Antonio Galloni’s VINOUS
September 2016 reviews
This is another stellar set of new releases from Adam Tolmach and Fabien Castel at Ojai. Tolmach describes 2014 as a year with generous yields. Despite the third year of drought, the crop was good mostly because of favorable conditions during flowering, with less of the wind and fog that can affect some areas, especially in Santa Maria. Yields are down considerably in 2015, as they are pretty much everywhere. The various appellation-level wines and the 2013 Syrahs are among the many highlights in this extensive range. I was also deeply impressed with the Sangiovese and Barbera in 2014. Adam Tolmach is known for many things. Making top-notch wines from Italian varieties is not exactly at the top of the list. And yet, the Ojai Sangiovese and Barbera are both superb. Best of all, these wines remain incredibly fairly priced in today’s market. Tolmach adds he keeps prices low so he doesn’t have to travel to promote and market the wines. Readers should take advantage of Tolmach’s no-nonsense approach. These are some of the best wines readers will find anywhere for the money. — Antonio Galloni, September 2016
2013 Syrah Solomon Hills Special Bottling
Ojai’s 2013 Syrah Solomon Hills Special Bottling is stellar. Deep, unctuous and powerful in the glass, the 2013 exudes richness from the very first taste. A host of dark cherry, plum, mocha, spice and dried herbs are fused together. The Solomon Hills is the richest and most overtly concentrated of the 2013 Ojai Syrahs I tasted. Ideally, readers should cellar the 2013 for at least another year or two to allow the aromatics to fully open up.
96 Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2028
2013 Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard
The 2013 Syrah Roll Ranch is a dark, heady wine. Truffle, smoke, lavender and blueberry jam give the 2013 much of its exotic personality. Super-ripe and racy in the glass, the 2013 tastes like it was picked on the later side. Even so, the Roll Ranch retains the very classic Ojai mid-weight sense of structure. This is one of the more exuberant, flamboyant wines in the Ojai range this year, but firm tannins extend the finish and give the wine a closing burst of energy.
96 Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2028
The 2014 Syrah Duvarita Vineyard is a wine for readers who enjoy peppery, savory Syrahs. Game, smoke, cracked pepper, licorice and lavender literally jump from the glass. Bold and pungent to the core, the 2014 exudes richness and pure power. The firm, incisive tannins need time to soften, but this is another wine with a bright future. Readers should expect a virile, imposing Syrah. Fasten your seatbelt, the Duvarita is another total knockout from Adam Tolmach and Ojai. The 2014 has begun to shut down since I first tasted it about a month ago. It is best cellared for at least 2-3 years.
95+ Antonio Galloni 2020 – 2029
2014 Pinot Noir Kessler Haak Vineyard
Here in its first vintage, the 2014 Pinot Noir Kessler Haak Vineyard offers a beguiling combination of intense aromatics, dark fruit and notable depth. Lavender, rose petal, mint, exotic spices and orange peel are some of the signatures. The inclusion of 50% whole clusters works beautifully here. The 2014 offers remarkable intensity and yet remains translucent, with no excess weight. This is pure class, not to mention a superb debut.
95+ Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2026
2014 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard
The 2014 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard opens with exquisite aromatics. Sweet rose petal, red cherry, cinnamon, mint and white pepper are all laced together. Deceptively medium in body, the 2014 possesses striking aromatic nuance and tons of class. Polished, silky tannins wrap around the inviting finish. This is another wine that could use another few years in bottle. The 2014 is a blend of 40 year-old Martini Clone Pinot and younger 777 Clone Pinot, all from the east end of the Q Block, done with around 10% whole clusters.
95 Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2026
2014 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard
The 2014 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard is deep, powerful and intense from start to finish. A vertical, structured Syrah, the 2014 exudes depth and the pedigree that is such a signature of this site. Black cherry, blackberry jam, mocha, cloves, menthol and licorice saturate the inky finish. The 2014 was done with a third whole clusters. The 2014 is an absolutely compelling wine, but it is also raw, unfully formed and in need of cellaring.
95 Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2024
2014 Syrah-Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard (No SO2)
The 2014 Syrah-Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard (No SO2) is another total knock-out. A rush of dark red and purplish fruit, tobacco, menthol, licorice and sage hit the palate first. Vertical and deep on the palate, the 2014 is going to need at least a few years to unwind. Given the no SO2 approach, it’s hard to say how the Syrah-Grenache might age beyond the near and medium term, but it is super-impressive today. The wine’s density and overall complexity are incredibly alluring, even at this early stage.
95 Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2026
2013 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard
The 2013 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard is pure class. Rich, seamless and inviting, yet with vibrant beams of salinity and tannin beneath, the 2013 stands out because of its impeccable balance. Nothing is out of place. Cool-climate peppery, gamy notes add an attractive upper-register. Lavender, violets and inky blue/purplish fruit are infused into the layered, vivid finish. With time in the glass, the 2013 develops a super-appealing feel of vertical structure. The 2013 is very young. It is also very beautiful.
95 Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2028
2012 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard
The 2012 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard is soft, sensual and inviting, yet there is plenty of acidity that brightens the flavors nicely. Sweet red cherry, pomegranate, mint and rose petals are some of the signatures. Still quite primary and fresh, the 2012 needs at least a few years in bottle to develop the full breadth of its aromatics. With a little bit of air, the 2012 is enjoyable today, but the best is still to come.
95 Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2027
2013 Syrah White Hawk Vineyard
The 2013 Syrah White Hawk is bright, focused and wonderfully nuanced throughout. Blood orange, white pepper, red stone fruits and mint give the White Hawk much of its distinctive, high-toned personality. The tannins need time to soften, but there is plenty to like here. This is an especially focused, tense style. Patience will be key.
94+ Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2028
2012 Syrah White Hawk Vineyard
The 2012 Syrah White Hawk Vineyard is quite distinctive in this vintage. Just starting to show a bit of aromatic complexity, the 2012 offers striking nuance. Tobacco, licorice, earthiness and grilled herbs wrap around a core of dark fruit in this intriguing, beautifully layered Syrah. The 2012 is an excellent choice for drinking now and over the next handful of years. This is the most expressive of the three 2012 Syrahs I tasted.
94 Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2027
Ojai’s 2014 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills is one of the bolder, more forward wines in the range. A blast of dark red cherry, plum, mint, lavender and spice make a strong first impression. Succulent and juicy in style, the Solomon Hills offers plenty of immediacy and near term appeal, but there is more than enough structure beneath to support at least a handful of years of fine drinking.
94 Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2024
2014 Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard
The 2014 Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard is deep, dense and powerful, all within the Ojai style, of course. Still quite primary, the 2014 is all about fruit at this stage. Still, the wine’s energy and persistence are both commendable. The wine’s tannic grip and bright acidity both suggest it could use a bit more time to fully come together. This is another promising wine, but its best days are off in the future. I won’t be surprised if the 2014 is even more impressive than this note suggests in another few years’ time. There is plenty to look forward to. In this vintage, the strong, almost arrogant personality of site dominates over varietal character. A closing burst of bright red fruit and firm tannins rounds things out.
93+ Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2026
2012 Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard
The 2012 Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard is a deep, powerful wine. Brambly notes open up first, followed by sweet tobacco, wild cherry, herb and cedar. Big, slightly coarse tannins give the 2012 a slightly rustic edge. Otherwise, this is another impeccable Syrah from Adam Tolmach and Ojai.
93 Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2027
2014 Pinot Noir Kick On Ranch Vineyard
A big, virile wine, the 2014 Pinot Noir Kick On Ranch Vineyard shows the richer, earthier side of Santa Barbara Pinot. Crushed flowers, tobacco, menthol, licorice and pine are some of the notes that emerge first, while the fruit lies more in the background. This is an especially savory/earthy style of Pinot. Ideally, readers should cellar the 2014 for another year or so, as the tannins and acidity are both prominent at this stage.
93 Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2024
A beautiful, uber-classic wine, the 2014 Barbera Rich Vineyard captures the essence of Barbera in its bold, punchy fruit and salivating acidity. Succulent red cherries, wild flowers, mint and pomegranate are all pushed forward. I would prefer to drink this juicy, inviting Barbera over the next few years. This is an absolutely joyous bottle of wine. Rich is a vineyard in Ojai, which is one of the warmer spots in Santa Barbara. Of course, Barbera loves heat, always a good foil for the grape’s naturally high acidity.
93 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2022
Lemon confit, mint, white flowers and chamomile are some of the signatures in the 2014 Chardonnay Solomon Hills. Ample and creamy on the palate, the Solomon Hills is one of the most overt, dense Chardonnays in the Ojai range. Structurally, it reminds me of the style of Pinots that come off this site. Readers should expect a relatively intense Chardonnay (by Ojai standards) with tropically-leaning overtones that develop over time.
93 Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2022
2014 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard
The 2014 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard is a very pretty, classically restrained wine from this famed Santa Maria site. White flowers, orchard fruit, mint and white pepper are some of the signatures, but, above all else, it is the wine’s sensual, inviting texture that takes things to another level.
93 Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2022
2014 Roussanne Bien Nacido Vineyard
The 2014 Roussanne Bien Nacido Vineyard is superb. Rich, intense and oily, the 2014 offers up a compelling interplay of orange marmalade, apricots, honey, almond and butter. Broad and ample on the palate, the 2014 nevertheless retains a surprising amount of freshness and acidity, both of which give the wine vibrancy. The 2014 is impeccably balanced from start to finish, not to mention a real joy to taste. Part of this block formerly went to Bob Lindquist at Qupé.
93 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2020
2014 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard
The 2014 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard is bright and energetic, but also a bit tightly wound at this stage. As such, it will benefit from at least another 6-12 months in bottle. Exotic citrus and floral notes add an attractive upper register in a Pinot that is lifted and nicely focused throughout.
92+ Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2024
2014 Pinot Noir La Côte Vineyard
The 2014 Pinot Noir La Côte Vineyard is one of the more translucent, gracious wines in the range this year. Dried flowers, mint, chalk and white pepper are some of the signatures. The La Côte will appeal most to readers who like aromatic, light to mid-weight Pinots. It will be interesting to see how the 2014 ages. I would have preferred to see a bit more depth in the mid-palate, but the 2014 is very nicely rendered just the same. Sweet floral and mineral notes add the closing shades of nuance.
92 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2024
2014 Pinot Noir Puerta del Mar
The 2014 Pinot Noir Puerta del Mar is one of the most reticent, tightly wound wines in the range, likely because of the site’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The flavors are intense and sculpted throughout, but the 2014 is going to need time in bottle to fully open up. Readers who enjoy laser-like Pinots will find much to admire. Hints of cranberry, white pepper and chalk add aromatic nuance on the distinctly acid-driven, savory finish. This is the coolest Pinot Noir site Ojai works with.
92 Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2024
2014 Sangiovese White Hawk Vineyard
The 2014 Sangiovese White Hawk Vineyard is one of the hidden gems in the Ojai lineup. I can’t say the Ojai Sangiovese is especially varietal, it isn’t. And yet there is a depth to the fruit that is compelling. A burst of acidity and tannin on the finish are the only hints this is Sangiovese. The 2014 White Hawk is simply a delicious, impeccably balanced wine to enjoy for its entire, complete beauty.
92 Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2025
2014 Syrah (Santa Barbara County)
The 2014 Syrah (Santa Barbara County) is a superb appellation-level wine from Oaji. Black pepper, lavender, menthol, licorice, cloves and sage abound in a deep, fleshy wine bursting at the seams with character and personality. Expressive blue and purplish-hued fruits and grippy tannins leave a lasting impression.
92 Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2024
2014 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley Vineyard
The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley Vineyard is terrific. Intensely aromatic, but not at all green or vegetal, the 2014 exudes varietal nuance and character, with notable depth and textural intensity. Yellow orchard fruit, mint and candied lemon are nicely delineated. Despite its mid-weight personality, this is an especially phenolic style of Sauvignon.
92 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2019
2014 Chardonnay Puerta del Mar
The 2014 Chardonnay Puerta del Mar is soft, open-knit and gracious, all of which make it an excellent choice for drinking over the next few years. Pear, white flowers, mint and white pepper give the 2014 its characteristic aromatic top notes. Drink this delicate, racy Chardonnay over the next few years.
91 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2020
The 2014 Viognier Roll Ranch is another delicious white from Ojai. The floral, honeyed notes typical of Viognier open up nicely, but the fruit here is picked just before the more tropical side of the grape develops. Beams of supporting salinity give the wine notable brightness to complement the creamy, layered finish.
91 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2020
The 2014 Riesling Kick On Ranch is one of the most distinctive wines in the range. Sweet floral and orchard fruit notes make a strong first impression. The 2014 is lifted, delicate and very nicely perfumed throughout. The bright, acid-driven finish begs for food. As good as the 2014 is, I find it a touch lean, even if it is showing better than it did a year ago, when it had just been bottled.
89 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2020
2014 Chardonnay (Santa Barbara County)
The 2014 Chardonnay (Santa Barbara County) is an attractive appellation-level wine with lovely regional and varietal character. Lemon peel, almonds, chamomile and sweet herbal notes are all nicely melded together. The 2014 finishes with lovely palate presence and overall textural finesse. This polished, impeccably crafted Chardonnay should drink well for the next few years.
89 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2021
2014 Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County)
One of the standouts in the range, the 2014 Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County) is absolutely delicious. Sweet red cherry, hard candy, rose petal and cinnamon are all nicely lifted throughout. This is an especially perfumed, gracious style of Pinot, with all the elements in the right place. Served with a slight chill, the 2014 is an ideal wine to drink over the last days of summer. Vineyard sites are Kick On, Solomon Hills and Bien Nacido.
88 Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2022
2014 Riesling Kick On Ranch Dessert Wine
Ojai’s 2014 Riesling Kick On Ranch Dessert Wine is an attractive, mid-weight and moderately sweet. Dried pear, mint and wild flowers all open up nicely. The aromatics could be a little more focused. Otherwise, this is well done.
88 Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2022