2022 Year in Review
TASTING ROOM REPORT
As we look back on 2022, it’s safe to say that it has been an eventful year. We are thrilled to now be a part of the newly designated “SLO Coast” American Viticultural Area (AVA). The creation of the Coastal AVA began as a labor of love for Stolo Vineyards’ partner Maria Stolo Bennetti who initially proposed the designation in 2013. Stolo Bennetti collaborated with fellow members of the SLO Coast Wine Collective and applied for the official designation in July 2017. The AVA was formally approved by the Federal Government in March of 2022. Having a designated AVA helps differentiate the unique terroir and vineyards within its boundaries. Almost all of the vineyards in the SLO Coast AVA are located 6 miles or less from the Pacific Ocean; creating a truly coastal designation exclusive to their cool climate and growing conditions. In 2022, Stolo Vineyards Tasting Room also celebrated its 10th year welcoming guests. We are all happy to see our beautiful location blossom into a community hub utilized for member events, live local music (June thru October), and pilates practice in the mornings.
In the spirit of community building we focused our contributions to local organizations by hosting events for; the Cambria Film Festival, University Women of Cambria, Camp Ocean Pines youth retreat and the Cambria Art and Wine Walk. Stolo Vineyards also served as a stop for the renowned Cambria Scarecrow Festival.
We were extremely honored to be included in one of the main dinner events offered at World of Pinot Noir this year at the Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara. The 3 day event showcases the best Pinot Noir producers from around the globe; including both Grand and special tastings. The dinner focused on three specific producers, including Stolo Vineyards, that best highlighted the newly formed SLO Coast AVA.
The 2022 Vintage will go down as one of the oddest growing seasons in the past decade. The season started out relatively normal. Many vineyards in California took a hard hit in late spring with a devastating frost, causing buds to freeze and effectively lowering yields on the vineyards that were affected. California experienced an unprecedented heat spike in late summer, causing sugars to jump and dehydration in the clusters. Following quickly behind the heat spike was a significant summer storm bringing rain and potential mildew issues. Picking was all over the map this year. Universally, growers were struggling to make the right calls to maintain quality. Overall, quality remained high this year, but yields are down across the board 30-40%.
Here at Stolo we did experience a bit of a frostbite in late spring. The first in 20 years! The heat spike did not affect us much on the coast. We did see warmer days that accelerated our sugars, but we did not experience dehydration. Our vines happily made it through the rains and remained hanging without mildew issues for an additional month. Our quantities are lower this year but our quality is amazing. Our team did an outstanding job navigating a rough season and ending with a beautiful harvest.
In preparation for next year, we have opted for a specifically designed, organic permanent cover crop to increase water holding capacity, re-energize the land, and decrease erosion.
After joining the Stolo team in January 2021, we are now starting to see Director of Winemaking, Rajat Parr’s, unique influence on the Stolo wines. Known for minimal intervention when it comes to winemaking, Raj uses natural fermentation; an approach that incorporates native yeasts that occur naturally in the fruit. Under his direction, we are seeing an increase in the amount of whole cluster fermentation which affects the taste, texture and ageability of the wine.
Additionally, Raj has chosen to use stainless steel fermenters; resulting in more control over oxygenation, temperature and improved retention of the unique characteristics of the grapes. Another change for 2022 vintage has been the use of puncheons, which due to being about twice the size of the typical wine barrel, provide for less surface area per gallon and result in a slower oxidation rate that helps to gently age the wine in order to regain focus and freshness. Assistant winemaker Anna Paredes, who also joined the Stolo team in 2021, says that she appreciates how Parr is “open minded and has a genuine willingness to acknowledge and learn from challenges that are encountered along the way.”
With this viewpoint in mind, the production team, along with the vineyard team, has worked cooperatively and creatively to tackle the 2022 curveballs. All agree that the close knit team, that has developed into lasting friendships, value bringing love and positive energy to the winemaking process. This, we are sure, will be apparent in each 2022 bottle.
NOTE FROM THE WINEMAKER, Rajat Parr
My greatest joy is sharing wines that inspire me. But, it’s not just the wine that fascinates me – it’s also the who, how, and where behind the wine's creation. Every important wine has a strong sense of will and place, and every serious winery shares a desire to find a deeper knowledge of their vineyards; to discover the beauty that lies within the balance of their grapes, soils and climate. I have also discovered that what is consistent in all the wines I admire is the importance of minimal intervention: growing healthy, balanced grapes without the use of chemicals and making and bottling wines without manipulation. The Stolo team's commitment to these principles continues to inspire me while attracting guests with similar interests in wine. Here's to 2023 being even more enjoyable for all...