Parker and Tanzer 92-94pt One Percent Rule
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, we play by the rules. Each time we run an offer on WineAccess, the selling price is set and confirmed by the winery. Why do we play by rules to which no retailer would ever agree? Over the years, we've become a victim of our own success.
No matter how carefully we scrub our email list, our stories always seem to find their way into the wrong inboxes. When a retailer spots a WineAccess price that's 30% under his (even if we're selling hundreds of cases as he buys two!), he calls his distributor to whine. The distributor knows the drill all too well, but as any solid wholesaler will tell you, listening to retailers whine is part of his job description. When the wholesaler gets his customer off the phone, after a flurry of expletives and self-righteous threats, he dutifully calls his supplier -- the winery -- and raises bloody hell.
We didn't start this little online adventure to drive wedges between wineries and wholesalers. Life's too short and we never did finish that Ph.D. in child psychology anyway. So 99% of the time, we make sure each price is contractually vetted before we hit the SEND button.
Today just happens to be the rare case of the other 1%.
It's always been said in the greatest cellars of the northern Rhone -- Chave, Guigal, and Vernay -- that the finest white wine vintages are rarely best for red. World-class Syrah enjoys the summer heat, spiking sugars, infusing $100/bottle Cote-Rotie and Hermitage with lavish, purple-fruit concentration. But in really hot vintages, ultra-ripeness comes with a price. Acids often drop, and while this isn't always such a tragedy for thick-skin Syrah, it can suck the vitality out of wildly aromatic Roussanne.
But every so often, perhaps once every two decades, there's a counterexample. A growing season begins with a natural temper tantrum, trimming yields or setting the stage for an irregular set. Then the summer turns cool -- marvelous for Roussanne, but far less propitious for Syrah. Sparse clusters ripen slowly and incrementally. The whites, regardless of what happens in the first weeks of Fall will be aromatically explosive and brilliant, but the Syrah still needs a push.
Then, as if on queue, Nature turns on the jets, delivering a magical Indian summer. The temperature rises, the skies stay blue and the late-maturing Syrah sprints to the finish line, providing winemakers like Sashi Moorman with the best of both worlds -- high sugars, superb physiological maturity AND electrifying acid backbones.
By all accounts (ask Steve Beckmen, Screaming Eagle's La Jonata or Pete Stolpman), the precious limestone hillsides of Ballard Canyon performed as never before in the summer of 2010. Stolpman would be showered with 92-95 point scores from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and the far stingier Stephen Tanzer. Most remarkably, both winemaker Sashi Moorman's top Syrahs -- the "Hilltops" and old-vine "Originals" -- and his breathtaking Roussanne (made from grafts drawn from the old vines at Beaucastel) shined as never before. Moorman called it THE vintage of his brilliant career. Neither Parker, Tanzer nor WineAccess would take issue with his claim.
Some of you were offered each of these wines last year. Our allocations were small, trimmed back by a combination of the high scores and the re-awakening wholesale tier (Pete Stolpman told us that New York suddenly took off with every big name restaurant from Le Bernardin, Daniel, Per Se and Union Square Cafe jumping on the 2010 Stolpman bandwagon!). The "Hilltops," "Originals" and "L'Avion" disappeared quickly. Just a half-dozen cases of each were held back, as is our practice, set aside for breakage, Topoffs, and special requests. Between 54 and 64 bottles of each are still in the warehouse, all of which brings us to this morning and the rare case of 1%.
Pete, we tried. Check your inbox and your voicemail. We called. We emailed. We texted. Typically, you respond in minutes. This time, not at all. We hope you're sunning yourself at the base of the Grand Canyon, white water rafting down the Colorado. In any case, wherever you are, it's not like we didn't do our best.
2010 Stolpman Vineyards Syrah Originals Estate Santa Ynez Valley
"(from the estate's oldest vines): Bright red-ruby. Blackberry, licorice, wild herb and violet aromas are complemented by strong mineral notes of flint and crushed rock, with a faint meaty quality emerging with air. Dense on entry, then tightly coiled and powerful in the mid-palate, displaying superb definition and lift to its dark berry, floral, black pepper and mineral flavors. Taut in an almost Hermitage way, although this wine suggests limestone in the soil rather than granite. The very long, rising, slow-to-unfold finish suggests that this extremely primary syrah should expand with bottle age and develop gracefully. Tannins are extremely fine-grained, with the slowly building finish leaving the mouth perfumed. This wine impressed me when I first tried it several months ago, and it was even tighter then."
93 points -- International Wine Cellar
2010 Stolpman Vineyards Syrah Hilltops Estate Grown Santa Ynez Valley
"Full ruby-red. Blackberry, bitter chocolate, licorice, crushed stone and mint on the nose, along with a smoky, peppery minerality. Dense and vibrant, with black raspberry, smoke and violet flavors carried by a firm spine of minerals and acidity. Perhaps a bit thicker and richer than the Originals--and sweeter too--but less expressive today. The very fresh, long finish features strong blackberry and bitter chocolate notes and serious but sweet tannins. Needs patience."
92 points -- International Wine Cellar
2010 Stolpman Vineyards Roussanne L'Avion Santa Ynez Valley
"Mint, honeysuckle and nectarine are some of the many notes that flow from this beautifully layered, impeccable wine. The 2010 has great balance and textural finesse. In 2010, the fruit was harvested in mid-November, which is very late. The wine was fermented in new puncheons. I also tasted the 2004 and 2007. While the Avion can age, it isn't clear to me the wine gains much complexity after more than a few years in bottle. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2016. "
92-94 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate