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Enjoying Stolpman Syrahs with Lou

October 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Lou was interested in trying a selection of his Stolpman Syrahs for some time.  It was at his house that he first introduced me to the wines of Stolpman by pouring the 2008 L’Avion.  I subsequently purchased the 2009 L’Avion which I enjoyed a bottle of in August.  When Lou brought up Stolpman Syrah as the focus for our gathering I quickly agreed.  With my offer of Salus and Miner Chardonnay our tasting was set.

Stolpman Vineyards, Image by mreidphillips (flickr)

It is rare that we start with beer but I could not resist opening the Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny the Elder.  Almost a year ago Clark told me about how much he enjoyed Pliny the Elder.  I checked the availability in the DC area and there was none to be found.  Suffice to say even Clark’s corner beer store (with several hundred different beers) did not get any in stock until this summer.  Julia monitored the store’s Tweets and eventually it was made available at the limit of one bottle per person!  Fortunately Clark is a good customer and was able to part with a bottle for myself.

Russian River Brewing Company, Pliny the Elder
This double IPA beer was lovely, balanced, delicate with citrus acidity, and easy to drink.  The hops are controlled in this complex beer.  I found it quite refreshing. Thanks Clark!

Aaron and Lou

We drank small glasses of the Pliny while bagging the wines and setting the table.  We then moved outside to tasted the Chardonnays and Syrahs.  As always, the reds were double-decanted a couple of hours prior and all wines were served brown-bagged.  The leftovers were split between us, filled with Private Preserve then tasted the next night or two.  I have listed the wines in the order they were tasted.

I preferred the Salus over the Miner since the later was a bit too loose with too much toast notes.  In terms of the Syrahs Jenn and I preferred the 2005 Hilltops followed by the 2006 Estate, both are amazing!  On the first night I preferred the  2007 Estate over the 2009 Originals but my preferences flip-flopped on the second night.  The 2007 is very young and the 2009 is not giving up much, perhaps a revisit in three  to five years might help my perspective.  As far as for current drinking the 2005 and 2006 are an easy step up.  All of the Stolpman wines were lovely and shared a common floral quality.  I strongly recommend these wines.  The member prices are a good value with the higher-tier Hillside and Originals future-priced in the mid $30s and the others much less.

2007 Miner Family Vineyards, Chardonnay, Wild Yeast, Napa Valley
This wine is 100% Chardonnay that was fermented with wild yeast then aged for 15 months in 70% new French oak.  This medium-bodied wine was softer and creamier in the mouth than the Salus.  There are ample notes of vanilla with a soft and loose delivery, some minerals, then it lets go as wood toast comes out in the finish.  On the second night the creamy texture remained, perhaps a bit more notes of toast, but a nice inky, pervasive note developed. *** Now-2015.

2009 Staglin Family Vineyard, Salus, Estate Chardonnay, Rutherford, Napa Valley
This wine is 100% Chardonnay that was barrel fermented then aged for 11 months in 61% new and 39% used barrels.  This was a tad darker than the Miner with a crisp, clean nose.  It was rich in the mouth but with good acidity, a creamy midpalate, and notes of lemon drop.  On the second night it was quite mouthfilling, well-balanced, and surprisingly fresh. ***(*) Now-2015.

2007 Stolpman Vineyards, Estate Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley
This wine is 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier that were co-fermented.  A tad more purple in color than the 2006.  This was very scented at first.  In the mouth there were crisp, violet flavors, with more tart red flavors throughout.  This savory, salty wine carried fine grain tannins, juicy red fruit, with a little toast and heat towards the finish.  On the second night the wine was quite primary with grapey red fruit.  There was the slightest hint of white pepper.  The fine, spicy tannins made this the most tannic of them all.  This is quite focused and might require many years to open up. ***(*) 2015-2022.

2006 Stolpman Vineyards, Estate Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley
This wine is 85% Syrah and 15% Grenache that were co-fermented.  This was powerful and concentrated.  It effortlessly filled the nose with aromas each time I was about to swallow.  There were clean, floral notes of lavender.  In the mouth the lingering flavors of hard, black fruits mixed with some spice, a wee bit of salivating acidity, a bit more spice, and some tannins.  With air it became a tad inky.  On the second night the nose was darker than the 2007 and fine textured tannins came out midpalate.  This wine was more enthusiastic in personality than the 2005 Hilltops.  Lovely. **** Now-2017.

2009 Stolpman Vineyards, Originals Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley
The inaugural release of the Originals Cuvee is made from 100% Syrah sourced from the oldest vines.  This wine gave the least.  Purple in color and with flavors of tart red fruit mixed with a bit of Christmas spice.  On the second night, it sported the lightest nose but showed more concentrated flavors. **(*) 2015-2019.

2005 Stolpman Vineyards, Hilltops Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from parcels located at the highest elevations of the vineyard.  The wine is aged for 12 months in 100% new French barrels.  After the L’Avion Roussanne is moved from barrel to tank, the Hilltops is racked into the L’Avion barrels which still contain the lees.  The Hilltops is then aged a further 8 months.  This leans towards a garnet color and clearly looked like the oldest of the wines.  This was powerful and integrated with riper fruit, prominent blue flavors, a floral aspect, and richer mouthfeel.  There were herbs and complex, sweet fruit in this denser, meatier wine.  Really quite lovely.  On the second night the nose became more refined and the flavors were still the richest of all the bottles.  On the palate it became almost jammy and had developed chocolate notes.  Quite nice! **** Now-2017.

The Revealed Bottles

Tuesday Night in Seattle

It was bound to happen. I drank beer last night. I even drank more beer than I drank wine. In fact, I tried five or six different beers and only drank one glass of wine. After work Mike and I drove over to Clark and Julia’s house. They pulled out a selection of beers for us to try.  We drank the Hopworks IPA, Workhorse IPA, and the Gordan.  The last two definitely increase in body but balance their alcohol well.

Hopworks Urban Brewery, IPA

Laurelwood Brewing Company, Workhorse IPA

After sampling the beers we drove over to King’s Hardware for dinner. To help digest our burgers and fries we drank the Ninkasi Double Red and Caldera IPA.  I’m not a huge red beer fan but I certainly drank my pint of Ninkasi.  I’ve had the Caldera once before at King’s and once in San Diego, I like it very much.

King's Hardware Homepage, from King's Hardware

The group decided to visit one more place.  With the small bar at Staple & Fancy packed we walked over to Bastille.

The Bar at the Front of Bastille

The front of the restaurant is on the large size for Ballard with a bit more Parisienne decor, better dressed clientelle, and cooler in temperature.  The back room is ample enough, darker, and bit younger with the sports shows on TVs.

Back of Bastille

Julia and Clark joined me in trying the 2010 Saint Cosme, Cotes du Rhone.  At $38 per bottle it seemed like the best “buy” on the wine list.  The wine list is a bit heavily priced in its selection.  There are so many outstanding, affordable French wines that could fill the list as affordable, drinking wines.  The 2010 Saint Cosme is definitely young with ample, fine tannins that are eventually balanced by the fruit after an hour.  I would recommend cellaring this selection for a few years or waiting for Les Deux Albions to hit the Seattle market.

High Altitude Wines in New Mexico

This morning we left the very hot and very humid Washington D.C. area for the mildly hot and relatively humid Albuquerque.  We have been returning to Albuquerque for over a decade but I have only drunk a few wines, other than Gruet, from New Mexico.  The vast majority of these were consumed last year at the St Clair Winery & Bistro near Old Town.  I had one or two decent red wines but those cost a fair amount.  For this trip I decided I would sample some of the wines and beers.  We will also visit a winery or two.

New Mexico is the oldest wine growing region in the country.  During the 17th century Spain forbid the growing of vines in the New World forcing all wine to be imported from Spain.  However there was an exception for missionaries in far off locations.  The first vines were brought in to New Mexico in 1629 and were producing sacramental wine by 1633.  This lasted for a period of 40 years.  Today there are now 42 wineries producing some 700,000 gallons per year.  This area is home to many high altitude vineyards.  Those near Albuquerque lie at 5,500 feet where as wineries such as La Chiripada Winery near Taos are at 6,100 feet.

New Mexican Wine at Whole Foods in Albuquerque

We stopped at the Whole Foods in Albuquerque where I visited the New Mexico section.  I spoke with a wine and beer salesman who recommended the wines on the top shelf.  He said the other wines on the shelf tended towards a sweet style.  In looking at a few of the labels some included a fair amount of cherry wine as well.

Red New Mexican Wine for Research

I grabbed four wines to start off with:

  • 2007 Milagro Vineyards, Cabernet Franc
  • 2007 D.H. Lescombes, Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2008 Gruet, Pinot Noir, Cuvee Gilbert Gruet
  • 2007 Casa Rondena Winery, Meritage

I couldn’t pass up trying some beer so I grabbed a six-pack of Happy Camper IPA.  While I was told that it was a good IPA, I simply could not pass up the very cool packaging.

Happy Camper IPA

And I grabbed one more IPA from Marble Brewery.

Marble Brewery Double IPA

I will post my notes throughout the week.

Starting my research

Enjoy!