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When Tom Stolpman purchased the land that is now Stolpman Vineyards, he declared that if his dream of owning a vineyard was to come true, it would not be on the backs of people being taken advantage of. He asked vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano to employ our vineyard workers year-round, so the team members could have a steady job, a career, and raise their families with security.
Ruben Solorzano took Tom’s idea a step further: he aimed to further engage our workers. He wanted our crew members to learn the lifecycle of the vine and become engaged and passionate about their work.
A man of action, Ruben started a training program in which he gave one Cuadra - a small vineyard block - to his team so they would take responsibility for their land. Each crew member became the farmer rather than just the worker. A few years later, once the crew had independently mastered vineyard management, Ruben revealed his grand experiment to Mr. Stolpman. Thrilled, Tom declared that all of the wine made from the crew’s training Cuadra would be given to the team members for their own consumption. Having the self-titled wine at the dinner table served as both a source of pride and a chance to appreciate fine wine, the fruits of the crew’s labor!
Beginning with the 2009 vintage, we expanded the Cuadrilla program to blend in more wine from the vineyard in addition to the training Cuadra. Today, 10% of the vineyard’s production goes into the blend. The profits are returned to the crew members, divided by seniority, in the form of a year-end bonus.
Because Ruben rotates the Cuadra to a different area of the vineyard each year, the blend of La Cuadrilla changes each vintage. Inspired by the perpetual change and innovation, creative director Kari Crist designs a new black and white image for each vintage’s release. The photos always relate to the Cuadrilla members.
Since Ruben’s face appeared on one of the first artist series La Cuadrilla labels, we’ve each had our favorites. But assistant winemaker Matt Nocas took his enthusiasm to a new level when he arrived back from vacation with the 2015 label tattooed down the length of his forearm.
Matt debuted his new ink to Ruben and I at the Lompoc winery, and I saw a near reverential level of respect emerge on Ruben’s face. He immediately stated, “OK, I will get the next label tattooed”.
With the tattoo in mind, Kari designed the 2016 label to be Ruben’s spirit animal. The hawk floating in the wind above Ballard Canyon, all-seeing. In tune with nature and the vines, a full moon and waning moon adorn either wing, with picking shears in the body.
Ruben sent us a photo of his “ink” from Mexico, and it was a horrible, obviously henna version of Kari’s beautiful Hawk. We realized Ruben had no real intention of getting the label tattooed. As his niece Emely explained, neither Ruben, nor any of his 10 older brothers and sisters, have a single tattoo between them – and with their conservative, rural upbringing, that wasn’t about to change. So, with the 2018 La Cuadrilla, we decided to give Ruben the tattoos he promised! Every tattoo represents either a past label or a 'Cuadrilla' ideology.
The regular bottling will be released in April of 2020, but we bottled our favorite sub-lot of the blend into larger 1.5 Liter bottles. We call this special limited run of magnums, 'El Padrino de la Cuadrilla'. The larger bottles will guarantee the wine, and Ruben’s tattoos, will live with us for the rest of our lives. And, the larger bottle allows us to make tattooed Ruben even larger and more beautiful!
El Padrino de la Cuadrilla bursts with red fruit, spice, and mint. The robust, firm fruit gives way to a happy, soft, plushness in the mid-palate and finish. Certainly dense and coating, but with an elevated, high-toned profile that can be enjoyed now or when we are all very old.
The wine possesses a happy warmth and Christmas-time baking spices intermixed with its twinkling red energy. This wine brings me back to the 2010 holidays in Jalisco!
*PLEASE NOTE* This is a 1.5L Magnum of 'El Padrino de la Cuadrilla' . The 750mL bottling will be released in Spring 2020. (The Blend : 70% Syrah / 15% Grenache / 15% Sangiovese)
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