The wines of STEL+MAR evoke that vintage California beach style with a laid-back, fun in the sun attitude. You can almost feel the ocean breeze and hear the surf rolling in as the warm sand envelops your toes. Founded by friends, Chris Noll and Justin Dumitrescu in 2019, STEL+MAR is a modern winery that specializes in single AVA sourced wines that are produced with the purpose of enjoying affordable wine with good food and great friends.

Before launching STEL+MAR, Chris founded a cider brand called Brickworks Cider in 2013, which later became Canada’s top-selling craft cider. A veteran of wine and spirits distribution in the U.S., Chris saw the opportunity in the cider industry and the chance to utilize his connections as an Ontario native to latch onto a new growth sector in the industry. Justin was managing the turnaround of a beauty brand that was founded in the 1960s. Utilizing their sales and branding expertise, they decided to work together on their shared passion for wine.

Justin and Chris went looking for the perfect winemaker to help them achieve their dream.
Philip Zorn, a winemaker for over 35 years, was the perfect fit for their team. Philip was actually preparing to retire. Philip’s plans of lazy days spent playing with his grandkids in the backyard were abruptly put on hold when he got a call from Justin and Chris, two eager and bright-eyed 37 year old Canadians with a crazy idea of shaking up the wine world.

Philip was born in New York City, New York. In 1961, he moved to Berlin, Germany with his family. It was in Germany that Philip first took an interest in wine, inspired by the great German grape varietals Resiling and Gewurztraminer. In 1979, he moved to Bad Kreuznach, a small medieval town one hour from Frankfurt, to study Viticulture (the cultivation and harvesting of grapes) and Enology (the science and study of wine and winemaking) at the Bad Kreuznach Technical School.

While Philip was hard at work studying to become a winemaker, exciting things were happening in California. In 1976, the famous Judgment of Paris took place, where California wines triumphed in a blind tasting over the French rivals, putting California winemaking on the map. Upon graduating in 1984, Philip decided to head towards the exciting action and moved his young family and wife 5,600 miles from Germany to Napa, California! The gamble paid off and Philip was fortunate to work his very first harvest under the guidance of one of California’s greatest wine legends—and fellow native German—Walter Schug. Schug started making wine in 1959, became winemaker at Joseph Phelps in 1973, and eventually founded the eponymous Schug Carneros Estate in 1983; he is often quoted as one of the best winemakers in the history of Napa Valley.

After getting a few harvests under his belt, Philip worked his way up and down the California coast taking head winemaker jobs at famous wineries such as Sunny St. Helena Winery, Gauer Estate in Sonoma, Mountain View Vintners, and Paraiso Springs in Monterey. In 2000, along with a business partner, he created two brands of his own: Waterstone and Mandolin, which he sold in 2016.

Philip’s philosophy as a winemaker is to let the vineyard and grapes speak for the wines. He avoids interfering with the expression of terroir and is careful to ensure that overlays like oak do not overshadow the expression of the fruit. One of Philip’s strongest attributes as a winemaker is finding the right region/vineyard for the right style of wine. STEL+MAR Wines is not limited to a single vineyard in a specific region but rather works with vineyards across the region to find the best grapes for our wines. With over 35 years of experience, Philip’s expertise and relationships have allowed STEL+MAR to produce wines that over-deliver for their price point.

As part of their plan, Justin and Chris wanted to have label art that was innovative and appealing to consumers in a different way than traditional wine labels. After securing their winemaker, they went on the search for an artist who could bring to life the image they wanted to convey. Stephanie Chang was just such an artist. A Toronto-based freelance designer, illustrator, and screen-printer. Her light, airy and colorful designs were able to capture their theme perfectly.  Besides producing her own original art, she has made posters for entertainment like Goldenvoice and Live Nation, as well as creating artwork for bands the likes of Radiohead, Janelle Monae, and Childish Gambino.

Country America
Region California Wine
Appellation California, Lodi

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