Antonio Galloni VINOUS – October 2021

Reviews by Antonio Galloni of VINOUS

Tastings from June 2021


2019 Pinot Noir – Kessler Haak Vineyard 

The 2019 Pinot Noir Kessler Haak Vineyard is another positively stellar wine in this range. It offers the freshness and energy of the Sta. Rita Hills, but with an extra degree of fruit richness and power that fills out its frame so well. Red/purplish fruit, lavender, rose petal, spice and menthol build effortlessly over time. All the elements come together so naturally. 96 Points

2018 Syrah – Bien Nacido Vineyard

The 2018 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard is outrageously beautiful and vivid in the glass. Soaring floral and peppery aromatics lead into a core of dark, mysterious fruit. This is a fabulous example of Bien Nacido and its famed Z Block. Readers will find a dense, structured Syrah built for cellaring. The 2018 is stacked and packed. It just needs a few years in bottle to shine. 96 Points

2019 Pinot Noir – Fe Ciega Vineyard

The 2019 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard is fabulous. Bright, effusive and wonderfully deep, the Fe Ciega has it all. Soaring aromatics, sculpted fruit and bright, salivating acids all drive through as the Fe Ciega opens in the glass. The purity of the fruit is just striking. The 2019 is a captivating wine in every way. A touch of whole clusters (10%) adds complexity. Adam Tolmach acquired Fe Ciega in 2020, so this will now be an estate bottling. 95 Points

2019 Chardonnay – Puerta del Mar

The 2019 Chardonnay Puerta del Mar is another fabulous wine in this range. Transparent and nuanced, with striking inner perfume, the 2019 dazzles from start to finish. There is a creaminess and sweetness to the Puerta del Mar that is so compelling. The Puerta del Mar sees a bit more new wood (25%) and longer time in barrel than the other Chardonnays, an approach that works so well. A burst of bright acids and floral notes graces the super-expressive finish. 95 Points

2018 Pinot Noir – Fe Ciega Vineyard Special Bottling

The 2018 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard Special Bottling is a selection of the best barrels in the cellar, which in this case was just two barrels, both new. Rich and layered, the 2018 is laced with red/purplish fruit, new leather menthol and spice. This dense, plush Pinot is going to need a few years to truly blossom. I hope to be able to taste it again, although that is not very likely considering a case production of just 44 cases! 95 Points

2018 Chardonnay – Puerta del Mar Special Bottling

The 2018 Chardonnay Puerta del Mar Special Bottling lives up to its billing. Apricot, chamomile, lemon confit, mint and a kiss of new French oak all build in a super-expressive, creamy, yet mid-weight Chardonnay that hits all the right notes. The Special Bottling takes all the attributes of Puerta del Mar and turns up the volume, but not too much. It is a wine very much built on textural density that shows another facet of the Ojai style. 95 Points

2019 Pinot Noir – Bien Nacido Vineyard

The 2019 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard is dark, potent and impressively structured. Dried herbs, iron, smoke, kirsch and earthy notes give the 2019 its strong, assertive personality. There is plenty of tannic grip, so a few years in bottle will be helpful. Wilder undertones are nicely balanced by the wine’s sheer depth. This is the last vintage from the famed Q block, which has now been ripped out as part of an extensive replant. 94 Points

2019 Grenache – John Sebastiano

The 2019 Grenache John Sebastiano is a real powerhouse. In most vintages, the Grenache is lighter, but in the 2019 readers will find a structured, deep wine that impresses with power and textural intensity. All the Grenache signatures are dialed up in this super-intriguing wine from Adam Tolmach and Fabien Castel. A dollop of whole clusters (14%) add character, without dominating the balance. The Grenache is one of the most impressive wines in this tasting. 94 Points

2019 Sans Soufré Ajoute – John Sebastiano

The 2019 Grenache-Syrah Sans Soufre John Sebastiano is yet another highlight in this range from Ojai. Inky red/purplish fruit, spice, lavender, rose petal and exotic spice notes abound. A wine of real depth and texture, the 2019 impresses right out of the gate. I love the depth and structure here. 94 Points

2019 Chardonnay – Bien Nacido Vineyard

The 2019 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard is such a classic Ojai wine. Bright and effusive, with tons of energy, the 2019 is a model of restraint. Lemon confit, almond and dried flowers all flesh out in a Chardonnay of translucent energy and nuance. All the elements are so well balanced. 94 Points

2018 Syrah – Roll Ranch

The 2018 Syrah Roll Ranch, from a site in Ventura County, offers a fascinating interplay of fruit richness and savory intensity. Black cherry, plum, chocolate, licorice, sage and dried herbs all build in the glass. Whole clusters (73%) add nuance without overpowering the wine. All the elements are so well balanced. The long, substantial finish rounds things out. 94 Points

2018 Syrah – Cottonwood Canyon

A new wine in the range, the 2018 Syrah Cottonwood Canyon emerges from a site in Santa Maria. It marries the fruit richness of Syrah with a good deal of aromatic nuance. Dark red cherry, plum, iron, spice and dried flowers flesh out in the glass. Dense and opulent in its first impression, the Cottonwood Canyon Syrah is a wine of tremendous personality. The tannins are a bit rustic, but my impression is that can be tamed with more vintages under the belt. 94 Points

2018 Syrah – Duvarita Vineyard

The 2018 Syrah Duvarita Vineyard is a bright, finely sculpted wine that shows all of the energy and cut of this coastal site just west of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. It is a bit more linear than the other Syrahs in the range, but not at all in a bad way. Bright acids drive a core of sweet red cherry, iron, plum, dried herbs, mint and licorice. The Duvarita certainly has a lot to offer. 94 Points

2018 Syrah – John Sebastiano

The 2018 Syrah John Sebastiano is a deep, powerful wine that is going to need a few years in bottle to soften, as it is pretty tightly wound at the moment. Blue/purplish fruit, lavender, spice and menthol add a touch of whole cluster savoriness and give the 2018 an exotic quality that is impossible to miss. This is an especially fine rendition. There is so much character here. 93+ Points

2019 Sauvignon Blanc – Presqu’ile

The 2019 Sauvignon Presqu’ile is bright and effusive, with tons of aromatic nuance to match its gracious, lifted personality. Sage, citrus, mint, lemon peel and grapefruit are all laced together in this nervy, taut white. 93 Points

2017 Syrah – Henry Daniel

The 2018 (sic) Syrah Henry Daniel is a blend taken from John Sebastiano and Bien Nacido. The Henry Daniel is deep and layered, with a distinctly red fruited profile. Cherry plum, blood orange, spice, new leather, cedar and mint build in a plush, super-expressive Syrah that is absolutely beguiling. 93 Points

2018 Syrah – Solomon Hills Special Bottling

The 2018 Syrah Solomon Hills Special Bottling is a tiny, three-barrel cuvée that shows just how compelling Syrah is in Santa Barbara County. Deep inky blue/black fruit, dark spice, leather and licorice open first. Hints of blood orange, mint, rose petal and incense follow, adding an exotic quality that is captivating. This classically built, intense Syrah needs at least a few years to fully come together. I hope to have an opportunity to taste it again somewhere down the line. 93 Points

2018 Barbera – Rich Vineyard

The 2018 Barbera Rich Vineyard is a real standout. Take it from someone who does not particularly enjoy Italian variety wines from California. The 2018 Rich Barbera is fabulous. Intensely aromatic and deep, with tons of nuance, the 2018 is so wonderfully expressive. Beams of tannin give energy as well as structure. The 100% whole clusters work so well. 93 Points

2019 Pinot Noir – Puerta del Mar

The 2019 Pinot Noir Puerta del Mar is laced with crushed flowers, sweet red berry, mint, pine and white pepper. This mid-weight, finely sculpted Pinot Noir is long on character as well as personality. This is a decidedly transparent, nuanced style. The Puerta del Mar was done entirely with destemmed fruit. 92 Points

2019 Riesling – Kick On Ranch

The 2019 Riesling Kick On Ranch is a pretty dense wine. This is the first vintage in which half of the juice saw skin contact overnight, while time on the lees was also longer, at around eleven months. That leads to a Riesling of phenolic intensity and drive. I imagine a year or two in bottle will do wonders here, especially in releasing the aromatics. 92 Points

2019 Sauvignon Blanc – McGinley Vineyard

The 2019 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley Vineyard is bright, punchy and full of character. An unusually reserved wine, the Sauvignon Blanc reflects the nature of the cool growing season. Bright acids perk up a core of citrus, orchard fruit and mint. Readers will want to cellar the 2019 for at least a year or two. 92 Points

2019 Syrah – Santa Barbara County

The 2019 Syrah (Santa Barbara County) is a gorgeous appellation-level wine. In 2019, most of the fruit is from John Sebastiano, and includes a bit of Grenache. Blue/purplish fruit, lavender, spice and black pepper open with a bit of time in the glass. This is such an attractive and distinctive wine. 90 Points