2010 Stolpman Vineyards Syrah Originals Estate Santa Ynez Valley
 
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Stolpman Vineyards and Winemaker Sashi Moorman Tanzer's Top Under-$30 Red in Twelve Years

When we first received the 2010 vintage report from Sashi Moorman, regardless of our respect for the winemaker and his uber-scored Stolpman Syrahs, we took it with a grain of salt. Winemakers and proprietors have a way of pumping up the stuff they have in inventory, quickly discarding the storyline of the last "miracle vintage" for the next. But during our four-day trip to Los Olivos this spring, we'd listen as, one by one, the top Syrah-makers in America seconded Moorman's opinion.

The tasting at Stolpman, as we reported months ago when we offered Moorman's exquisite 2010 Syrah Estate, was unlike any we'd ever experienced in the Lompoc "Ghetto." As Sashi pointed out in such detail in that first email, 2010 was the coolest growing season he'd ever seen on the limestone hillsides of Stolpman. Absent the heat spikes that often render Syrah almost syrup-like, the 2010 clusters were perfectly ripe and juicy, with none of the shrivel that gives way to hyper-concentration. The top wines would have felt awfully comfortable in a new school Côte-Rôtie or Hermitage taste-off. The baseline Estate Syrah would give the Courbis brothers in St. Joseph all they could ask for.

But, to our palates, in this most extraordinary of Stolpman lineups, it wouldn't be the $85 Angeli that most stole the morning thunder. Nor was it the tiny production "High Density," drawn from the tightly spaced hillside parcel near the picnic table and the old oak tree. The single patch cuvee with which we were most enchanted would be the "Originals" -- aptly describing the oldest vines on the ranch.

Deep purple in color with marvelously lively, primary Côte-Rôtie-like aromas of blackberry and sweet herbs, the attack was at once piercingly concentrated and perfectly focused, packed with juicy red fruit, lithe and muscular without any sign of heavy-handedness. We locked in on the spot, and then sat back, waiting for Steve Tanzer to weigh in.

Over the last three decades, Steve Tanzer has established himself as one of the two most impactful critical wine voices in the world. One of our collector friends, whose cellar features a dozen vintages of Chave Hermitage and Guigal "La Landonne," calls Tanzer "Parker minus 3," alluding to Tanzer's grade-deflating ways. When it comes to Syrah, the Upper East Side critic is particularly harsh -- doling out high scores only to bottles that capture the voluptuous fruit purity of the variety, while subtly walking the tightrope between opulence and tension.

Given its unique coastal makeup, we figured Moorman's 2010 "Originals" would be right up Tanzer's alley. Still, we never imagined a review with adjectives like these coming out of Tanzer:

"The first sip practically shocks the palate with its penetrating, sharply defined flavors of strawberry, crushed cranberry and pungent pepper. While this tightly coiled Syrah perfumes the mouth already, it's still a baby … 93+ points."

How far out on a limb did Tanzer go? Consider: in the last 12 years, not a single under-$30 Syrah IN THE WORLD has outpointed the 2010 "Originals." Even better. Over the same period of time, Tanzer has never rated a similarly priced American red as highly as he rated this one!

But it's "Syrah," some of you might say -- California's nasty five letter word. Ok, go ahead, don't believe us. Don't believe Tanzer. Keep overpaying for bottles that don't hold a candle to Sashi Moorman's "miracle" vintage old vine Syrah. Or, just this once, take a shot on Tanzer's greatest red wine value of this new century -- if only to make you wonder why you've waited so long to discover world class Syrah.

Tasting Notes

2010 Stolpman Vineyards Syrah Originals Estate Santa Ynez Valley
"The nose offers complex aromas of blackberry, violet, crushed rock, licorice and wild mint. The first sip practically shocks the palate with its penetrating, sharply defined flavors of strawberry, crushed cranberry and pungent pepper. While this tightly coiled Syrah perfumes the mouth already, it's still a baby. Its long, rising finish, with utterly fine tannins, suggests that it will expand and gain in complexity with several years of bottle age."
93+ points -- Stephen Tanzer

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