Vineyard Manager/Grape Whisperer
Ruben Solorzano, the youngest of 11 children, was born on his family’s Ranchito near the town of Cocula, Jalisco, about two hours Southwest of Guadalajara. Farm life on the Ranchito prepared Ruben for a career in agriculture, but he surprised even his proud older brothers with the speed in which he picked up the subtleties of vine cultivation.
Ruben has managed Stolpman Vineyards since 1994 and is now a full US Citizen and an equity partner in Coastal Vineyard Care Associates. In 2006, the Stolpman’s built a house for Ruben, his wife Lupe, and their two children, nestled between hills of Syrah on the estate.
Ruben never stops thinking about how he can improve the quality of grapes produced at Stolpman Vineyards. From grandiose experiments like Ruben’s Block to trellising modifications unnoticeable to most, Ruben works hand in hand with winemaker Sashi Moorman to make sure the Limestone Hills of Stolpman produce the most dynamic, nuanced, and delicious grapes possible.
2014 Stolpman Sauvignon Blanc, Ballard Canyon
Wine Spectrum 92: The Limestone chalkiness strikes in the mid-palate, following notes of Meyer Lemon, melon, and crisp pear. Drinking deliciously just after early January bottling, this wine appears to be our best Sauvignon Blanc effort yet.
Wine Spectrum 95: A nose of fresh flowers and tangerines spring from the young wine around a core of fuzzy pear. In the mouth the wine coats long and smooth, cleanly finishing with notes of orange blossom and firm yellow peach. The wine has an addictive crunchiness that differentiates it from most other Viogniers. The texture speaks of the 50 degree night when La Cuadrilla hand-picked these taut grapes early in the season.
Wine Spectrum 95: 91% Roussanne and 9% Chardonnay, the 2012 shows weight and richness. From the first whiff, it’s clear that this is a serious white wine. Aged in 100% new French 500L puncheons, the toasted oak is still present but nicely bonded to the lime blossom, white stone fruit, and brûlée flavors. The Chardonnay gives lift and zest to the ripe Roussanne. The wine will continue to integrate over the next year and should have a drinking window through 2018.
Wine Spectrum 95: With a return to moderate, ideal growing conditions after the cooler years of 2010 and 2011, we jumped on the opportunity to craft a L’Avion release of unprecedented quality. To bring the wine to the next level, we declassified an unprecedented volume into the 2012 Stolpman Roussanne, leaving only 550 cases of L’Avion – the lowest production since 2004. Held an additional year after bottling, the rich unfiltered white wine stays true to its signature honey-suckle, pear, golden pineapple, white flower seductiveness. Perhaps the defining factor of 2012 is the brightness the wine carries with it. Despite the warmth of the year, the 2012 shows fresh and balanced. The 2012 L’Avion is a more intense, nuanced, and integrated version of the 2012 Roussanne. Rather than refer to L’Avion as the Estate’s “reserve” Roussanne, we choose to call it the “cherry-picked” selection. When sugars approach the optimal window, La Cuadrilla picks only the grape clusters that appear evenly sun-tanned – the namesake “Rousse” or rust color. The golden skin color denotes concentration of ripe flavors. Being the first clusters to hit the sweet spot, the grapes bound for L’Avion retain acidity to add a naturally zesty finish. The bottle age allows the fruit to flesh out further, and the oak recedes from the nose to the back of the palate. Once again to play into the richness of the wine, we bottle L’Avion unfiltered. In short, 2012 L’Avion reflects our proudest effort in the realm of 100% Roussanne.
2012 Stolpman ‘Estate’ Syrah, Ballard Canyon
Wine Spectrum 94: The wine is darker than previous vintages despite no extra effort to extract skin pigment. The predominant aromas reflect the color in showing primarily black and purple fruits with lighter red on the periphery. If I had to pick an actual smell, I would pin fresh berries over heavy cream. Woodiness lingers behind the attractive perfume integrated through fermenting on dry-farmed stems rather than aging in new oak. As the bottle opens up, more vervy red fruit shines through the nose and the wine gains complexity. To appreciate more of what the 2012 Estate Syrah has to offer, decant or open an hour prior to serving. When I finally get around to tasting the wine, the body flows smoothly through the mouth without rustic textures often present in our young Syrahs. The wine already shows great integration but I sense pent up energy. This wine will further blossom in the coming few years. There is a touch of bloodiness backed by graphite on the finish. Fruit persists long after swallowing and although noticeably dry, the tannins are already fine. 100% Syrah.
Wine Spectrum 95: The deep and enveloping nose spreads out to lighter notes of Blackberry, sage, and toast. As the nose opens up, ripe black cherries appear backed by tobacco. On the palate, the flavor profile is high toned and the wine finishes with excitement. Notes of rosemary behind bright red fruit. The mid-palate will continue to fill in with age promising a decades-long life. The 2012 Hiltops arrives in the new, custom Ballard Canyon Syrah bottle with the words BALLARD CANYON subtly raised in the shoulder of the glass. The debut of the bottle, only used by Ballard Canyon grower-producers for Syrah, happens to coincide with the ideal, even 2012 growing season. 550 cases produced.