Handmade wines since 1983.



Stephen Tanzer's
International Wine Cellar

The Ojai Vineyard

By Josh Raynolds

Adam Tolmach told me that he thinks that vintage 2010 is about freshness. "The pHs were low across the board and so we got great energy in the wines, which will allow them to age. The pinot in 2010 gave very small berries, so we have lots of good fruit tannins to go with the bright fruit, so there's another boost to their ability to age." An ongoing issue with too many New World growers is their addiction to water, he said. "You have to be willing to turn off the irrigation because otherwise your vines are too happy, and happy vines give vegetal character." As we usually do, we discussed Tolmach's aim to produce "balanced and fresh wines that are a pleasure instead of a chore to drink." He told me that he said he is aiming for lower yields and lower sugars but not by picking too early. Doing that gives too much greenness and tartness." On the flip side, Tolmach thinks that "if you have to adjust acidity it simply means that you didn't harvest right."

Click on the links to access the product in the online store

2010 The Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay Santa Barbara County

($26) Light yellow. Vibrant aromas of pear and lemon zest, with jasmine and green tea nuances adding complexity. Displays an array of crisp citrus and orchard fruit flavors, picking up deeper melon and anise qualities with air. Floral and spice notes linger on the long, juicy, seamless finish. This wine was made younger vines in the Solomon Hills and Bien Nacido vineyards. 90

2010 The Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley

($30) Pale gold. Highly aromatic bouquet evokes pit fruits, orange and anise, with a floral overtone. Deeply pitched nectarine and citrus zest flavors show a suave blend of richness and energy, picking up spiciness and an herbal nuance with air. Finishes with very good intensity, focus and citrussy persistence, leaving a spicy note behind. 91

2010 The Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley

($33) Light gold. Fragrant aromas of ripe, spice-accented melon and orchard fruits, with suave floral and mineral nuances. Bright and energetic in the mouth, offering flavors of ripe tangerine, honeydew and pear complicated by a sea salt note. Finishes bright and incisive, with excellent focus and lingering spiciness. Tolmach noted that "this is a unique, very windy spot, which mitigates the general warmth of the area." 92

2011 The Ojai Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc McGinley Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley

($28) Green-tinged straw. Strikingly pungent bouquet of pear, lemon, herbs and minerals, complicated by white flowers and anise. Impressively fresh and precise, showing tangy citrus zest and orchard fruit flavors and a sexy floral nuance. Dry and nervy on the finish, which leaves notes of candied lemon and honeysuckle behind. Tolmach told me that he paid $5,000 a ton for this fruit and that he normally pulls 2.5 tons per acre off his parcel of this vineyard but only got 1.5 in 2011. To put things into perspective, most California sauvignon blanc is cropped at 5 to 7 tons per acre, according to Tolmach. 91

2011 The Ojai Vineyard Riesling Kick On Ranch Santa Barbara County

($26) Pale yellow. Expressive bouquet of ripe citrus fruits, white flowers, snap pea and herbs, with a stony overtone. Displays very good intensity, offering zesty lemon, lime and pear flavors and a touch of white pepper. Closes dry and long, with excellent clarity and lingering spiciness. 91

2011 The Ojai Vineyard Rose California

($18) (a blend of syrah, grenache and mourvedre, fermented entirely with whole clusters): Pale pink. Highly perfumed bouquet evokes dried red fruits, rose and musky herbs. Light and tangy on the palate, offering bitter red fruit flavors and a hint of blood orange. Closes with good energy and lift, leaving tart citrus notes behind. 90

2010 The Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Kick On Ranch Santa Barbara County

($44) Light, bright red. Spice-accented aromas and flavors of redcurrant, strawberry and orange pith, with a subtle floral nuance emerging with air. Sappy and sweet in the mouth, offering delicate red berry flavors and a hint of bitter pomegranate. Closes on a firm note, with very good energy and lingering spiciness. 91

2010 The Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Solomon Hills Vineyard Santa Maria Valley

($49) Deep red. Dark berry and cherry aromas gain power with air, picking up notes of licorice and black cardamom. Sweet, concentrated black raspberry and anise flavors provide very good palate coverage and are braced by zesty minerals. Lively for the vintage, this pinot finishes with very good clarity, youthfully firm tannic grip and excellent persistence. Tolmach suggests being patient with this wine. 92 (+?)

2010 The Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley

($44) Full ruby. Intensely aromatic nose evokes cherry, black raspberry, licorice, clove and musky flowers. red- and blackcurrant. Bitter cherry and dark chocolate flavors stain the palate and show very good depth, with a hint of dark chocolate adding a serious touch. Bright minerality firms the broad, chewy, long finish, which features dark berries and candied licorice. Here's another 2010 red wine that deserves patience. 92 (+?)

2010 The Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Sta. Rita Hills

($49) Vivid ruby-red. Raspberry compote and Asian spices on the alluringly perfumed nose, with notes of Asian spices and sandalwood adding complexity. Sweet, sappy and expansive, offering sappy red and dark berry flavors and a silky texture. Gains tension with air but maintains its fruity appeal. The most approachable of these pinots right now, finishing with sweet notes of candied red berries and rose pastille. This sexy wine is very enjoyable today but Tolmach is confident that it will age well. 93

2009 The Ojai Vineyard Syrah Santa Barbara County

($28) (includes a lot of Bien Nacido fruit): Bright purple. Intensely perfumed aromas of blueberry and blackberry preserves, violet and olive, with a spicy undertone. Large-scaled, sweet and penetrating, showing deep dark fruit character and a note of candied flowers. Lush yet vibrant syrah with very good finishing lift and chewy tannins. 91

2008 The Ojai Vineyard Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard California

($44) Inky purple. Pungent cherry, plum and dark berry aromas are complemented by bitter chocolate, licorice, herbs and espresso. Deep and rich on the palate, offering impressively concentrated cherry pit, blackcurrant and candied licorice flavors and a sweet mocha tone on the back. The bright, penetrating, gently tannic finish features a sappy, sweet note of dark berries and very good energy. 92

2008 The Ojai Vineyard Syrah White Hawk Vineyard Santa Barbara County

($44) Inky purple. Powerful, intensely aromatic nose combines cassis, licorice, cured tobacco and black olive. Layered, complex and deep, with spicy blackberry, blueberry and cherry fruit flavors complemented by espresso, violet and candied licorice. Finishes with pungent dark berry flavors and bitter chocolate and mineral notes that build with aeration. 92

2008 The Ojai Vineyard Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley

($44) Bright purple. Spicy black and blue fruits and potpourri on the intensely perfumed nose. A spicy quality gains strength with air and carries onto the palate, adding complexity to the sweet blackberry and cherry compote flavors. Notes of white pepper and candied violet linger on the long, impressively nervy finish. I really like this wine's vibrancy and precision. Tolmach thinks that it's destined for a long, slow evolution in bottle. 93

2008 The Ojai Vineyard Syrah Melville Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills

($44) Bright purple. A heady bouquet displays fresh red fruits, candied flowers, lavender and Asian spices. Velvety and gently sweet, offering intense black raspberry and cherry flavors along with cola and spicecake nuances. A kick of black pepper adds lift to the pliant, persistent finish, which features darker berry and smoke qualities. Owing to its appealingly elegant character, this is delicious right now. 92

2009 The Ojai Vineyard Syrah Solomon Hills Vineyard Special Bottling Santa Maria Valley

(($49) (12.9% alcohol): Opaque ruby. High-pitched aromas of red and dark berry preserves, potpourri and Asian spices, with a bright mineral overtone. Juicy, sharply focused black raspberry and bitter cherry flavors stain the palate but carry no excess weight. This is awfully slow to unfold but shows excellent balance. Finishes elegant and precise, with outstanding clarity and spicy persistence. 93 (+?)

2007 The Ojai Vineyard Syrah Presidio Santa Barbara County

($44) Glass-staining purple. Powerful aromas of cherry, blackberry, smoky minerals and vanilla. Lush and creamy on the palate, offering sweet, liqueur-like dark berry flavors and a jolt of peppery spices. Finishes bright and delineated, with gentle silky tannins coming on late. This flamboyant syrah is delicious right now but has the depth to age. 93

2011 The Ojai Vineyard Riesling Ice Wine Kick On Ranch Santa Barbara

($28) Bright gold. Highly expressive nose evokes fresh apricot, pineapple, brown sugar and chestnut honey, all lifted by a floral overlay. Lush and palate-coating, offering explosive flavors of apricot and peach nectar, orange marmalade, almond and vanilla bean. Finishes smooth and sweet but with bright acidity adding lift and extending the intense pit fruit and floral flavors. The label doesn't state "Ice Wine" but there's a picture on the front label of a barrel with icicles dangling from it. 92

2011 The Ojai Vineyard Riesling Kick On Ranch Special Botrytis Bottling Santa Barbara

($50) (made from fruit harvested on October 14th with "clean botrytis"): Vivid gold. Musky orange pith, pit fruits and candied fig on the nose, complicated by hints of honey and melon. Broad, creamy and expansive, with surprisingly energetic flavors of candied peach, tangerine and jasmine. Graceful and precise for a sweet wine, finishing with very good sappy persistence. 93