July 2013 Ojai Wines reviewed

This is a fabulous set of wines from Ojai. Proprietor & Winemaker Adam Tolmach hit the ball out of the park with a number of these new releases. Frankly, I am not sure where to start, as there are so many wines here that are worthy of serious consideration. Looking at the 2011 whites, they are the product of a very difficult season marked by a spring frost and windy/rainy conditions during the flowering that lowered yields dramatically. Production may be down, but the two 2011 whites I tasted were dazzling. Ojai’s 2010 Pinots are simply breathtaking. Here, too, the wines are a little bit richer and more powerful than is often the case. Suffice it to say I can’t wait to taste the rest of 2010 Syrahs. As always, the Pinots are made in a stripped down manner that includes slow malos, low amounts of new oak and minimal racking, which is typically performed only to prepare the wines for bottling. A heat spike just as the Chardonnay was being picked caused challenges. The fruit that was picked before the heat went into the single-vineyard wines, but the lots that were not brought in on time ended up in the straight Santa Barbara Chardonnay. As a consumer, sometimes it feels there are no great values left in California. Ojai is a rare exception. These wines deliver the goods (and then some) yet remain exceptionally fairly priced. Readers who want to learn more about Ojai might enjoy this recent video covering the 2010 Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Pinots. — Antonio Galloni, Jul 2013

2010 Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Solomon Hills
The 2010 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills is dazzling from the very first taste. Dark red cherries, plums, menthol, tar and licorice take shape in a towering, majestic Pinot that captivates all the senses. Hints of hard candy, crushed rocks and menthol are layered into the nuanced, perfumed finish. This stunning Pinot from Adam Tolmach and Fabien Castel is firing on all cylinders today. It has been fabulous on the two different occasions I tasted it.
98 anticipated maturity 2015 – 2025

2010 Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Bien Nacido
A vivid, totally alive wine, the 2010 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido is absolutely impeccable. Dark cherries, plums, mint, cloves and new leather are some of the many notes that take shape in the glass. The 2010 stands out for its delineation, nuance and breathtaking finesse. Cool veins of minerality support the finish. Next to the Solomon Hills, the Bien Nacido Pinot is a little more savory and aromatically nuanced, while the fruit is less overt. It will be fascinating to compare the two wines as they age in bottle. 97 anticipated maturity 2015 – 2025

2010 Ojai Vineyard Syrah Solomon Hills Special
The 2010 Syrah Solomon Hills Special boasts remarkable fruit density and tons of structure. Readers will have to give the 2010 Syrah Solomon Hills Special at least several years in bottle, as the fruit is huge and the tannins are equally imposing. Black pepper, savory herbs, tobacco and licorice all add complexity on the dramatic, full-bodied finish. This is stunning juice. 96+ anticipated maturity 2015 – 2025

2009 Ojai Vineyard Syrah Bien Nacido
A deep, inky wine, the 2009 Syrah Bien Nacido completely saturates the palate with blue/blackish fruit. Savory notes appear over time, but the 2009 remains dominated by its power, depth and structure. Not a shy wine by any means, the 2009 is going to require at least a few years in bottle, but it is striking, even today. 96 anticipated maturity 2015 – 2025

2008 Ojai Vineyard Syrah Presidio
The 2008 Syrah Presidio is just now beginning to show the early signs of development in its aromas and flavors. Sweet tobacco, grilled herbs, melted road tar and licorice add complexity to a core of dark fruit. At once powerful yet wonderfully nuanced, the 2008 Presidio impresses for its impeccable balance and crystalline, pure finish. This is yet another marvelous showing from Adam Tolmach and Fabien Castel. 95 anticipated maturity 2015 – 2025

2011 Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay Bien Nacido
A juicy, layered Chardonnay, the 2011 Bien Nacido is another drop-dead gorgeous wine. Apricot, peaches, honey and almond notes flesh out on the radiant, expressive finish. The 2011 is rich yet impeccably refined. Adam Tolmach gave the 2011 a few months in oak to soften some of the contours of the vintage, a decision that has paid off in spades. This is another winner from Ojai. 95 anticipated maturity 2014 – 2025

2010 Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Fe Ciega
The 2010 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega comes across a bit bombastic next to the other wines in the range. Waves of dark red fruit and spices hit the palate in a Pinot that is first and foremost about texture. Slightly wild notes run through the Fe Ciega, but not enough to detract from its considerable appeal. I especially like the weight and richness of the finish. 95 anticipated maturity 2015 – 2025

2011 Ojai Vineyard Syrah Sebastiano
An expressive bouquet melds into layers of dark fruit, savory herbs, leather, licorice and tobacco in the 2011 Syrah Sebastiano. Mid-weight and vibrant, the 2011 remains impeccable throughout. Firm tannins support the gorgeous, silky finish. Tasted next to Ojai’s experimental Syrah Sebastiano (No SO2) from the same site, the straight bottling is more aromatically expressive and taut, while the No SO2 bottling has greater depth and roundness in its fruit. How great it would be to put the two together! 95 anticipated maturity 2014 – 2021

2009 Ojai Vineyard Syrah White Hawk
The 2009 Syrah White Hawk is a little more subtle than the Bien Nacido, but, it, too has tons of fruit. Here it is the wine’s structure and sheer power that stand out most. Hints of tobacco, new leather and cedar add complexity on the intense finish. Stylistically, the White Hawk places more importance on varietal aromatics than the Bien Nacido, but it also has just a touch less depth in its fruit, which exposes the tannins a bit more. Still, there is a lot to admire in this outstanding, beautifully crafted Syrah. 95 anticipated maturity 2015 – 2025

2012 Ojai Vineyard Riesling Ice Wine Kick on Ranch
The amber-colored 2012 Riesling Ice Wine Kick On Ranch is laced with orange peel, lychee, burnt sugar, ginger and tropical fruits. An exotic, beguiling wine, the 2012 is pure elegance and finesse. The style is a little bit more overt than the Viognier Ice Wine Roll, but also a bit more nuanced. With time in the glass, the 2012 fleshes out nicely, showing terrific generosity and exceptional overall balance. 94 anticipated maturity 2013 – 2022

2011 Ojai Vineyard Sangiovese White Hawk
The 2011 Sangiovese White Hawk is drop-dead gorgeous. House style and site-specific nuances dominate over true varietal character, but it doesn’t really matter in the end, because the Sangiovese is truly beautiful. The fruit is dark, highly expressive and super-finessed, as is everything else about this wine. Adam Tolmach adds that the malos were very long and the wine was not racked until it was prepared for bottling. 94 anticipated maturity 2013 – 2021

2010 Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay Solomon Hills
Focus and delineation are the hallmarks of the 2010 Chardonnay Solomon Hills. Bright citrus, white flowers, mint and crushed rocks inform a tense, taut Chardonnay loaded with personality. Sweet floral notes add lift in a Chardonnay that is all about weightless precision and impeccable balance. The best qualities of this cool, sandy vineyard come through in spades. 94 anticipated maturity 2013 – 2020

2011 Ojai Vineyard Riesling
Pears, apples, mint and white flowers jump from the glass in the 2011 Riesling. A decidedly creamy, floral-infused wine, the 2011 impresses for its balance and the pure pleasure it provides. The combination of slightly lower yields (-20%) from the poor set and the blocked malo style works beautifully here. 93 anticipated maturity 2013 – 2016

2009 Ojai Vineyard Syrah Roll
The 2009 Syrah Roll shows the distinct personality of this relatively warm site. Waves of blue/blackish fruit, tar, licorice menthol emerge as the voluptuous 2009 Roll shows off its personality. There is plenty of up-front appeal, but just a touch less complexity within the context of the other Syrahs in the range. Adam Tolmach adds that the time between veraison and harvest is on the short side, which may partly explain why the aromatics are a bit less developed here. 93 anticipated maturity 2014 – 2024

2009 Ojai Vineyard Syrah Melville
A distinctly powerful, brooding Syrah, the 2009 Melville is going to need some time to come around. Tar, menthol, graphite, smoke and earthiness all flesh out in the glass over time. This is an especially somber wine from Ojai with considerable gravitas and no shortage of personality. 93 anticipated maturity 2016 – 2025

2005 Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard (Early Harvest)
I find the 2005 Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard (Early Harvest) more interesting than the straight bottling as the aromatics are brighter and more focused, which gives lift and freshness to the wine. Because of its better overall balance, the Early Harvest actually shows better today, and will also likely age better. Freshly cut roses, raspberries and mint add complexity on the subtle, nuanced close. 93 anticipated maturity 2015 – 2023

2010 Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Kick on Ranch
The 2010 Pinot Noir Kick On Ranch jumps from the glass with juicy dark cherries, flowers and mint. Utterly impeccable and layered, the 2010 stands out for its racy, exuberant personality. This is a decidedly big, broad-shouldered Pinot from Ojai, but it all works. 93 anticipated maturity 2014 – 2020

2011 Ojai Vineyard Syrah Sebastiano (No So2)
The 2011 Syrah Sebastiano (No SO2) is soft, supple and juicy, with layers of deeply expressive fruit that resonate off the palate with no end. There is a purity to the 2011 that is striking. It is fascinating to taste the No SO2 bottling next to the regular bottling. Here the fruit is incredibly rich and juicy, but there is less in the way of energy and aromatic complexity. 93 anticipated maturity 2014 – 2021

2010 Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard
Ojai’s 2010 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard comes across as rich, round and supple in this vintage. Lemon, floral-infused honey and Chamomile are some of the nuances that appear over time, but the 2010 is mostly a wine of texture. Floral and mineral notes reappear on the finish, but overall this is a fairly bold style for Ojai. Ideally, readers will give the 2010 another year or two of bottle age as today it is a bit tightly wound despite its considerable depth. 92+ anticipated maturity 2014 – 2020

2012 Ojai Vineyard Viognier Ice Wine Roll Ranch
Honey, chamomile, jasmine, mint and orange peel are some of the many notes that emerge from the 2012 Viognier Ice Wine Roll Ranch. Deep, rich and intense, the 2012 remains light on its feet for a wine with 225 grams of residual sugar. Sweet floral notes add lift on the gorgeous, perfumed finish. 92 anticipated maturity 2013 – 2018

2010 Ojai Vineyard Santa Barbara Syrah
A gorgeous entry-level wine, the 2010 Syrah is built on a serious core of black fruit. Menthol, cloves, licorice and mint appear later, adding complexity. This is a fairly juicy, up-front Syrah, but there is still plenty of depth and finesse, especially on the finish. The 2010 is a bit lighter than normal, but it is dazzling just the same. Adam Tolmach adds that the alcohol came in at 13.5%, a full 1% lower than normal because of the cold year and the strong influence of cooler-climate sites in the blend. The 2010 is 41% John Sebastiano, 24% Roll Ranch, 15% Bien Nacido and 14% White Hawk, plus a dollop of 6% Grenache from John Sebastiano. 92 anticipated maturity 2014 – 2022

2011 Ojai Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Mc Ginley
The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley is striking. Bright citrus, jasmine, mint and oyster shells literally jump from the glass. A piercing, brilliant wine, the 2011 stands out for its vibrancy and purity. Varietal notes ring out on the finish. The 2011 was aged in neutral oak and the malo was blocked. This is another beautiful wine from Adam Tolmach. 92 anticipated maturity 2013 – 2016

2010 Ojai Vineyard Santa Barbara Chardonnay
The 2010 Chardonnay is drop-dead gorgeous. White flowers, peaches and crushed rocks are some of the notes that take shape in the glass. Beautiful, rich and round, yet pure Ojai in its brilliance, the 2010 impresses for its balance and harmony. This stellar appellation wine is a blend of young vine fruit from Solomon Hills and Sanford & Benedict. 92 anticipated maturity 2013 – 2016

2005 Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard
The 2005 Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard, a library release, impresses for its density and sheer power. Amazingly, it also still needs time! This is an example of a wine that is neither young nor mature, but somewhere in the middle, and that can be a tricky state of affairs. Ideally, the 2005 should be cellared for another few years to allow the aromatics to blossom fully. Today, it is the structure that dominates. Overall, the 2005 comes across as a bit heavy, especially when tasted alongside the Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard (Early Harvest). 91 anticipated maturity 2015 – 2020

2011 Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay Puerta Del Mar
The 2011 Chardonnay Puerta Del Mar is pretty, brisk and very nicely done. Lemon peel, white flowers and a hint of spices are supported by precise veins of acidity in a Chardonnay that shows a lovely combination of juiciness and energy. 91 anticipated maturity 2013 – 2019

2011 Ojai Vineyard John Sebastiano Vineyard
The 2011 John Sebastiano Vineyard, a Syrah/Grenache blend, is a juicy, fun wine with a lot of early appeal. Dark red cherries, plums, spices, menthol and licorice jump from the glass in an exuberant style that is incredibly delicious. Savory herb and spice notes underpin the fruit in this forward, supple red. The blend is 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache. 89 anticipated maturity 2013 – 2018

2012 Ojai Vineyard Rose
Ojai’s 2012 salmon-colored Rosé, a Syrah/Grenache blend, is bright and refreshing from start to finish. Clean veins of minerality add texture and length. 89 anticipated maturity 2013 – 2014

2011 Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Puerta Del Mar
The 2011 Pinot Noir Puerta Del Mar has tons of early appeal. Juicy and supple, the 2011 has lovely immediacy to it. Sweet red berries and a hint of cinnamon linger on the caressing finish. 89 anticipated maturity 2013 – 2018