Meet the Vintner: The Hunt Club Steakhouse Toasts Peter Stolpman
Craving some California sunshine? Soak it up at the Hunt Club Steakhouse, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 with some lively Santa Barbara-bred blends, hand-poured by owner Peter Stolpman (interviewed below) and paired with an equally spirited five-course supper by the Hunt Club’s Chef Ryne Harwick. With a penchant for Syrah & Roussane grapes, Stolpman Vineyards deliver organic dry-farmed varietals, world class wines and a truly inspired experience. Reserve your seat via Open Table or by calling 262.245.7000 and savor the rare opportunity to toast our most talented host.
Of your wines, which would you recommend to someone just starting to develop his/her wine palate?
In my experience, American consumers just getting into wine look for fruit-forward, pure wines rather than more complex wines. A lot of our young customers have fallen in love with our Carbonic Sangiovese. Carbonic Fermentation means we allow the whole grape clusters to ferment uncrushed in a sealed tank. The wine ends up very fresh, and without exceedingly dry tannins that new wine drinkers often find unpleasant. The grapes are harvested relatively early to keep refreshing acidity, and also to make the wine light and approachable.
What is unique about the flavor of your wines – particularly what essences do you pick up from the natural surroundings where your grapes grow?
Our entire vineyard is planted on Limestone rock. The Limestone allows for wines with great balance and a mineral flavor in the mid-palate. Combined with Ballard Canyon’s extremely cold nights, all Stolpman wines have a lively brightness to them. I take a lot of pride in this profile as so many modern wines come off flat.
What is the advantage to natural and dry farming?
Withholding irrigation profoundly affects the quality of our wine. Each vine has a memory of fighting through prior years’ growing season without water. Therefore, with every new vintage, the vines grow conservatively and want to ripen only a few small clusters. The vines focus energy on only that tiny crop, making the grapes burst with undiluted flavor.The conventional approach is to irrigate vineyards every week to create a big crop. Keep in mind, most of that water gets consumed by weeds, and farmers then routinely spray herbicides. If a winery wants to shoot for big, opulent wines, the farmer will “green drop” – literally leaving 50-80% of the grapes on the ground early in the season – to allow the vine to concentrate its energy on less fruit, allowing for more sugar accumulation. These grapes are usually out of balance due to the manipulation – we prefer the natural approach of dry farming.
Which is your favorite of your wines? Why?
Year after year, I choose our Originals Syrah. It possesses our signature fresh red fruit, minerality and a smooth, rich mouthfeel. It’s a very serious wine and hits its peak 3-4 years after harvest – the 2013 is just coming into its sweet spot!
Why do you love coming to work each day?
The idea of sustaining our beautiful ranch for future generations keeps me jumping out of bed every morning. As we continue to grow our following around the country, and around the world; our future gets brighter and brighter. Taking over the company from my dad in 2009, in the heart of the recession, taught me never to take the vineyard he planted for granted – and I’m thrilled to watch the company thrive today at every angle – from vineyard health, to wine quality, to how quickly the new vintages sell out. I’m especially proud of the extended family we have built with our full-time vineyard crew (we don’t employ migrant labor), winemaking team, and our tasting room and wine club staff.
Do wines have personality? How so?
Not only do wines have personality, there are many layers. A wine’s personality starts with overarching style. Carbonic Sangiovese is light and fun, and shouldn’t be fussed over – serve it chilled, even throw an ice cube in it! Originals Syrah is much more serious – it should be opened to breathe ahead of time and if possible decanted. Every sip should be considered, taking time to take in the nose, the front palate, the mid palate, and the finish.
Each vintage has a different personality as well. 2010 was cold and windy and the wines were very tight and rough upon release. 2013 was moderately warm and the wines are much friendlier and very approachable.Underneath the broad strokes, our wines are almost all unfiltered and relatively untouched. This means they are going to have moods – they ebb and flow with the lunar cycle, humidity, altitude, you name it.
In that case, what wine do you recommend for a creative? A numbers-cruncher? A chemist?
Alberto Antonini, a famous Italian winemaker, taught me that a great wine is one that can be examined thoughtfully. It’s so complex it brings to light new thoughts and emotions and drinking a bottle might lead to a revelation about one’s life. For me, this idea plays into the mind of a creative and so I have to choose our most complex wine, Originals Syrah, for that group. Number Crunchers need to relax after a long day of spreadsheets so the wine should offer sheer pleasure. Our La Cuadrilla red blend is made for just that, pure fruit with coating richness and a soft finish. The profits of La Cuadrilla are given to our vineyard works, so number crunchers can get a good laugh at us crazy vintners giving our profits away. I find Chemists love to dissect wines so I recommend a really unique wine we make called La Croce. We co-ferment Italian Sangiovese with French Syrah to allow the two very different grapes to integrate and complement each other. There are Sangiovese notes of ripe cherry and firm tannins, while the Syrah lends darker depth and fullness. It’s a wine a chemist could geek out on.
Which of your wines would you pair with some of the Hunt Club’s entrées? What if one just wanted to have a glass at happy hour – what choice then? Happy hour wines should be fun and light – our Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, and Carbonic Sangiovese all fit the bill. Some people just love red wine and drink it for every occasion – in which case – our Para Maria and Cuadrilla wines are downright delicious and can be casually enjoyed. For a great steak - whether it’s a Rib Eye, New York, or Filet Mignon – our Syrahs are the way to go. The wines are bold and rich enough to stand up to beef. They also have the dry tannins to counter protein and make the meat even more delicious. Our Syrahs also pair well with Duck, and even Salmon.
What are your favorite facets about the Hunt Club Steakhouse? Why do you like working with the team there?
I love to partner with restaurants that share our company’s core value: quality before anything else. For us it starts in the vineyard and for the Hunt Club it means sourcing the best ingredients possible – even if that means getting King Salmon from New Zealand. Of course, it’s a bonus that at the Hunt Club, not only are Stolpman wines paired with exquisitely prepared dishes, but the meal is enjoyed in a luxurious setting with a beautiful view.
To view the Feb. 18 menu and featured Stolpman wines, please click here.
Photos provided by Stolpman Vineyards.