I’ve known Stillman Brown since he was knee high to an ass-hopper; by which I mean, before he decided he was straight.
See, I can make stupid jokes like that about Stillman Brown (no relation to Encyclopedia, Ford Madox or Charlie), not because he is as thick-skinned as his syrah and not because he simply grins and bears it; not because he is used to it and not because he is slightly ‘challenged’ and appreciates any attention given him by someone like me who, with all candor, is not named Brown and has won three consecutive Nobel prizes in hootchology.
But rather, it’s because I know that he knows that I know that at the core of the connection, Stillman is a hell of a winemaker.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, I Present Exhibit A: Stillman Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, 2011, about $50:
Sirah/syrah comes from a parallel universe in which Doris Day was never born; it is a sort of Prince and the Pauper blend. Whereas the grape names are similar, there is likely no genetic connection between them. Petite Sirah is the pauper—rustically tannic and bumpkinly sweet, while Syrah is the Prince—although not listed among the six French ‘noble grape’ varieties, syrah produces wines of great depth and elegance. Together, blended correctly (as this one is), they produce a wine that reveals the best of both worlds: Dusky yet bright, filled with fruit, spice and a sensuous sort of carnality. Generally these wines require some age time and always, air time after the bottle is opened.
Even so, Stillman Brown claims that his father, Stillman Brown (no relation to Joe E., Helen Gurley or Alton) still has to explain his son’s wine to friends. Of course, what he likely means is that he has to explain his son’s wine labels to friends—evidence is his apparent joy and relief at this label: Quite handsome—even genteel—and without a single outrageous pun.
Stillman, however, is not to be forgiven for his insulting and mean-spirited tasting notes in which he makes fun of wolverine jerky. The wolverine is our Michigan State Weasel, and wolverine jerky is our Michigan State Sliced Marinated Dried Mustelid Flesh.
Exhibit B, Your Honor: Stillman ‘Deep Purple’ Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, NV, around $50:
Keeping Stillman Brown away from mid-Seventies band puns after a few labels is like trying to keep Lindsay Lohan away from eight-balls after a few interventions. Thus, the excruciatingly painfully named ‘Deep Purple’ conjures up less ‘the color purple’ and more ‘hair, heavy metal and hard rocks’—shit you probably don’t want to find in your petite sirah.
Nonetheless, the wine itself (another sirah/syrah) makes everything bad and cutesy go away: It is a genuine grownup gem: Clean and shiny with purplish/blue reflexes and ripped with tannic muscle. Behind the black currant, blueberry and blackberry notes lies a layered infrastructure of coffee and charcoal with hints of camphor. The tannins are so big that without a bit of age, they may clash with your heart, but say ‘yes’ and kiss the wine anyway.
Damn, now he’s got me doing it.
Exhibit C, Your Majesty: Chateau d’Abalone, Viognier, Paso Robles, 2012, around $40:
So, as a moderator to the big’ns, Stillman Brown tosses in a lyrical and textured viognier—another riveting, ravishing (if recurrently recondite) Rhône reputable. Under Stillman’s scrutiny, the varietal releases the whole enchilada of fruit and flowers—honeysuckle and apricot primarily, with sweet licorice, peach and lychee in mid-palate and ginger to linger. (BTW, even though they should, those last two words don’t rhyme. Go figure.)
So, to conclude my case, even though case-wise, Stillman Brown produces but a trickle, in my opinion, he is making some of the most stunningly complex wines in Paso Robles.
And I would have no reason to brown nose (no relation to H. Rap, Cleveland or that dude whose body lies moldering in the grave), now would I?
Peg leg, peg leg!