2011 Stolpman Vineyards Syrah Originals Estate Santa Ynez Valley
Expert Rating
AG 94 points
(Read the full review below)
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Stolpman Vineyards and Winemaker Sashi Moorman A 94-Point Roller Coaster in Ballard Canyon

In the 1970s and 1980s, Bordeaux chateaux struggled to bring their late-maturing varieties to ripeness. For every great vintage like 1982 and 1985, there were clunkers -- 1972, 1974 and 1984. In Tuscany, even the most revered names in Montalcino were often punished by Sangiovese's caprice, putting out thin, acidic Brunelli that lacked the red fruit velour for which the appellation is so well-known today.

As the new millennium approached, winegrowers responded to high scores from The Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator, and pushed the envelope on maturity. After Robert Parker showered a string of 100-point ratings on the 2000 vintage in Bordeaux, wines across the globe grew darker, jammier and more alcoholic.

But as many would observe over the next decade, weather patterns were changing, providing for roller-coaster growing seasons full of hair-raising thrills. A handful of young winemakers on the California coast began championing more balanced wines. Farming became more rigorous, and yields were trimmed to maximize early maturity, in the belief that short crops and cooler growing seasons would make for the most stunning wines.

On Sonoma Coast, it would be Duncan Meyers and Nathan Roberts at Arnot-Roberts who stunned critics and collectors with their northern Rhone-styled Syrahs. In Santa Cruz, high-flying Rhys inspired 95-point songs of praise. Three hours south, on the limestone hillsides of Ballard Canyon, Sashi Moorman at Stolpman Vineyards became Santa Barbara's Cote Rotie poster boy.

Antonio Galloni, Robert Parker's hand-picked protege, provided an excellent overview of the 2011 vintage in Santa Barbara on his new online publication Vinous (www.vinousmedia.com). Galloni offers a detailed account of one of the most dramatic summers in California grape-growing history, one that began with a horrific Spring frost that trimmed yields by nearly 60%! On the undulating limestone hillsides of Ballard Canyon, the Stolpmans barely eked out two tons per acre of light, small berry clusters. At harvest, sugars were modest, but the fruit was marvelously sweet and pert. pH was electrifyingly low.

When we asked Sashi to evaluate the vintage, the confident young winemaker told all: "From a balance-sheet perspective, 2011 was a nightmare. But qualitatively, the harvest was exactly what all of us dream about, but one that Nature rarely delivers."

Antonio Galloni was even more euphoric than Moorman.

The 2011 Stolpman Vineyards "Originals" is one of the most extraordinary Syrahs ever to come off this world-class property. Deep purple/black in color with plush aromas of crushed blackberry, Indian spice and black pepper. Galloni described its taste this way: "Savory herbs, black fruit, graphite and olives flow through to an intense finish supported by plenty of structure." That mouthful was enough to justify 94 points -- the highest score garnered by an under-$28 Syrah in five years by Galloni, Parker, or any other Wine Advocate critic.

Tasting Notes

2011 Stolpman Vineyards Syrah Originals Estate Santa Ynez Valley
"The 2011 Syrah Originals emerges from a parcel originally planted with Bordeaux varieties that was subsequently regrafted with Syrah. Savory herbs, black fruit, graphite and olives flow through to an intense finish supported by plenty of structure. Stylistically, the Originals is a bit darker and richer than the Estate. Winemaker Sashi Moorman used 60% whole clusters here."
94 points -- Antonio Galloni, vinousmedia.com


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