2016 Vintage Update: Diving In

Across Santa Barbara County, the cold nights and moderate day time highs have resulted in phenolic and sugar ripeness at high acid levels. The resulting wines should be bright and vervy, and, age-able for decades.
September 7th marked the first Syrah harvest night at Stolpman. We kicked off with the crown of Ruben’s block and some own-rooted high-density Syrah destined for the Estate bottling. By getting an early start, we will lengthen the continuum of flavor from fresh red tones to deeper, riper blue, purple, and black notes as we continue to pick later into fall.


The heat waves we experienced in July and August were short and moderate, with only a few days hitting 90 in the vineyard. The majority of the summer felt like clockwork: Immediately cold prior to sun set. Fog already visibly rolling in in from Point Conception. Morning marine layer slowly receding from the higher elevations. Sunny by mid-day with a cool breeze picking up at lunchtime. Increasing wind gusts through the afternoon until the sunset.

A picture-perfect, quintessential Ballard Canyon harvest.




Without irrigation the leaves now feel dry and crunchy to the touch. As the sugar levels continue to slowly accumulate a week or two from the rush of Syrah harvest, the canopy remains light green and will start to show yellowing by the time we pick. Ruben’s goal is to pick as the vines give their last breath of life, focusing any remaining energy on ripe flavor.

Trademark Ruben Solorzano farming, none of the vineyard is hedged. Where vines have found a bit more fertility and moisture, shoots extend into the rows, lending a sense of jungle wildness. Upon closer inspection, the shoots symmetrically narrow as the vine ran out of water earlier in the summer. Leaves get smaller and smaller towards the tip of the shoot. On the hilltops, the canopy barely reaches the top wire of trellising.


Across all varietals clusters are small and the grapes are BB sized. As long as the canopy can soldier on a few more weeks, we will achieve ripe richness with bright, fresh flavors throughout the vineyard.
Stems are lignified allowing for high percentages of whole-cluster fermentation.


While the Central Coast wild fires drew national media attention, the Santa Ana weather pattern looms as the biggest threat to wine quality this year. An intense heat spike will fry the already dry leaves, abruptly ending the growing season. If severe heat strikes, we will be forced to pick the entire vineyard as rapidly as possible, as the fruit will quickly wither on the vine.

So far the forecast calls for mild weather, and fingers crossed this comes true.