Twenty-one years ago, Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non put a block of Syrah at Stolpman Vineyards onto the world stage. Krankl bought most of the fruit that went into the Sine Qua Non Syrah from Stolpman’s “Originals” block in 1995, and then watched as the 95- to 100-point scores rolled in. Others rushed to plant Syrah in Ballard Canyon, earning the tiny Santa Barbara County AVA the crown of King of West Coast Syrah.
The “Originals” blocks planted in 1992 and 1993 are perched at the very top of Stolpman Vineyards. They look directly down onto Jonata, which is owned by the same proprietor as Napa’s Screaming Eagle. For more than two decades, these Syrah vines have been trained to grow without a drop of irrigation. As a result, the root structure is extraordinarily deep, spidering meters into the limestone substrata.
While nearly every Syrah vineyard in Santa Barbara County was irrigated during the warm, Mediterranean-like 2014 vintage, “Grape Whisperer” Ruben Solorzano kept his cool. The Stolpman vineyard manager pushed the older vines to fend for themselves as they struggled to ripen tiny BB-sized berries.
Sugars soured at harvest starting on August 30th, though not excessively so. The rows of “Originals” had blossomed under the Ballard Canyon sun with moderate, warm nights, and were spared any suggestion of dehydration despite the third straight year of drought. While finished alcohol came in at a gentle 14.1%, there was not a sign of desiccation — dark skins, brown seeds, juicy, and loaded with sugar.
To maximize fruit purity, “Originals” is made only from free-run juice; winemaker Sashi Moorman excluded the more tannic press wine from this cuvée. Stolpman’s 2014 “Originals” Syrah from Ballard Canyon is the darkest, lushest, richest, and most Hermitage-like of the three drought vintage bottlings. It’s the most seriously complex Syrah on the coast available anywhere for under $50.
When we saw the Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine come out with a 95-point score, we weren’t surprised. Our tasting back in April with Moorman and Pete Stolpman was still fresh in our minds. We immediately emailed Pete to make sure our promised allocation still stood, and he set our fears to rest — thanks to you and your fellow WineAccess devotees.
Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate hailed the 2014 Stolpman Vineyards Syrah Originals Ballard Canyon as “another outstanding effort” and awarded it 92 points. Galloni followed suit. At $35.99/bottle, this is one of the most complex and hedonistic American reds of the outstanding 2014 vintage. Shipping included on 4. 480 bottles are up for grabs.
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