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Tom Stolpman celebrating his 60th with friends in his vineyard.

Tom Stolpman celebrating his 60th with friends in his vineyard.

As my friends know, I am a huge fan of Stolpman wines.  Way back before Stolpman had its own label and was just a grower, my boyfriend Jason (now husband) and I would look for the name of the vineyard on wine.  Smart winemakers were buying up the outstanding fruit and turning it into exquisite wine.  When Stolpman started bottling its own wine, we immediately joined the wine club and started attending special events.  We even purchased all the red and rosé wine for our wedding from Stolpman.   Last year we shared a private dinner with Tom and were entertained all evening listening to his stories.  Suffice it to say this wine and winery are very special to me.   Fast forward to 2009 – Jason and I are thrilled to attend Tom’s 60th birthday party in the vineyard.  Tom & wife Marilyn’s son, Peter, put together a birthday bash for Tom complete with live music, wonderful food, bottles and bottles of outstanding wine and friends to share it all.

Peter Stolpman hamming it up for the camera

Peter Stolpman hamming it up for the camera

Jason and I made our way to the vineyard admiring the gorgeous vines along the dusty road to the clearing where party was happening.  As you might imagine Tom’s friends enjoy great wine and food.  After getting a glass of the Stolpman La Coppa Blanc (a blend of Roussanne and Viognier) we struck up a conversation at the cheese table with John from Palos Verdes.  He introduced us to an unbelievably buttery French cheese that he brought up from the Beverly Hills Cheese Shop.  As always our conversation turned to wine and then John said he had a Rafanelli in the car – and we “have to” try it.  I love it when people say things like this to me!  This bottle, a lovely Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon made by a 4th generation winemaking family, was a good indicator of what was in store for us that evening.  John invited us to sit at his table that evening where he proceeded to introduce us to some wonderful wines.  We tasted a 2004 Williams Selyem Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir (flavors of white pepper, black cherries and cola) and the 1997 Forman Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (nose of violets and anise with flavors of dark plum and spice).

Some of the wines that John pulled from his cellar for the party.

Some of the wines that John pulled from his cellar for the party.

Then John opened up an old bottle from his cellar.  It was a 1970 Chateau Latour (Bordeaux – blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot).

1970 Chateau Latour

1970 Chateau Latour

I’ve tasted a handful of wines from the 70’s but they’ve always been disappointing – this wine was a wonderful surprise.  In spite of its age (nearly 40 years old) the wine was well balanced with flavors of cedar, spice and leather and a soft mouth feel.

After the 1970 Chateau Latour, John opened up a 2001 Chateau de Malle Sauternes.

2001 Chateau de Malle Sauternes

2001 Chateau de Malle Sauternes

The wine was the color of honey and sunshine.  With flavors of pineapple, honey and custard it was sweet, but not that cloying, viscous sweetness that is found with many dessert wines.

9 liter bottle of 1997 Tonto Cuvee (one of a kind)

9 liter bottle of 1997 Tonto Cuvee (one of a kind)

John wasn’t the only one who was opening up fabulous wines!  Tom Stolpman brought a one of a kind, salmanazar bottle of 1997 Tonto Cuvee.  A salmanazar is 9 liters – that is equivalent to 12 standard sized bottles.  The Tonto Cuvee (50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Syrah) was made specifically to be auctioned off at the Central Coast Wine Classic.  This wine was a cooperative effort between McKeon-Phillips winery utilizing Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from Rusack Vineyard and Jaffurs Wine Cellars with Syrah fruit from the Stolpman Vineyard.   This wasn’t the only large format bottle – Peter Stolpman managed to open – with help from his father and a couple friends) a large format bottle of of sparkling wine – perfect for toasting Tom
and a picture perfect day in his vineyard.

Waiting for the sparkling wine to be opened...

Waiting for the sparkling wine to be opened...

Can Tom pop the cork?

Can Tom pop the cork?

Maybe if all three of us try?

Maybe if all three of us try?

Peter and Tom Stolpman were eventually able to pop the cork.

Peter and Tom Stolpman were eventually able to pop the cork.

Jason, Tom & Marilyn share a final toast of the evening

Jason, Tom & Marilyn share a final toast of the evening

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