2011 Stolpman Vineyards Syrah Estate Grown Santa Ynez Valley
Expert Rating
AG 93 points
(Read the full review below)
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Stolpman Vineyards and Antonio Galloni Antonio Galloni Weighs In

When Antonio Galloni, Robert Parker's hand-picked mentee, announced that he had left his post at the Wine Advocate, all hell broke loose. We soon learned the details behind Parker's sale of his business to a Singapore-based investment group. Then, that critic Lisa Perrotti-Brown had been promoted, seemingly heading up the new journalistic team. Finally, we learned that not only had Galloni struck out on his own, but that The Wine Advocate had filed suit against him, presumably designed to stop Galloni's new endeavor in its tracks.

In the end, everyone made nice and the Advocate dropped the suit. Galloni, far and away the most influential and trusted wine expert ever employed by RP, pushed ahead. A few months later, Antonio launched www.antoniogalloni.com.

For years, the winegrowing community of Santa Barbara muttered beneath its breath, suggesting that the Wine Advocate really didn't understand the wines from this chilly coastal quadrant. So, when Parker turned over much of his tasting responsibilities to Galloni in 2011, Antonio was greeted cautiously.

But after Galloni visited each estate, tasting superb 2009s and 2010s in barrel, almost every producer with whom we spoke was not only charmed by Galloni's approach and his thoroughness, but also in the critic's interest in understanding the viticultural challenges of a region that often struggles to eke out two tons per acre.

Yesterday, Galloni published his first report on the extraordinary 2011 vintage in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez and prized Ballard Canyon. Many are no doubt disappointed, as Galloni dropped sub-90pt scores on a bevy of big names. But a few are surely elated, none more so than Pete Stolpman and Sashi Moorman at Stolpman Vineyards.

Moorman fashioned what claims to be "the purest", most deeply-concentrated Estate Syrah in the history of this superstar estate. Purple/black to the rim with explosive aromas of black cherry, mint and anise. The attack is ultra-concentrated and sleek, even as the finished alcohol level barely flirts with 14%. Sashi explained why.

"Let's just say, we got off to a rocky start," Sashi laughed over a 6-course dinner at his house in Lompoc. "The April frost was devastating. We lost almost the entire crop on certain sections of the property in one night. Then came the wind, further retarding maturity. If I had been asked to write a nightmare springtime script, I would have been hard pressed to top this one."

The summer turned wet and cold. In a typical vintage of normal yields, Sashi told us, the Syrah would never have reached full maturity. But with yields down nearly 50% and grapes no larger than mountain blueberries, Stolpman's limestone-strewn vineyards nursed the Syrah to perfect physiological maturity -- marrying juicy natural concentration with scintillating acid backbone.

This is a monumental effort from Moorman and vineyard manager, Ruben Solorzano. Pete Stolpman told us last week, on the eve of Galloni's report, that the Wine Advocate, the International Wine Cellar and Wine Spectator had all come calling, and all were poised to lob on comparable scores. We'll soon see. But in the interim, given Galloni's following among sommeliers and retailers across the country, those reviews will fall on deaf ears. There will be nothing left in the Stolpman cellar.

Tasting Notes

2011 Stolpman Vineyards Syrah Estate Grown Santa Ynez Valley
"Freshly cut flowers, dark red cherries, mint, licorice and violets are alive in the glass in Stolpman's 2011 Syrah Estate. One of the most refined, polished wines I have ever tasted from Stolpman, the 2011 Syrah impresses for its exceptional balance, length and vibrancy. This is a fabulous showing. The low 2011 yields and tiny berries resulted in a wine endowed with fabulous purity."
93 points -- Antonio Galloni, July 16, 2013


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