Rancho Ontiveros is another cool, windswept site in the Santa Maria Valley. It’s roughly two miles inland from Presqu’ile, nestled amongst gently rolling hills in the southern pocket of the valley. At over 700′, the higher elevation makes this vineyard especially raked by coastal wind. The vines are challenged by the soil, too—the Garey series is a deep, well-drained sandy loam that provides little in the way of nutrients.
In 2021, we were looking to add another Chardonnay to our repertoire, but something that would be different. The Rancho Ontiveros fruit came up as a possibility, but it was the Wente clone of Chardonnay. Adam sort of avoided that clone over the years—it’s a richer clone that’s responsible for a lot of thick, tropical California Chardonnay. But grown on poor soils in the cool Santa Maria Valley and harvested relatively early—that could be a different thing, Adam thought.
To keep the wine well within the Ojai style, we approached the fruit a bit differently. We stuck to our regime of fermenting the wine in French oak barrels, but in this case, once the wine was dry we transferred it to stainless steel tanks to age on its lees until bottling. The idea was that aging in tank would preserve freshness and prevent the wine from teetering too far into richness. We were so happy with the results of the first bottling that we’ll carry forward with that approach in the coming years. The wine drinks like excellent Macon with its corseted sense of curvature and mineral buoyance—very Chardonnay, and very delicious.