Wine Article

2006 Stolpman Roussanne L'Avion

Last edited on 10/28/2009 by fingers
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Stolpman Vineyard's 12 acres of Rousanne, the primary varietal of this wine, represents a significant portion of the 165 total planted acres in all of California. The proprietary name L'Avion (the Airplane in French) refers to the long narrow stretch of land where the Roussanne is grown, once used as an airstrip by local ranchers. The 2006 L'Avion is blend of 90% Roussanne and 10% Viognier. The wine shows a rich soft mouth feel with flavors of tropical fruit and a bouquet of honeysuckle. Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate rated this wine 94 points. 765 cases produced.
2006 was a long vintage due to unusually moderate, cool temperatures. Some vintners in Santa Barbara County picked through the Thanksgiving Holiday into December to achieve desired ripeness. Roussanne is already very late-ripening, and the cool weather in 2006 guaranteed a harvest in mid-November. The Viognier reached adequate ripeness in late September and early October, but Sashi Moorman left a small amount on the vine in order to pick and co-ferment together with the Roussanne. Not only does this increase the overall sugar percentage, but it gives the Roussanne a long continuum of fruit flavor from the Roussanne to the raisined Viognier.
Stolpman Vineyards: Santa Ynez Valley AVA (Ballard Canyon Sub-Zone)
Soil type: Thin Layer of Clay and Shale topsoil over Limestone
Trellis type: VSP
Green harvesting: Never
Bud Break. April 1st-15th.
Machine vs. Handpicking: 100% Handpicked into small, stacking bins to avoid any crushing of the fruit until sorted.
Yield Per Acre: 1.2 Tons per acre
Clones: Tablas Clone 469 and Davis Clone 1
Irrigation: 66% of the vineyard is dry-farmed, young vines are drip irrigated 1-2 times during May.
Organic: 100% organic farming practices. Hawk perches and Owl boxes used to control rodent population. No fungicides, Herbacides, or Pesticides used in vineyard. No added fertilizer. Rotating cover crops.
Varietal breakdown: 97% Roussanne, 3% Viognier
Harvest Dates: Viognier: November 9th 2006, Roussanne: November 13th and 17th 2006
Brix at Harvest: Viognier: 26, Roussanne: 22
Total Acidity: Viognier: 4 grams per liter, Roussanne: 4 grams per liter
pH at Bottling: 3.81
Alcohol % by volume: 14.4%
Maturation: 12-14 Months in new French Taransaud 500 liter Puncheon.
Residual sugar: None
100% Maloactic fermentation
After seeing Red Rhone Varietals excel on the steep limestone hillsides of Stolpman Vineyards, Tom Stolpman decided to experiment with Roussanne in a narrow, straight valley used in the 1930s and 1940s to land the previous’ owners small plane. Hence the Avant-Garde label and name L’Avion “The Airplane”. Because the rows are planted perpendicular to the hillside rows, the “Landing Strip” is easily identified from the hills above. While the topsoil is a bit deeper here than on the hills, the drainage is still excellent, and the moderate winter rainfall in Ballard Canyon never dilutes the crop.
Roussanne ripens very late, and at the Stolpman Estate we typically pick the fruit in mid November with tremendous phenolic ripeness and low sugars. The resulting wine shows a long continuum of fruit flavors, from hints of citrus and pineapple to pear and honeysuckle. It’s golden hue with tinges of green forshadows the lush, rich flavor inside the glass. Depending on the vintage, we will occasionally co-ferment the Roussanne with small amounts of Viognier to expand the aromatic profile of the wine.
After pressing, the wine is fermented in 100% new 500 liter French oak puncheons. After the completion of fermentation, malolatic fermentation is allowed to occur naturally, usually commencing in the late Spring and finishing by the beginning of Summer. Our Roussanne is seldom racked to preserve the anti-oxidates in the lees. This keeps the Roussanne, which has a tendency to oxidize, fresh through its elevage. Battonage (lees stirring) is kept to a minimum. The Sur Lee aging adds to the viscous mouth-feel and lingering texture.
Roussanne is grown in California solely on a boutique level as mass producers have focused on more popular white varietals. The team at Stolpman sees great potential for Roussanne because of its beautiful aromatics, complex fruit flavors, and full bodied weight. L’Avion is concentrated enough to be complimented by new French Oak, not overpowered by it. We feel that Roussanne is the most delicious and interesting of the Rhone white varietals and is best suited for our Ballard Canyon vineyard. Viognier grows on the vineyard solely to serve as a blending agent for our Syrah and sometimes for our Roussanne.
Many red wine drinkers tell us that L’Avion is their favorite white, and the golden-hued wine often surprises people who normally stay away from whites. This is most likely because L’Avion behaves like a red wine. It needs over a year in oak to integrate; and then several months in bottle to settle; and after opening, L’Avion evolves and develops in the glass. L’Avion also proves to convert ardent chardonnay lovers with its beautiful fruit, rich viscous texture, and oak backbone.