Hanging on the Vine for Points


I received Ruben Solorzano’s harvest report as soon as we arrived back in cell service on the Sonoma side of Spring Mountain. Scrolling through block after block of harvested grapes brought home the importance of the viticultural revolution happening right now at Stolpman Vineyards.
Following a sales trip in San Francisco (where we caught the America’s Cup finals), Napa, and Sonoma; Jessica and I had the chance to taste beautifully crafted Napa valley floor and mountain top Cabernets at Fisher Vineyards. Lush, beautiful fruit flavors with intense depth and massive structure. These wines reminded me of why Americans love their Napa Valley Cab!

Now back at home in Santa Barbara County, the fact that Napa Valley Cab is the benchmark of great Cali wine presents a challenge to winemakers here. Critics have trained their palates to reward the best of these massive, ripe wines; and subsequently look for similar profiles in other varietals, even 300 miles south.
2013 gives us the opportunity to make vibrant, exciting wines with fresh wines pact full of zest, verve, and life; without sacrificing any concentration. According to Ruben’s email, as of Saturday, September 28; Stolpman has picked the majority of its Syrah blocks and we’re deep into Sangiovese. Grenache and then Roussanne will follow quickly. Sashi Moorman might be the most excited I have ever seen him in his 13th harvest with Stolpman, and not just because he will be finished by the end of October!

Still, many Santa Barbara winemakers are letting fruit hang for a riper, jammier profile. Why? They know the critics want the plush, round, and smooth flavor. Most importantly, these wines drink more luxuriously when young, and most reviewer tastings occur upon, or even before, release. The tradeoff is that these wines usually aren’t as long lived. The raisins picked are dried and dead on the vine, so there is little life left in the bottle.

Stolpman certainly isn’t alone in its pursuit of alive wines. Many of our grape clients have already picked and there are many boutique wineries stressing the importance of earlier picked fruit. However, this certainly isn’t the way to play it safe and rack up 95+ scores, the only ones that help sell expensive wines in today’s market.
I hope that more cool climate winemakers will throw out the high score rule book and harness the true expression of their vineyards.