“The Best Wines to Date from Stolpman”
Last August, Robert Parker’s longtime California reviewer, Jeb Dunnuck, called the 2016 Stolpman Estate Syrah, “ripe, sexy and polished,” and among “the best wines to date from Stolpman Vineyards.” It’s no surprise, given the talent behind this bottle. The tag team of consulting winemaker Sashi Moorman (Ojai, Domaine de la Cote, and Evening Lands) and vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano — Wine Enthusiast’s “grape whisperer” — crafted a terrifically ripe, and beautifully compact expression of Syrah whose explosive fruit and seductive texture suggests a much higher price point. $30 from the winery, at $24 today from Wine Access — this is a stunning value.
Jeb Dunnuck went on to call the 2016 Estate Syrah Ballard Canyon a “charmer to drink in its youth,” but also hailed it’s “terrific tannin quality,” suggesting a wealth of cellaring potential. True to the philosophy of founder Tom Stolpman, the wine begins in the vineyard, where Ruben Solorzano dry-farms the pristine Syrah vines, rooted in Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon. By the time Sashi Moorman takes over in the cellar, Syrah berries are exploding with flavor, delivering the kind of Holy Grail dark-berry concentration you’d expect from Hermitage. Moorman then applies the same deft precision he picked up at The Ojai Vineyard, using explicitly “free-run” juice prior to pressing.
Ballard Canyon is home to many of California’s best Rhône-styled wines, and Solorzano is the AVA’s hardest working man. He’s also a night owl, taking advantage of Santa Barbara’s chilly nights to harvest nocturnally and preserve the berries’ scintillating acid vibrancy. Equipped with a headlamp and a smile, he presides over dry-farmed, head-pruned vines that call to mind the northern Rhône slopes of Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage.
Solorzano and Moorman played the 2016 vintage in Ballard Canyon perfectly. Any California winemaker will tell you that the defining event of the vintage was a severe heat spike in late September. Those who harvested after had to contend with accumulated sugars and lower acids. Those who picked before were treated to BB-sized berries of exquisite brightness and a suave density guaranteeing excellent cellaring potential. Solorzano and Moorman were among the early birds. The 2016 Stolpman Estate Syrah is a powerful yet nuanced expression of the Central Coast; one that can be enjoyed now or for years to come.
Editor-in-Chief, Wine Access