Get the Dirt about Stolo Family Vineyards from Maria Stolo Bennetti

15 Oct

stolovydStolo Family Vineyards & Winery is a welcomed addition to the hidden gem, Cambria CA. The farmhouse & old dairy barn date back to the late 1800’s. With the addition of the new rustic tasting room and winery, visitors are treated with the full winery experience. Stolo Family Vineyards is the only Estate winery, tasting room, and vineyard in Cambria and the surrounding area.

1. What was your first vintage year? 2004.

2. How many cases do you make per vintage? Currently we make 1000 cases from our vineyard in Cambria – all estate.

3. Do you have a Tasting Room? We have a tasting room on our vineyard property in Cambria. We are the only vineyard, winery, and tasting room in the area. We are open daily from 11am-5pm. We offer tastings and wine by the glass and bottle to enjoy at our picnic tables (also cheese and snacks available).

4. If not you, who is your winemaker? Our winemaker is Nicole Bertotti Pope: a Cal Poly Grad and most recently worked at Talley Vineyards as Assistant Winemaker.

5. How did you get your start in the winemaking business? I started to learn about wine while waitressing in San Francisco. I was so intrigued, I started working at a tasting room in Napa and then moved to managing a wine bar/shop in San Francisco. From there, I worked as a broker for small boutique wineries in Napa/Sonoma, representing their wines to restaurants and wine shops in SF. My background lies in sales and marketing.

stolograpesMy parents, Don and Charlene Stolo, purchased the Cambria property in 2002. The original 9 acre vineyard was already planted on the property. As Italian-Americans, Don and Charlene had grown up with wine and food as an integral part of family and celebration.  Having lived in the eastern United States during their childhoods, each have sentimental memories of their grandparents making wine in the basements of their homes from grapes shipped from California.  With these fond memories of family tradition, they decided to follow in their ancestor’s footsteps and start their own boutique label. When they purchased the property, I was brokering at that time. We put together a business plan and decided to make a go of it.

6. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? Not so much a particular wine, but a thirst for knowledge. The more I learned about wine, the more I want to know. I fell in love with the nuances between different regions and different winemaker styles.

7. What varietals do you work with? We grow and make Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. I have 2 favorites: our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. They are so expressive of our vineyard. The Coastal influence on these two is so lovely. It makes me smile every time I have a glass.

8. What vineyards do you source from? If estate, why did you choose the spot you’re in? Our wines are all estate, sourcing from our own 17 acres of planted vines in Cambria. We chose to continue with this spot because of its uniqueness. We are less than 3 miles from the coast making us one of the closest vineyards to the coast in CA. We love coastal wines, the bright acidity and fresh fruit. I particularly love Pinot Noir and this site produces one a fantastic coastal PN.

9. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why? We’ve traditionally used French Oak, usually around 30% on the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah – the percentage depends on the wine and the year. Most recently, Nicole has been experimenting with Hungarian.

stolobottles10. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different special? We are not currently in an AVA – we are kind of the lone wolf out here in Cambria, one of 3 vineyards growing out here. I love the obscurity of our area. I love it when people seek us out and are blown away by the wines we are making out here.

11. What’s the story behind your name/label? Family name, the label has a line drawing on it with three hands holding wine glasses up in a toast. Charlene Stolo drew the label design and it symbolizes her three children who are all involved in the business.

12. What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery? I knew a fair amount going in. I worked with a lot of small wineries in the Napa/Sonoma area before we started our label. I think the one thing that surprised me most was how many different marketing ideas I’ve gotten over the past few years; fun things to do with the label, events, etc that I wish I had the time to execute. Because we are so small, I wear a lot of hats and having the time to execute the “side projects” does not exist, yet. I keep a list and hopefully will get to it.

13. We’re curious…do you even get tired of drinking your own wine? Is it considered bad form to dip into your inventory? I love to try new wines. That was one of the things that drove me headlong into this industry, curiosity about different regions, styles, etc. So I would be bored drinking the same wine over and over again, if it was ours or not.

14. Do you still have a day job? This is my day job that will hopefully bring a salary soon! I look at it like a start-up. It’s a lot of hard work. But passion is the driving force. My husband has a day job that keeps us going! Don Stolo still runs the family cabinet shop in Southern California as well.

For more information about Stolo Family Vineyards, please visit their website or follow them on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

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