2007 Red Zeppelin Winery ‘Stillman’ Arroyo Seco Clone 877 Syrah

Mission Codename: A Clone of his own

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Secure an exceptional Syrah that shows classic old world style with new world flair.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Stillman Brown

Wine Subject: 2007 Stillman Arroyo Seco Syrah Clone 877

Winemaker: Stillman Brown


Our Operatives love a great Syrah, and they snap them up in record numbers. Today’s Syrah is a delicious and bodacious interpretation of the noble varietal. The popularity of Syrah is undeniable. Big and bold in flavor and texture, it packs a concentrated punch of flavor that many people love. This Rhone varietal, although many believe that the grape originated in the Persia region, is 100% French in lineage. The Syrah grape is directly descendant from the Monduese Blanche and Dureza varietals and is grown worldwide with great success. Today’s delightful Syrah is a big and bold delight with richly dark flavors, deep aromatics and a plush mouth feel. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep and darkest garnet with an inky dark core. Along the edges the color falls off from from ruby to dark pink. Tight clusters of chubby legs move slowly down the side of the glass when swirled

Smell – Fragrant and earthy aromas of ripe red and black fruit including raspberry, smoky blueberry, darkest cherry and blackberry. Hints of musky dark mushroom, toasted oak and vanilla are balanced with a soft sandalwood, spice and pepper

Feel – Light and soft up front, then more round and rich with a smooth dryness. This medium-bodied wine balances its dark tones against it’s brighter and more elegant red fruits. Soft and finely grained tannins, along with bright acidity, beautifully frame the great fruit of this wine

Taste – Classic and richly dark fruit lead the way, with flavors of blackberry, cassis, raspberry and smoky blueberry, with a touch of soft spice, pepper and cigar box. Toasty oak, earthy notes and a touch of vanilla and a hint of anise emerge as it opens up

Finish – Rich and clean, with lingering flavors of it’s fine fruit, soft spice, earth and softly toasted oak last a long time

Conclusion – Listen up, Operative! This is one very special wine. With exquisite fruit, beautifully balanced flavors, delightful feel, deep aromatics and the right amount of balanced acidity, this is a Syrah of great beauty. I love Syrah, and when I taste one this good, I get very excited. Our panel of Spies all agree, this is a fantastic Syrah. We paired our review bottles with hard cheeses, fresh baguette and fresh fruit. Wonderfully delicious!

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Stillman Brown



WINE EDUCATION: I’m a UC Berkeley grad, but my wine education is from the University of Bordeaux (In My Dreams) that is to say, Professor Emile Peynaud’s classic “Knowing And Making Wine” was first published in English in 1984, the year I entered the wine business. I must have read that book at least a dozen times.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Founder and winemaker, Jory Winery: 1986-2003; founder and winemaker, Red Zeppelin Winery, 2003-; founder and winemaker, Stillman Wines, 2001. “Stillman” is my first name, and also my father’s, and I save it for special wines that might not fit into the Red Zeppelin portfolio. Of course, my dad gets free wine as a royalty payment for the use of his name. Ha!

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Start with superior grapes and don’t screw up! In the winery, I’m progressive/scientific. I’m not an additive freak, but I’m certainly not hands-off. Some bugs are great, others are lethal.

SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Syrah. Though I pine for Corton clone Chardonnay and 777 clone Pinot.

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Winning the ‘Syrah Shootout’ at Hospice du Rhone last year, with a wine from a vineyard I planned myself, that had a government-approved label showing the death of Elvis Presley.

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: My annual events, generally acknowledged as the wildest winery parties in California. Yes, you’re invited. (Details at WetZeppelin.com.)

WINEMAKER QUOTE: (shouting) “Turn the press off RIGHT NOW!”


AGENT RED: Greetings, Stillman, or should I call you Swilly? We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Stillman Arroyo Seco Syrah Clone 877 today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

SWILLY: Bonjour!

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

SWILLY: When I was in high school in NY my father was a senior Pepsi exec – stop laughing, we were the only family among the big shots that didn’t have a Pepsi vending machine in the house, we just didn’t like it – and in order to get Pepsi into the USSR, Pepsi agreed to distribute Stolichnaya Vodka in the US. To do that they had to buy a NY company that was also a wine importer, etc etc . . . anyway, there were dinner parties at our house where some really fantastic wines were served. My mother, a native Californian like myself, drank Almaden, but that interested me somewhat less.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

SWILLY: From Peynaud’s book! And by osmosis; drinking and asking questions of other Santa Clara/Santa Cruz Mountain winemakers.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

SWILLY: . See above. Start with superior grapes and don’t screw up! Don’t assume that you can just pick great grapes and crush them, and magically get a great wine that doesn’t need to be looked after.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

SWILLY: There’s definitely no single influence; I learned from everyone from the late Dave Bennion, who founded Ridge, to Adam LaZarre, the Central Coast ubervintner.

RED: How long have you been making wine?

SWILLY: 25 harvests in California, 8 in New Mexico (concurrently). I also have consulted in Arizona.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

SWILLY: Fans, friends, family and fruit flies!

RED: Tell me, what makes the Arroyo Seco, Monterey so special?

SWILLY: Of the coolest areas in California, Arroyo Seco may have the poorest soil; it’s just a huge alluvial fan of gravel and rock. It’s great for Syrah,

RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?

SWILLY: Make absolutely sure that you have the nose and palate for it, and can identify basic characters and flaws that you’ll encounter while making wine.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today

SWILLY: This is a small lot of Syrah that I made from two contiguous vineyards in Arroyo Seco; the vineyard manager and the clone are the same, though. We pick very late in the season – November – but the peculiar situation of Arroyo Seco means that there’s rarely danger of too much rain. I am looking for a concentration of purple fruits – berries and plum – with the signature cool-climate Syrah pepper, and it’s definitely here in this wine, along with a moderate amount of fine and medium tannins for structure and aging. I didn’t use any new barrels, fine, or filter the wine, so I expect a very long life if stored properly. By the way, “Stillman” is my first name, and also my father’s, and I save it for special wines that might not fit into the Red Zeppelin portfolio. Of course, my dad gets free wine as a royalty payment for the use of his name. Ha!

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?


RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know.

SWILLY: That’s tough, because I’m an inveterate babbler; and Facebook has just made it worse. I suspect that everyone who knows me, knows too much about me. But for Wine Spies, I will admit that I like punk rock, regularly go into mosh pits, and have been known to stage dive.

RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

SWILLY: Pinot Noir, which I have planted but don’t currently make.

RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

SWILLY: Parched, with a corkscrew and a large glass. In general, relaxed; even if you’re going to be analytical, it should still be fun.

RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?

SWILLY: Shoot me now.

RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?

SWILLY: Can I come to your party?

Yes. This year’s party is WET ZEPPELIN, from 2 PM to 2 AM on September 25th, in our classic beach town of Cayucos, California. It’s an extravaganza of music and wine, with fantastic bands, food, cage dancing, and costumes (masquerade ball, Elvis, surf or tiki are suggested wear). If it’s not one of the greatest parties you’ve ever been to, we’ll hop off the pier and swim to Easter Island. Well, maybe not. Check out the party poster at http://www.WetZeppelin.com !

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

SWILLY: In the immortal words of Elvis Presley, who showed us the consequence of a wine-free lifestyle, “Thankyouverymuch!”

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