Antonio Galloni VINOUS – September 2023

Reviews by Antonio Galloni of VINOUS

September, 2023

The Ojai Vineyard

Adam Tolmach is one of the elder statesmen in Santa Barbara, and yet he possesses a child-like enthusiasm that is palpable. Tolmach certainly isn’t resting on his laurels. A few years ago, Tolmach planted his estate vineyard in Ojai with new bio-types developed at UC Davis that are designed to be resistant to Pierce’s disease. This is fascinating work in uncharted territory. Tolmach also recently acquired the Fe Ciega vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills, which he immediately converted to organic farming and started to redevelop. This year, I thought the Syrahs, Pinots and Chardonnays were especially strong. In fact, Tolmach is among the few producers who really nailed the 2021 Pinot vintage. The wines are delicate and medium in body but not thin. In 2021, the Pinots were vinified with no SO2 at crush and with less extraction than in the past. Stem inclusion is in the 15-25% range. The Syrahs are also terrific, although they seem to garner less attention. Some of the simpler whites struck me as a bit, well, simple. In general, the style here in recent years has trended towards gentler winemaking and softer extractions, which works well for a style that is all about emphasizing freshness and energy.

From Brilliance in Santa Barbara (Sept 2023) by Antonio Galloni


2021 Pinot Noir – Fe Ciega “Devoto”
Drinking window: 2023 – 2031
The 2021 Pinot Nair Fe Ciega [Devoto] shows a darker, more somber side of the vineyard. Black cherry, plum, incense, lavender, licorice and graphite add to an impression of virile intensity. This ample Pinot has an element of mystery that is so beguiling. Give it a year or two in bottle. 95 Points

2020 Syrah Special Bottling – Solomon Hills
Drinking window: 2024 – 2034
Ojai fans will not want to miss the 2020 Syrah Solomon Hills Special Bottling. A bottling of just two barrels, the 2020 is unusually opulent for an Ojai wine, but that style works so well here. Unctuous dark red/plum fruit, lavender, rose petal, spice, licorice, dried flowers and sweet spice all build in the glass. 95 Points

2021 Chardonnay Special Bottling – Puerta Del Mar
Drinking window: 2023 – 2031
The 2021 Chardonnay Special Bottling Puerta del Mar shows what is possible in this site. Rich and dramatic, yet also light on its feet, the 2021 dazzles. Tangerine peel, graphite, mint and white flowers are some of the many notes that grace this superb Chardonnay. Extended time in barrel vis-a-vis the other Chardonnays works wonders here. The 2021 saw 16 months in wood. 94 Points

2021 Pinot Noir – Fe Ciega “Discípulo”
Drinking window: 2023 – 2031
The 2021 Pinot Nair Fe Ciega [Discípulo] is gorgeous and dynamic in the glass. Crushed red berry fruit, blood orange, mint, cinnamon and sweet pipe tobacco are some of the many notes that grace this effusive, wonderfully expressive Pinot. The aromatics are especially intense. Medium in body and full of character, the [Discípulo] is sublime. It’s all about delicacy here. 94 Points

2021 Pinot Noir – Kessler-Haak
Drinking window: 2023 – 2031
The 2021 Pinot Noir Kessler Haak Vineyard is redolent of dark cherry/plum fruit, lavender, menthol, licorice, dried herbs, graphite and cedar. More than anything else, the Kessler Haak impresses with its stature and vertical poise. There’s great depth here, and tons of substance as well. The 2021 was done with [70%] stems, so very much on the higher side, as the lots used for this bottling were mostly those with whole clusters. The rest of the lots were used for the appellation wine. 94 Points

2021 Paseante Noir (Estate Red)
Drinking window: 2023 – 2031
The 2021 Paseante Noir is compelling. A gorgeous melange of dark fruit, leather, tobacco, incense, espresso, grilled herbs and licorice races across the palate. Deep and substantial, with tons of palate presence, the 2021 is super impressive. I have never tasted anything like it, but I suppose that is the point. The dark flavor profile is reminiscent of Syrah, but the tannins are relatively soft for such an intense wine. It will be fascinating to see how this ages. 94 Points

2020 Syrah – John Sebastiano
Drinking window: 2024 – 2034
The 2020 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard is a great example of this site. Dark, ample and full-bodied, the 2020 hits the palate with generous black fruit. Lavender, spice, grilled herbs, menthol, licorice and coffee all build as this full-bodied, wonderfully intense Syrah struts its stuff. 94 Points

2020 Syrah – Bien Nacido
Drinking window: 2024 – 2034
The 2020 Syrah from Bien Nacido Vineyard is a gorgeous, cool-climate Syrah, even in this vintage. Firm tannins and intense peppery notes make a strong opening statement. Wild black cherry, plum, grilled herbs, licorice, incense and tobacco are some of the many notes that develop in the glass This virile, expressive Syrah has so much going on. 94 Points

2018 Henry Daniel
Drinking window: 2024 – 2034
The 2018 Syrah Henry Daniel is a blend from Duvarita, John Sebastiano and Cottonwood Canyon that saw longer elevage in barrel. Dense and quite potent, the 2018 offers tons of depth, along with the complexity of a wine that is now nearly five years old. Inky blue/purplish fruit, creme de cassis, lavender, spice, chocolate, sweet spice and menthol fill out the layers in this compelling, textural Syrah from Adam Tolmach and Ojai. 93 Points

2022 Estate White (Ambulo Blanc/Caminante Blanc)
Drinking window: 2023 – 2028
The 2022 White Estate is terrific. It offers good energy and character. Grassy floral notes are reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc, but the White has a textural feel that is closer to Chardonnay. Bright acids and clean mineral notes extend the finish. This is promising. 92 Points

2021 Pinot Noir – Puerta Del Mar
Drinking window: 2024 – 2031
The 2021 Pinot Noir Puerta del Mar is medium in body, vibrant and full of character. Bright acids and veins of supporting tannin give the Puerta del Mar notable energy that builds with time in the glass. Bright red-toned fruit, rose petal, mint and blood orange show the more vibrant side of Pinot off to great effect. Moreover, the balance here is impeccable. 92 Points

2020 Syrah – Roll Ranch
Drinking window: 2024 – 2034
The 2020 Syrah Roll Ranch is laced with dark red cherry, tobacco, cedar, mint and earthy notes. In this vintage, the Roll Ranch is one of the more aromatic and approachable Syrahs in the range. It offers lovely upfront appeal, if perhaps a bit less seriousness than the other bottlings. Even so, all the elements are very nicely balanced. A closing flourish of red-toned fruit, cedar, tobacco and incense lingers. 92 Points

2021 Syrah – Santa Barbara County
Drinking window: 2023 – 2031
The 2021 Syrah (Santa Barbara County) shows just how compelling this vintage is. A wine of depth and presence, the 2021 offers up generous dark fruit along with complicating floral, savory and peppery notes that add nuance. This mid-weight, dynamic Syrah is positively stellar. Don’t miss it. 92 Points

2022 Viognier – Bien Nacido
Drinking window: 2023 – 2027
The 2022 Viognier Bien Nacido Vineyard is a wine of real distinction and character. There’s plenty of varietal nuance and understated texture, along with the steely tension Adam Tolmach seeks in his wines. This is beautifully done. 91 Points

2021 Barbera – Rich Vineyard
Drinking window: 2023 – 2031
The 2021 Barbera Rich Vineyard is such a joyous wine. I can’t say there is a ton of true varietal character, but the Rich offers plenty of juicy red berry fruit in a refreshing style that can be enjoyed on release. There is a simplicity to the 2021 that is quite genuine. 91 Points