Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pickup Day at Stefania

If it wasn't for Paul Romero, you wouldn't be reading this. A few years ago I began following Paul's postings on the Wine Spectator forums; his enthusiasm for the Santa Cruz Mountains made me realise that it was foolish to spend so much of my time and money in Napa when there was a world-class AVA on my doorstep. Thanks to him I was introduced to several local enthusiasts, read the few available books on the area and started my two Web projects. So when Paul announced that he was officially launching a commercial winery I was one of the first to sign up.

Stefania is named after his wife, business partner and "muse". The first vintage was 2005; they released a Syrah from Eagle Point Ranch in Mendocino and a Cabernet from Uvas Creek in Santa Clara Valley. Through hard work and good fortune (it seems that the harder they work, the luckier they get) Paul and Stefania now manage several small vineyards around the SCM/SCV AVAs, including the former Matteson (now Woodruff) vineyard and recently took over operations at Chaine d'Or, following the retirement of the owner, Jerry Anderson.

You won't see Stefania's wines reviewed by the professional critics. It's not that they doubt the quality of their product, they simply don't want to draw the attention of the "points chasers". They would rather build a client base that comes back each year because they like the wines, which makes a lot of sense. Their mailing list already has a waiting list.

This spring they have released their second vintage of the Syrah as well as a red blend named "Haut Tubbe". The Syrah is amazing; it has an amazingly floral nose backed by dense, spicy fruit. A light touch with the oak and softer tannins mean that although I'm sure this will age nicely I very much doubt that it's going to have the chance. Well priced at $35

The "Haut Tubbe" is a blend of small lots from various vineyards. Although the main component is Cabernet Sauvignon that was footstomped by partygoers (including yours truly) there is also around 20% of Rhone varietals (Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre) mostly from their (housing) estate vineyard, and it's those that really show the most. The wine has plenty of tannin, so I probably won't be popping mine any time soon, though I think it would be interesting to try it in a blind tasting alongside other local "California" designates, such as Cinnabar Mercury Rising, Fogarty Skyline, Roudon-Smith Claret, Silver Mountain "Oscar's Wild" etc. $20.

Small quantities of the wines are available from local restaurants and at Unwined in San Jose, but the bulk is sold to the mailing list. If you're not already signed up, you should certainly look into it.


kenneth said...

DT: I'm sorry we only overlapped by 30 seconds yesterday- but I am glad you caught Paul before he closed up shop for the day.