2012 Stolpman Vineyards "Hilltops" Santa Ynez Valley Syrah (1.5L)
***Three Stars*** It is not easy for a Syrah to be both potent and pretty, but this generous and wonderfully well-focused opus is just that. It is a big wine, to be sure, with plenty of tannin for grip, yet it is not at all coarse or abrasive and its spicy, deeply draughted, distinctly varietal, blackberry fruit is in control from beginning to end. It is composed and constant and shows terrific finishing length, and it is Syrah that will drink beautifully in five years and continue to grow for ten years or more.
Vivid purple. Intensely perfumed bouquet shows textbook syrah aromas of smoky blackberry, blueberry, violet pastille and black olive. Seamless and sweet on the palate, with energetic dark berry compote flavors and an exotic floral pastille quality that gains power in the glass. Puts on weight with aeration and finishes very long, with clinging sweetness and slow-building, fully integrated tannins. Peter Stolpman and vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano, who lives with his family in the middle of the estate, took me on a mind-altering tour of the property's vines in mid-August, showing me some of the most ambitious plantings I've yet seen in America. A new site is being planted via provinage, where vine shoots from a "mother vine" are directed back underground to set up their own root system; another section, in full production, is planted via the traditional Cote-Rotie vertical method, with densely planted vines trained on a narrow tripod. Prices here are very fair given the wines' quality. (Josh Raynolds)