2018 Stolpman “La Cuadrilla” Red Blend, Ballard Canyon, Santa Ynez Valley.
The La Cuadrilla or the the crew’s wine, is a pure California gem from Stolpman with the grapes all coming from the the best parcels, as picked out by their super star vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano at their Ballard Canyon estate in the Santa Ynez Valley near Los Olivos, it is a rotating blend of varietals based around a majority of Syrah with this dense and fruit forward 2018 vintage ending up a unique combination of 70% Syrah, 15% Grenache and 15% Sangiovese. This deep purple red wine, crafted by Kyle Knapp along with his assistant Matt Nocas, who’s come into his own after Stolpman’s long time and founding winemaker Sashi Moorman stepped back from his role here, and the wines have found a new purity of fruit, while retaining the expressive whole cluster style with this latest vintage of La Cuadrilla delivering a power house of black fruit flavors, sweet tannin, a touch of Syrah funky meatiness, spice and a hint of cigar wrapper. The nose is full of crushed vine picked berries, deep florals and hint of espresso before a full bodied performance on the palate that unfolds with olallieberry compote, blackberry coulis, plum, dark currant (leaning on creme de cassis) and kirsch, accented by wild mint, anise, mocha, peppercorns, camphor and lingering pomegranate. This is effortlessly pleasing, especially for Rhone blend lovers and while mainly Syrah this wine is open and warmly supple more in the vein of a Vinsobres, rather than a northern Rhone and the Sangiovese adds an exotic and a vibrant note, though very much in the background, and it might be a more interesting addition either in a few years or maybe in a larger percentage in the future, still this is absolutely delicious stuff, especially good with robust cuisine and I can see it going fantastic with Korean BBQ! This years label features Ruben himself depicted inked up with the La Cuadrilla labels in honor of assistant winemaker Matt Nocas, who has one of the labels tattooed to his own forearm, from what I hear.

The La Cuadrilla is special project for Stolpman Vineyards, as they employ its dedicated, passionate vineyard workers year-round, they were looking for ways to pay them what they are worth and give them a sense of belonging, so in an effort to provide further stability to their families, the crew “La Cuadrilla” receives, as Pete Stolpman says, the profits of their (this) wine. This is something everyone can celebrate and support in the most rewarding way possible by buying and drinking this fabulous bottling, it is great that small family winery can provide this level of give back to their workers. Not only that, the Stolpmans gave the Solorzano and his wife Maria, who feeds and takes care of the crew here, four acres of Limestone hillsides to plant their own estate vineyard, where they have some tasty Mourvedre planted and make a stylish red blend called Para Maria, which can include some interesting Bordeaux varietals as well! The wines at Stolpman, under Peter Stolpman and his wife Jessica, have really evolved and now there are two distinct lines and collections, along with their joint project “Combe” Trousseau(s) with Santa Barbara native and renown Sommelier Raj Parr, with their new So Fresh labels taking on a new dimension and importance here with the Love You Bunches series exploding, especially their light bodied and juicy carbonic maceration Sangiovese. Kyle, who, as the winery mentions, survived a great white shark attack off the coast here in Lompoc, is a rising youthful talent, perfect matching the tone and direction here and again who is excelling in his own right as head winemaker. This vintage of La Cuadrilla saw 80% concrete and 20% stainless steel tank in the fermentation process with native yeasts and aged only in neutral, well seasoned, French oak with its elevage in large 500L Ermitage cask and puncheons to allow for this wine to be as natural an expression of place as possible. As noted above this wine is at its very best with food and friends, it is a wine that always gives a solid performance and a good vibe, it’s also a tasty value.
($24 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

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