.
Maria Solorzano grew up in the small Jaliscan village of Santa Cruz two hours away from Gaudalajara and just a few miles from Ruben’s Ranchito. Ruben and other locals in the area always referred to people from Santa Cruz as Tecolotes, owls. Thereto our creative director Kari Crist created a beautiful hand-carved woodblock print of an Owl’s face and we officially named the new wine “Para Maria de los Tecolotes” For Maria of the Owls.
Debut Vintage: 2014
In the third year of drought, our deep roots dug in. Warm weather in March allowed the vines to set a healthy crop. To Ruben’s pleasant surprise, even without irrigation, all of the hanging grapes ripened. Due to 2014’s even heat, some of the Syrah turned out hedonistically supple and ready-to-drink early. These blocks gave us just what we were looking for; the debut vintage of Para Maria was born.
100% estate Syrah, we chose the juiciest, most approachable, and easy-to-love lots for Para Maria.
Sashi Moorman, as always, had a new experiment that would potentially optimize an early-release Syrah. He fermented a small portion of the wine carbonically to ensure a pure fruit profile and freshness.
The carbonic Syrah experiment was inspired by our partner and collaborator Rajat Parr’s many conversations with Thierry Allemand. Allemand’s Cornas wines are renowned not only for their depth and nuance, but also for their downright deliciousness. I personally find both Clape and Allemand more approachable when young compared to my favorite Cote Rotie and Hermitage producers.
Aided by this small portion of carbonically fermented Syrah, call it 15%, Para Maria shows off the finer overall balance we are hitting as a winery. Even our high end Syrahs – Angeli, Hilltops, and Originals – drink more approachably only a couple years out of the gate (if you haven’t popped a 2012 Originals Syrah, reward yourself!). New Oak and massive tannins no longer impede early enjoyment as the winery has evolved towards concrete fermentation and more gentle handling.
Para Maria: The Future
With the help of his brothers, brother-in-laws, and an army of cousins and devoted life-long employees; Ruben Solorzano has built an empire that stretches across the Santa Ynez Valley. Ruben manages or consults for dozens of vineyards; peaks and exposures he knows like the back of his hand.
In the future, when yields return to their typical low levels, we will source Para Maria from Ruben’s secret micro-blocks outside of Stolpman Vineyards. Ruben will select the vineyard blocks each year and we will make the wines.
A Partnership with the Crew and the Solorzano Family
I’m especially excited about Para Maria because it gives us another affordable red wine alongside La Cuadrilla. We’ve maxed out production of La Cuadrilla, making over 2,000 cases per year for the past three vintages, well above our agreed-upon 10% of total production. The national market has embraced La Cuadrilla to the point that we sell out by mid-summer. Para Maria, released every October, will give us another wine for La Cuadrilla Wine Club and for sommeliers hungry for delicious, affordable red wine. La Cuadrilla remains our partnership with the crew while Para Maria is our Partnership with Ruben, Maria, and the Solorzano family.