Night harvesting continues in Santa Barbara County. We were struck by the creativity of this picture and wanted to get the story from Peter Stolpman, partner in Stolpman Vineyards. Peter, who recently got married, is a young and dynamic member of the Santa Barbara County wine community. So of course, we had to ask about the wedding, tarantulas, and Stolpman's wine making philosophy.
You can follow the story of the Stolpman Harvest on Facebook and the entire Santa Barbara County harvest using #sbcharvest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Photo credit: Lee Tomkow
This picture has a cool psychedelic feel. Tell us when and where this photo was taken. How many lights do you bring in for night harvesting?
This photo was taken by our 2013 vintage guest photographer Lee Tomkow. He reports that he had to
run to keep up with our full-time vineyard crew, “La Cuadrilla”. The team picked 15 tons of Syrah before dawn yesterday morning, September 19. This photo was taken in Block 1 Syrah.
We utilize custom night-harvesting trailers with bright lights perched above the vine rows. In addition, each member of the 15 person La Cuadrilla wears a personal head lamp. The plentiful light allows us to do specific picks. For instance, we will make up to a dozen passes in our Roussanne blocks, an uneven
ripening varietal. We only pick a few ripe clusters off the vines each night. Nocturnal harvesting allows us to capture a fresh, vibrant fruit profile as the grapes and vines rest in the cool of the night.
You (Peter Stolpman) recently got married at the vineyard. How did you meet your wife Jessica?
Jessica and I met in our corporate training meeting led by Master Sommelier Peter Neptune when we both were hired at Henry Wine Group in early 2007. Jessica had just returned from backpacking through Australia and New Zealand. I was fresh off of working a double-vintage year in 2006, making Shiraz
in Australia for the Southern Hemisphere harvest and then Sangiovese in Italy for the Northern Hemisphere. With two vintages under my belt, I wanted to learn about the wholesale market, and Henry Wine Group had a wonderful international portfolio and offered Peter Neptune’s wine education program. I wasn’t looking forward to an all-day meeting, but when I walked into the room and saw Jessica, being trapped in that conference room for 8 hours didn’t seem so bad. Thanks to the forced captivity that day, Jessica and I soon started dating.
When I moved north to Ballard Canyon in 2009 to take over day-to-day management of Stolpman Vineyards, Jessica landed a job as West Coast Sales Manager for our neighbors to the north, Zaca Mesa Winery. As of our July 27 wedding, Jessica and I have joined families in both marriage and work, and Jessica now devotes her days (and harvest nights) to Stolpman Vineyards.
Because this is your first harvest together as a married couple are you doing anything different this vintage?
This harvest, we wanted to give Jessica a crash course in our unique winemaking methodology, so Jessica spent a week with our Winemaker Sashi Moorman, working crush for our sister Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wineries, Sandhi and Domaine de la Cote. Next, Jessica will handle one of our Syrah lots from night-harvesting through barreling. Guiding the Syrah grapes from picking through native fermentation will give Jessica hands on experience in just how fanatical our pursuit of vineyardcrafted wines really is! In between winemaking training, Jessica is helping me spread the gospel of Stolpman Vineyards wines, leading private tastings and tours. We’re both busy and looking forward to our January honeymoon trip
to Vietnam and Thailand.
How did you get into the wine bs usiness? What is the best advice your dad ever gave you?
My dad founded Stolpman Vineyards in 1990, and its creation has led to the new Ballard Canyon AVA. After attending college at Georgetown, I moved back to Los Angeles in 2004 and began a career in sales management. I felt the vineyard calling me each weekend and would drive up to help out during harvest.
Soon enough, I decided I wanted to quit my day job and become a part of the grand experiment my dad began when I was eight years old. My goal is to ensure the vineyard becomes a multi-generational, sustainable enterprise, and one day watch Sashi’s daughter, Juliet; Ruben’s son Omar; and Jessica and my future children work their butts off growing and making wine!
The best advice Dad has ever given me is to only do what you love, and never let money dictate your career. To this day, I am forever thankful for the opportunity Dad gave me: to run a business purely on passion and make sure that our entire staff feels that drive.
Several Stolpman wines recently received excellent reviews from Antonio Galloni and the Wine Advocate. What is the winemaking philosophy at Stolpman?
Stolpman wines represent “wines of integrity”. Our wines are vineyard crafted by 20 year veteran vineyard manager “grape whisperer” Ruben Solorzano. Sashi Moorman’s job as winemaker is to guide the fruit through to the bottle without manipulating the signature of the land.
Have you seen any tarantulas yet in Ballard Canyon?
Yes! Last weekend there was one big guy crawling across Ballard Canyon Road and another smaller, fury beast on the dirt track across Block 3. I put a picture up on facebook. Tarantulas come out to mate before the cold and rain of winter, so their appearance is a sign to start harvesting, and that we are!