The ‘dirt’ on Stolpman Wines

Naturally adding to the diversity & complexity of our wine making program, Join us as we get dirty with the different soil profiles of the Stolpman property.  Limestone, Clay, Shale & Sand.


Limestone  :  Our founder Tom Stolpman searched the Central Coast for this glorious white rock. Coupled with cold nights, the Limestone bedrock defines the brightness and balance of Stolpman Vineyards wines. Our Ballard Canyon Limestone outcropping is young, meaning that not too many million years ago, shelled sea creatures had yet to perish, their shells gathering and compacting at the bottom of the ocean – only to be jutted upwards in gigantic tectonic movements. Active Limestone possesses an extremely high pH – translating to inversely low pH levels in any crop grown. Thereto, our ripe grapes always possess a nice pop of acidity even when picked late in the year.


Clay : Without clay we could not dry farm. Our dense clay topsoil retains the moisture of morning fog and keeps the Limestone below damp. Clay also insulates and prolongs the chill of Ballard Canyon’s cold nights. Even at mid-day, the clay soil is cool to the touch. Because of clay’s refrigerating effect on our low-trained grapes, Stolpman Vineyards behaves like a cooler climate site than our short peak-heat periods feel on our skin.


Shale : Shale fragments on our two eastern hills help impede vines’ vigor. In other words, rocky shale soil makes the vines fight harder for survival, giving Stolpman Vineyards wines more character. As Tom Stolpman always says, treat your vines like your kids and make them work for everything – that way, your kids (and your wine) will grow up to be interesting and dynamic.


Sand : Towards the bottom of our eastern-most ridgeline, bordering Jonata Vineyard, our dark clay turns to silty sand. Like the shale to the west, sand impedes vigor and lends to concentration. Sandy soils tend to produce wines with heightened aromatics and like the soil’s fine grains – allow for elegant structure and tannin profile.
The Vinifera root killing bug Phylloxera cannot survive in sand. We have recently own-rooted Grenache, Mourvedre, Gamay, and Syrah in this section of the vineyard. We find own-rooted vines more easily adapt to dry farming and produce wines of greater fruit purity.