Stolpman Vineyards stands proudly as the crown jewel of the Ballard Canyon appellation of Santa Barbara County. This 220 acre estate, planted to over 150 acres of vines, rests directly atop one of the largest limestone outcroppings in the region. The property lies on a series of gently undulating hills that provide a wide range of unique exposures and microclimates which allow for a remarkably extensive spectrum of grape varieties to thrive. Syrah, Roussanne, and Sangiovese are the biggest specialties of the estate, but everything from Sauvignon Blanc to Gamay and even the rare Trousseau grape grow and succeed here. Notably the Stolpman Vineyard is one of the few vineyards in Santa Barbara County that is dry-farmed, and thus it typically produces low yields of highly complex and concentrated fruit.
Led by renowned vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano and dynamic managing partner Peter Stolpman, Stolpman Vineyards is currently crafting some of the most unique and innovative wine in all of California. Their lineup is anchored by a number of muscular yet wonderfully nuanced reds, including some impressively spiced and structured single block Syrah bottlings, but they also offer a wide range of whites in various styles. Additionally Stolpman crafts an extremely unique lineup of Sans Soufre (no sulfer added) natural bottlings, dubbed their "So Fresh" line, which are a series of wonderfully lean, acid driven, and deliciously crushable wines.
Earlier this year we had the opportunity to visit the Stolpman Estate to sit down for a guided tasting through their new 2019 releases and we have nothing but great things to say about what this remarkable team is doing. After arriving a bit early to poke around the vineyard we found our way into Villa Angeli, a large Italian-inspired villa at the center of the property, to sit down and explore some Stolpman wine. Peter Stolpman himself was our tasting guide aided by cameo appearances from his father and Stolpman Vineyards founder Tom Stolpman. Peter walked us through about a dozen wonderful wines which helped provide insight into the capability and potential of the property.
What stood out to us most during this tasting was the Stolpman team's willingness to experiment and take risks. Although they could easily rest on their laurels and continue to put out the same (albeit great) wines year after year, the folks at Stolpman are continually innovating and pushing the envelope in every aspect of their business. To start, their estate vineyard is a treasure trove of unique and experimental farming techniques. Various blocks throughout the property are planted in interesting ways such as ultra-high density vine spacing, interplanted field blends, experimental trellising, and even a crazy own-rooted mother vine experiment. Because of their highly-skilled and dedicated year-round vineyard crew, dubbed "La Cuadrilla", the Stolpman team is actively performing what might be the most revolutionary wine grape farming in the world.
It's no surprise that Stolpman's wines are just as daring and revolutionary as their farming. As we tasted through their zero-sulfur-added "So Fresh" lineup we were absolutely blown away by the character of these absolutely flawless natural wines. By daring to pick for freshness and employing fermentation by carbonic maceration the Stolpman team has managed to create a variety of amazingly flavorful, deliciously crunchy, and remarkably balanced bottlings. We found the wines to be simultaneously serious and unpretentious, containing both lighthearted charm and impressive complexity tied together by a wonderful underlying sense of drinkability. Their more traditional wines are also spectacular, and it could be easily argued that they are producing the best Syrah in Ballard Canyon and beyond.
As we finished the tasting and left we were hit with renewed appreciation for just how great Stolpman Vineyards truly is. While already well established as hallmark central coast producer their constant innovation has them on the path to attain legendary status in no time. The Stolpman team is doing literally everything right, and it would be an injustice to withhold our highest level of praise. Try these wines and you will be blown away just like we were.