Disclaimer: The Stolpman wines reviewed here were provided to us as samples.
Tom and Marilyn Stolpman purchased the land on which their vineyards sit in 1990. Since 2009 their son, Pete, has taken over running the vineyard.
The vineyard is in the Ballard Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara Wine Country. In 1974 Gene Hallock founded the AVA’s eponymous vineyard. Ballard Canyon’s speciality is Syrah; which is reflected in the wines we sampled for this article. Over half of the land under vines grows Syrah. Other Rhone varieties account for another 30% of the plantings.
Stolpman So Fresh
The wines we tasted were part of Stolpman’s “So Fresh” line. All of these wines share the same creative approach. The grapes are harvested early. The winemaker uses native yeast, whole-cluster fermentation uncrushed in a sealed tank, and no added sulphur. The result are wines released young and not intended for laying down and aging.
Love You Bunches
Regular readers of this blog will know that Amber’s favourite varietal is Sangiovese. Thus the first of the Stolpman wines we drank was the 2020 Sangiovese. It is unusual to release a red wine in the year after harvest. The exception that springs to mind is Beaujolais Nouveau. Like that wine, it is recommended that you lightly chill “Love You Bunches”
The wine was light and translucent in the glass. The colour matching the hue of a can of cherry cola. The nose had aromas of cherry, sea air, and a hint of meat. Lively and fresh with a clean acidity. Flavours of bright cherry and cola. It was only in the finish that a light dusting of tannins arose to contrast with the zing of fruit and acid. An intriguing wine, but not at the expense of being a delightful drink. Once the weather warms, this will be a great chilled wine to enjoy on the patio on a lazy afternoon.
Syrah So Hot
Syrah is a thick skinned grape. That contributes to Syrah’s typical heavy body and distinct tannins. As with the Sangiovese, the “So Fresh” Syrah uses whole clusters and this reduces the impact of those skins. Combined with an early harvest and fermenting without Oxygen results in a fresh delicate wine.
The wine was dark red and slightly translucent. The nose offered notes of sour cherry, eucalyptus, cloves, cranberry, with a slight musky backdrop. An intriguing nose. There was a touch of sparkle on the tongue. The wine was acid driven – fresh and light in a way I would not associate with this varietal. Cherry, cranberry, and baking spices provided the fresh and savoury heart of this wine. A raspberry sweetness offered the hint of sweetness.
I enjoyed the unusual personalities of these Stolpman wines. If forced to pick a favourite it would be this one.
The French AOC of Côte-Rôtie makes red wines from Syrah co-fermented with Viognier. Stolpman use the same approach for their Crunchy Rôastie wine. Once more an early harvest for these grapes leads to hight acidity and low alcohol (12.5%).
The wine offered a big nose of red fruit and water soaked loam. The flavour was lush fruit with sparkling tannins. The finish was not overlong but emphaiszed tart notes of cranberry. The contrast between the initial lush fruit and bitter notes in the finish made this distinct from the Syrah So Hot.
Own Rooted Field Blend
As with the two Syrah based blends, this was a 2019 vintage. It is blend of 40% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, and 30% Grenache. It is marked by a higher alcohol content than the other wines in the series. Granted, 14.1% is not high for California wines.
The wine was dark garnet and not quite opaque in the glass. Its nose was funky. Once it had rested in the glass notes of cranberry over ripe blackberry and a hint of spice emerged. There was a sparkle on the front of the tongue. Bright fruits of cherry, red-currant, and raspberry were supported by black-tea tannins. In the finish a hint of copper was present.
The “So Fresh” name is appropriate. These wines shared a brightness while each bringing something of their own to the tasting. Describing wine as different or interesting can sound like a criticism. Here, however, I mean it as a positive. These wines bring positive creativity in each bottle.
You can buy the wines from the Stolpman website