Producing great wines from Stolpman Vineyards is truly a team effort. The family started growing grapes for other wineries over thirty years ago and first produced their own vintage in 2009. The business was founded by Tom and Marilyn Stolpman and is currently run by their son and his wife, Pete and Jessica. The wines from Stolpman are truly handmade with no tractors or mechanization involved in harvesting. The family also uses a generous profit sharing program make everyone involved a true stakeholder.
The vineyards are managed by Rueben and Maria Solorzano. The magazine Wine Enthusiast crowned Rueben “The Grape Whisperer.” A real part of the family, Rueben is the godfather of Pete and Jessica’s boys. Kyle Knapp is a surfing winemaker that survived a shark attack by a Great White in 2008. Thankfully he is still around to make amazing wines between his surf trips up and down the west coast.
The Estate Grown Syrah has long been the flagship of Stolpman Vineyards and is the standard bearer of the entire Ballard Canyon AVA. The cuvee includes grapes from the oldest vines planted throughout the 1990s, as well as the mature high-density vineyards planted in the 2000s. The warm 2020 vintage created an earlier, more compact harvest in September rather than October. The warm weather brings a wonderful juiciness to the wine, with more typical savory elements kept to the periphery. Playing into this vintage profile, the winemakers backed off the whole-cluster fermentation from the typical 50% to 30% to allow the fruit purity to shine brighter.
The limestone “white rock” allows the vineyard manager to withhold irrigation and force the vines to dig deep for moisture. The Stolpman’s refer to Ballard Canyon as the “Tunnel of Love” because of the Pacific air that is sucked through the valley creating cooling daytime breezes combined with enough sunshine to give the vines a “Tropical Tan.” Combining these conditions with minimal rainfall during the growing season and you’ve got all the ingredients for a more concentrated flavor profile in the grapes. The majority of the vines are “own rooted” rather than being grafted onto the rootstock of another varietal.
In the glass, the 2020 Estate Grown Syrah possesses a deep black center with a bright red rim. On the nose, boysenberry fruit sits above black olives. The fine tannins meld into the smooth flesh and carries into the finish already married with bright red acidity. There is just a hint of Syrah wildness adding nuance to the beautiful opaque wall of fruit. It is scrumptious.
Malon says, “This wine made our program not only for the quality in the bottle but the family heritage and dedication to the vineyards. Now on the second generation of Stolpman’s, they continue to be focused on the land and growing great fruit.” We love to showcase wines from lesser known AVAs outside of Napa and Sonoma. People like the Stolpman’s are making incredible wines that are fantastic values. We expect that this Syrah will not be the last wine we pour from this region.