2012 Stolpman Vineyards 'La Cuadrilla'
Ballard Canyon AVA, California
I discovered this bottle at Vin Chicago several weeks ago and it turned out to be an excellent companion to a long summer evening on the patio. I was familiar with Stolpman Vineyards before I purchased the bottle but their wines are generally above my price range. I wasn’t aware it was a Stolpman wine until I picked it up after the label art caught my eye. I'm proud to admit that interesting labels lure me in just like any other wine consumer.
On a variety of levels, this wine is not the norm for California. It’s from the up-and-coming Ballard Canyon AVA, just north of Santa Barbara. It’s a blend of 4 varietals dominated by Syrah (60%), Sangiovese (20%), Grenache (15%), and Petite Syrah (5%) and profits from the bottle go to their vineyard workers that are employed year-around. Oh yea, it's delicious and wonderfully well-balanced too.
Stolpman has solid sustainability credentials. Their vineyards are organic and dry-farmed (though not certified) and are only a part of the estate's organic acreage, which includes vegetable gardens, fallow land for biodiversity, and olive trees. They utilize native yeast from the vineyard and interfere as little as possible in the winemaking process.
Vibrant purple in the glass. Wonderful nose of white flowers and dark berries. Immensely drinkable; ripe but not sappy. This wine is soft, fresh, and deliciously mouth coating, which could be partly explained by the partial whole cluster fermentation. Classic Syrah flavors of juicy berries, smoke, and herbs are all there. It comes in at 14.5% alcohol but with nary a bite on the finish. If you have the patience, leave some out for an hour or two to aerate. You will be rewarded with a mellowed, elegant wine, one that far exceeds its price tag.