If you have any doubt about our dedication to making the absolute best wine possible, I invite you to take a stroll through our cuverie. Row on row of beautiful (in a way only a proud owner can love) 4-ton open-top unsealed concrete fermenters stand full of BB-sized purple Syrah grapes. As we debut the 2012 Syrahs this fall, our customers will taste not only the results of a textbook perfect vintage, but also our re-investment in the winery.
Sashi designed these custom concrete fermenters for the ideal cap-to-liquid ratio. The fermenters yield a fine tannin profile from our thick-skins. The concrete walls insulate the cold night-harvested grapes to naturally slow down fermentation and allow the native yeasts to work slowly, extracting every nuance of flavor.
Ruben’s willingness to withhold irrigation brought conservative yields in 2012, with each vine concentrating on only a few perfectly placed clusters. Dry farming also allowed our stems to lignify and Sashi included whole-clusters in all of our Syrah fermentations. The native wood structures the wine for long-term aging and lends notes of herbs; sage, rosemary, even basil.
We’ve reached a level of confidence in the winery, and in our maturing vines, to progress away from high levels of New French Oak and towards the pure expression of our land. The profiles are fresh and lively yet rich and concentrated.
Armed with 20 year old vines rooted deep in Limestone and a singular obsession to stop at nothing to make great wine, we stand ready to lead Ballard Canyon AVA onto a well-deserved pedestal within the hierarchy of the world’s great wine-growing regions.
Welcome to the best wines we’ve ever made.
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The Originals block is not only our original planting, but it is the original Syrah block of Ballard Canyon. The two old California Sirene clones, Estrella River and Durrell Vineyard, were planted in 1992 and 1993. Sashi Moorman first separated these blocks into the designated “Originals” cuvee with the 2008 vintage.
The low yields of these dry-farmed, mature vines give a rich concentration to the Originals Syrah. Because of this richness, the Originals might be the most hedonistic, seductive 2012 Syrah out of the gate. With 60% whole-cluster fermentation and a slow 3 week fermentation on the skins in concrete, this wine will also pay dividends to those who wait to pop it.
It’s quite easy to make rich Syrah in California. Green harvesting for low yields and leaving the grapes on the vine until they dehydrate somehow became the status quo over the past two decades. What separates the Originals Syrah from the pack is its combination of richness with brightness and freshness. This is not a wine made from raisins, but a product of picking on the perfect nights after a perfect growing season.
On the nose, a dense perfume of violet, blueberry, anise, with blood orange wafts out of the glass. Hints of iron and graphite preface the firm structure of the wine. The 60% stem-inclusion lifts the aromatic profile lending attractive smells of fresh cut herbs.
The wine coats the mouth and is intensely vibrant, young, and aggressive. Poignant red fruit flavors are tamed by the luxurious mouth-feel. This wine screams for red meat. A powerful, integrated wine, already intensely enjoyable.
The 2012 Originals arrives in the new, custom Ballard Canyon Syrah bottle with the words BALLARD CANYON subtly raised in the shoulder of the glass. The debut of the bottle, only used by Ballard Canyon grower-producers for Syrah, happens to coincide with the ideal, even 2012 growing season.
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In 2004, we planted the Ferrari of high-density vineyards. The fruit hangs low to the ground, allowing for more room to train the canopy upwards and ease the strain on the vines to pump flavor into the clusters. 7 wires run horizontally between stakes to ensure perfect shoot positioning. At 2.5 feet apart, the vines compete against each-other for water and nutrients, giving us low yields of intensely flavored fruit.
As the name “Hilltops” signifies, these blocks crown the middle ridgeline of the vineyard with south-facing exposure. Ruben planted each micro block with different row directions to maximize photosynthesis. All factors combine to bring intensity to the 2012 Hilltops. This is the one wine that Sashi employed significant (40%) New French Oak aging to add further backbone to this aggressive wine. 75% of the small clusters fermented with lignified stems. The result is a fortress of a wine built for age. Unlike the 2012 Originals, the 2012 Hilltops will take time in bottle to hit its stride.
The deep and enveloping nose spreads out to lighter notes of Blackberry, sage, and toast. As the nose opens up, ripe black cherries appear backed by tobacco.
On the palate, the flavor profile is high toned and the wine finishes with excitement. Notes of rosemary behind bright red fruit. The mid-palate will continue to fill in with age promising a decades-long life.
The 2012 Hiltops arrives in the new, custom Ballard Canyon Syrah bottle with the words BALLARD CANYON subtly raised in the shoulder of the glass. The debut of the bottle, only used by Ballard Canyon grower-producers for Syrah, happens to coincide with the ideal, even 2012 growing season.
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One of the most unique wines we make at Stolpman Vineyards, La Croce continues its tradition as a 50-50 co-fermentation of Syrah and Sangiovese. We planted these side-by-side high-density blocks specifically to make this blend. The low yields and vine competition create maximum vibrancy and concentration. We pick the hillside Syrah and the Sangiovese, which is planted just above on the hilltop, on the same night and ferment the two varietals together. The result: one beautifully integrated red wine that takes on character of its own rather than elements of the individual varietals.
For such a massive wine, the nose gives off a whimsical red berry fruit aroma atop a core of new leather and lush forest floor. As the young, primary wine opens, attractive cocoa appears and the wine becomes more inviting.
In the mouth, pulsating red fruit on top of Right Bank earthiness wows the un-indoctrinated – this is serious wine. The red fruit seems alive, as if still hanging on the vine. Well integrated with soft tannin bonded to a long fruit finish, and just when the wine seems over, one more intense pop of fruit resurges.
Tasting library vintages of La Croce, I note an anise component that I only pick up in top notch Bordeaux-varietal wines. This dark bordelaise character signifies the uniqueness of this co-fermented field blend.
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The local favorite, the 2011 Estate Sangiovese will no doubt keep the line’s place as one of our best sellers among our wine club members. Sangiovese comes in a close second to Syrah for the “best fit” in Stolpman Vineyards. Consultant Alberto Antonini chose the grape for our first dry-farming trials and we haven’t watered the old “Rodino” clone vines since.
Despite the hearty Italian’s ability to survive without water, the varietal does not provide a fertile second growth. The late April 2011 frost decimated the Sangiovese, giving us about half the yield we normally expect. As we tasted in 2008, the only other frost season we’ve experienced, the 2011 Sangiovese shows unusual density and intensity because of the lower yields. The vine focused the post-frost growing season on perfecting only those few surviving clusters.
A mix of succulent cherry and dried rose petal dominate the nose with underlying hints of char-grilled smoke. Time, specifically, 30 months in neutral French oak, has worked its intended magic in mellowing the vervy profile.
A long, red profile stretches through the mouth. A darker core lurks underneath, no doubt a product of the low 2011 yields. The tannic varietal is already in check and drinking well after settling for 35 months. Within a couple years, the 2011 will hit its peak of luxurious smoothness.
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We separate a small section of our hilltop high-density Sangiovese block from La Croce to demonstrate the true potential of the varietal on the vineyard. This block is significant in that outside Montalcino, investment on this level into the Sangiovese grape is non-existent. Sangio degli Angeli comes from one small sub-section of the high-density Sangiovese vineyard in which Ruben replanted our beloved and mysterious “Rodino” Clone. The rest of the block, much of it destined for La Croce, is planted to Clone 23, material that Alberto Antonini selected for the hilltop. The Sangiovese grows directly above Ruben’s house on the vineyard. Certainly, no other Sangiovese in the world is babied to this extent.
Along with deep ruby red fruit, aromas of flint, roasted meat and a touch of clove all emerge with the first swirl around the glass.
In the mouth, the wine is robust and deep. Sangio degli Angeli is always larger, firmer, and more intense than the main bottling, Estate Sangiovese. In a frost year of reduced yields, Sangio degli Angeli becomes even more of a power house. It was our first frost year, 2008, when Sashi decided the quality of this block justified designating it as a separate Angeli cuvee.
These wines are currently on ‘prerelease’ for our club members & scheduled for official release October 1, 2014.