Red Zeppelin Winery

2007 Santa Lucia Highlands Riesling


California: Monterey County: Santa Lucia Highlands

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Mission Codename: Rollin from Graceland to Paso

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Acquire a limited allocation of Red Zeppelin’s delicious Santa Lucia Highlands Riesling

Mission Status: Accomplished

Current Winery: Red Zeppelin Winery

Wine Subject: 2007 Santa Lucia Highlands Riesling

Winemaker: Stillman Brown


Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands boasts 5,500 acres of wine grapes and a near-perfect environment for cooler climate varietals, most notably Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which makes up the bulk of the grapes grown in this region, but the climate is also particularly well suited for Riesling. Spanish missionaries first planted grapes here 200 years ago but the 1970s saw a major revival in the region’s viticulture. And in 1991, the region officially became an AVA.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – This lovely wine is crystal clear pale straw yellow that fades to water clear along the edges. When swirled, widely spaced clusters of slow fat legs cling to the side of the glass before creeping down to the wine below.

Smell – Aromatic with clean a steely minerality layered over stone fruit aromas. A hint of emerging classic petrol and is well integrated with the ripe green and yellow apple and orange blossom notes.

Feel – Smooth and fresh, this dry to off-dry wine is medium bodied with bright but balanced acidity and excellent terroir expressive minerality that weaves itself into the finish.

Taste – Bright and focused flavors of peach stone fruit, along with racy green and yellow apple are integrated with a vibrant minerality and a touch of subtle spice and floral honeysuckle.

Finish – Clean with lingering flavors of fresh and tart green fruit. Well defined minerality makes the mouth water for another sip.

Conclusion – The *2007 Red Zeppelin Winery Santa Lucia Highlands Riesling * is a delicious wine that shows off the unique terroir of the region. Fresh and vibrant, classic aromas and flavors that are showing very well right now. Excellent minerality and acidity make this wine very food friendly.

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Stillman Brown



WINE EDUCATION: I’m a UC Berkeley grad, but my wine education is from the University of Bordeaux; 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, preferably from unusual areas, 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 love Riesling, 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.

MORE: My annual events, unquestionably acknowledged as the wildest winery parties in California. Yes, you’re invited. (Details at

WINEMAKER QUOTE: “Lord Almighty, I feel my temperature rising.” Then I turn on the tank’s cooling jacket.


AGENT WHITE: Greetings, Stillman. Glad to have you back, once again. We are pretty much taken with your wines, I hope you know that! This time around, let’s discuss your 2007 Santa Lucia Highlands Riesling.

STILLMAN BROWN: Hola, dude, and thanks!

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

STILLMAN: 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.

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

STILLMAN: From Peynaud’s book, and by osmosis; drinking and asking questions of other Santa Clara/Santa Cruz Mountain winemakers.
WHITE: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

STILLMAN: . See above. Plant something that wasn’t there before, and if it works, you can then start with superior grapes. 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.

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

STILLMAN: 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.

WHITE: How long have you been making wine?

STILLMAN: 26 harvests in California, 8 in New Mexico (concurrently). I also have consulted in Arizona.

WHITE: Who do you make wine for?

STILLMAN: Fans, friends, family and fruit flies. Other winemakers and critics can be in the first category, but only if their palates allow it.

WHITE: Tell me, what makes the Santa Lucia Highlands so special?

STILLMAN: It’s the coolest part of the Monterey appellation. Temperature wise, of course.

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

STILLMAN: Make absolutely sure that you have the nose and palate for it, can identify basic characters and flaws that you’ll encounter, and yet still artistically appreciate great wines.

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

STILLMAN: This is a project that I consulted on for a fellow winemaker, and I liked the wine so much I took some of it and fooled around with it some more (laughs). It’s from a vineyard at the far northern end of the Santa Lucia appellation; on a still night you can hear the gun battles from the gangs of Salinas. It’s planted to Chardonnay, Riesling and a little Gewurztraminer; I left out the Chardonnay, though. It was made entirely in stainless steel, of course; and didn’t ferment quite dry, though it’s drier than many commercial Chardonnays (barely more than half a percent of residual sugar). It’s incredibly well balanced; in the gap between an Aussie warm-climate dry Riesling and a German Spatlese. The aromas and flavors are rich, on the floral/green fruit side rather than petrol/rubber, and the finish is long; the aromas come right back through the palate after you swallow the wine.

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

STILLMAN: Roasted turkey, not to typecast for the holidays or anything . . .

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

STILLMAN: Dude, I’m on Facebook. Everybody knows too much about me . . . okay, I’m overdue for a pedicure.

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

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

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

STILLMAN: Parched, with a corkscrew and a large glass. Not overchilled (the wine or the drinker). In general, relaxed; even if you’re going to be analytical, it should still be fun.

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

STILLMAN: La Tache, I suppose.

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

STILLMAN: When’s your next party?

“Wild Zeppelin” will be in Cayucos from August 11 through 15, 2010; we’re going to spread it out after this year’s “Altamont-By-The-Sea” aka Wet Zeppelin, the wildest party wine country has ever seen. Several hundred people showed up, and after six bands and at least sixty gallons of wine, people were jumping off the pier, climbing on the roof, fighting in and outside the hall, and driving into public buildings. Jealous husbands threw chairs through walls, drunken security guards staggered away, letting yahoos in the back door to steal wine and get in wild mosh pits, with punks climbing on stage until they were kicked off. Large numbers of uniformed officers arrived, and politely suggested that we shut down (with 3 more bands still to go, including the infamous Dread Zeppelin) just before midnight. We raised thousands for our wine and viticulture scholarship, and everyone that didn’t get arrested or taken off in an ambulance had a great time! So of course, we will do even better next year.
See you there!

WHITE: 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!

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

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Stillman Brown, the winemaker at Red Zeppelin Winery can usually be found rocking out in Cayucos, CA.

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

Grown primarily at River Road vineyard, in the northernmost and coolest part of the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Monterey, this all-stainless fermented Riesling is highly aromatic and acidic; while nominally off-dry it has excellent palate balance for dry and sweet palates alike. A small amount of Monterey Gewurztraminer was blended in for additional complexity.

About The Winery:

RED ZEPPELIN WINERY is a small producer of premium and super premium wines, based in Paso Robles California. Founded in 2003, we own and have trademarked the Red Zeppelin names and brands developed by winemaker Stillman Brown at Jory Winery starting in 1991. There are no tasting or facility tours available, however we do hold events including winemaker dinners and truly outrageous parties. The wines are currently distributed in the US and Japan, please see the Contact page (CLICK HERE) for more information.

Red Zeppelin’s development plans include the acquisition of a vineyard and tasting room in northern San Luis Obispo county. Our concentration on low-yielding super-premium cool-climate varietals such as our Syrah and our upcoming Pinot Noir means that we will remain a small, exclusive winery, emphasizing wines of the highest quality and most distinctive personality.

About The Winemaker:

Stillman Brown, a party animal native to California, started as the winemaker of the infamous Jory Winery, which he co-founded in 1984; he originally focused on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the northern Central Coast, particularly exotic and rare clones. He conceived and developed the Red Zeppelin brand for Syrah and other Rhone varietals in the ’90’s, and then along with his new partners started Red Zeppelin as an independent winery in 2003, bringing his winemaking expertise and creative abilities, both of which are considerable. For more information – perhaps too much information – about Stillman please see his “enological party website”

Where did the Red Zeppelin name come from?

My first Red Zeppelin wine was released in 1991, when I was the winemaker at Jory Winery. The name is indeed a pun on the rock band, but it only arrived in my brain after a jetstream of consciousness derailed my train of thought (ha!) about another wine label. Many people seem to think that Bonny Doon was the first California winery to have silly labels. (In fact, Thomas Kruse in neighboring Gilroy was first.) The now-famous Le Cigare Volant label, seen here and first used on a 1984 California Rhone blend, wittily if a bit preciously relates as explanation for its image the tale of the village of Chateauneuf du Pape’s 1953 ordinance banning the landing of UFOs in local vineyards, the purported result of a cigar-shaped “flying saucer” scare. As something of a skeptic in these matters I duly considered the tale, and it seemed to me that those stereotypically excitable Frenchmen were suffering from postwar stress syndrome; indeed, unconsciously recalling an incident from the Great War. The Germans used rigid airships extensively in WW1, though the technology wasn’t up to the mission. One large Zeppelin raid on London was hit by unexpected high winds (perhaps the then-undiscovered jetstream) that blew the dirigibles astray; some crashed in France, one was never found. The crash of a huge airship, filled with hydrogen gas and made of toxic metals, into a valuable vineyard just before harvest would be terrible indeed: explosions, mangled vines and twisted wreckage, the Germans stuffing their faces with Grenache . . . . I saw it all clearly, as through an overfined Marsanne. And then the name came to me: Red Zeppelin. As I was already interested in adding Rhone varietals to our lineup at Jory Winery, I knew I had the name for my new wine. As for the label design, the genius Rick Tharp and I thought we would have a little fun; but that’s a tale for later.

Technical Analysis:

Varietals: 91% Riesling, 9% Gewurztraminer

Alcohol: 13.0%

pH: 3.25

R.S.: 0.6%

Production: 160 cases bottled

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