Santa Barbara: On the road
This is a strong set of wines from Adam Tolmach and Fabien Castel. In particular, readers will find numerous Pinot Noirs and Syrahs that merit considerable attention. I am less thrilled with the whites, some of which come across as excessively light, with less flavor development than is typical here. In recent years, Tolmach and Castel have dramatically reduced their use of punchdowns and now favor pumpovers and carbonic maceration with a greater use of whole clusters for their red wines. As always the malos proceed at a slow, leisurely pace in these cold cellars and racking is kept to a minimum, which means just once in preparation for bottling for the Pinots, while the Grenache and Syrah might see a summer racking in between. Ojai remains one of the hidden jewels in Santa Barbara, with prices that are exceedingly fair for the quality of what goes in the bottle.
2013 Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard Special Selection
The 2013 Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard Special Selection is a later pick that Adam Tolmach decided to bottle separately. Here the flavors are darker and more boldly sketched, with fruit that veers towards the blue/purplish end of the spectrum. Violet, lavender, cloves and menthol are some of the many notes that add to the wine’s irrepressible personality. This is a fabulous showing from Ojai.
94 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2025
2013 Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard
A deep, dense wine, the 2013 Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard hits the palate with intense, plump fruit, flowers, pomegranate and exotic spices. Drink this succulent, racy Grenache over the next decade or so. John Sebastiano rarely fails to deliver wines of intrigue and distinctiveness. The 2013 was done with fully destemmed fruit. This is another terrific wine from this cool, exposed site, which sits on the border of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation, with the Pinot Noir planted within the borders of the appellation and the other varieties outside of it!
94 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2025
2011 Syrah White Hawk
The 2011 Syrah White Hawk is super expressive. Dark and mysterious in the glass, the 2011 Syrah White Hawk draws the taster in with its compelling personality. Sweet black cherries, mint, soy, spices, lavender, tobacco and spice are super-expressive. This is a rare 2011 built on serious depth and concentration. I imagine the 2011 will drink well for at least another handful of years, perhaps more.
94 Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2025
2011 Syrah Roll Ranch
The 2011 Syrah Roll Ranch is another big, explosive wine from Ojai. Scents of leather, cedar, tobacco, smoke and licorice wrap around a core of dark fruit in a rich, exuberant wine. Red-fleshed stone fruits, pomegranate and sweet floral notes add further shades of dimension on the expressive finish as the 2011 finds a bit more finesse. This is a fabulous showing from Ojai’s Roll Ranch Syrah.
94 Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2025
2013 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills
The 2013 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills is one of the most intriguing wines in the range. It is also the most backward and inward of the Pinots. Hints of violet, lavender, licorice and cloves open up, but only gradually. The 2013 packs a serious punch, but it is going to need a few years to fully unwind. Still, there is plenty of promise here.
93+ Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2028
2013 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Clone 22
Deep and resonant to the core, the 2013 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Clone 22 hits the palate with pungent red fruit, plum, smoke, licorice and sage. The interplay of rich fruit and floral/savory overtones is compelling. Veins of bright, saline-infused fruit round out the exquisite finish. The 2013 is all about delicacy, and it shows. This is sublime juice. The Clone 22 was done with 100% whole clusters.
93+ Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2025
2013 Pinot Noir Puerta del Mar
One of the more delicate, sensual wines in the range, the 2013 Pinot Noir Puerta del Mar speaks to aromatics and silkiness above all else. Hard candy, rose petal, mint and cinnamon add further shades of nuance on the silky finish. Puerta del Mar sits on the western edge of the appellation. Although there is a suggestion of whole clusters, the 2013 was made from fully destemmed fruit.
93 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2028
2013 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard
The 2013 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard is quite a bit more exuberant than the Clone 22 bottling. Sweet red cherries, plums, orange peel, spices and mint meld together in a juicy, mid-weight Pinot that should drink well for another decade plus. Beautifully textured through to the finish, the 2013 is a real pleasure to taste today. The Bien Nacido bottling is a blend of Martini and 777 clones done with 15% whole clusters.
93 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2025
2013 Syrah Duvarita Vineyard
Dark cherry compote, pomegranate, wild flowers, mint and chalk are some of the notes that flesh out in the 2013 Syrah Duvarita Vineyard. A huge, relentlessly tannic wine, the 2013 is going to need a few years in bottle to fully come together but it is highly promising. The flavors are bold and pungent throughout in a Pinot endowed with real personality. Duvarita was formerly known as Presidio.
92+ Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2025
2013 Pinot Noir Kick on Ranch Vineyard
The 2013 Pinot Noir Kick on Ranch Vineyard comes across as a bit compact and tightly wound. At the same time, the 2013 possesses gorgeous aromatics and plenty of depth, so there is a chance the wine will open up in bottle. If that happens, the 2013 will merit a higher rating. Pine, menthol, cedar and leather add attractive lower register notes.
92 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2025
2013 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard
The 2013 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard is an intense, brooding wine, full of black fruit, smoke, leather, juniper berry and savory herb nuances. The huge, powerful tannins are going to require a few years of cellaring to soften. This is another striking wine from Ojai with considerable upside.
92+ Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2026
2013 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard
The 2013 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard is one of the darkest wines in this range. Dark red cherry, plum, smoke, licorice, violets and cloves are pushed forward in a distinctive, succulent Pinot that emphasizes juiciness and raciness. Round and voluptuous through to the finish, this generous, inviting Pinot will drink well now with some air, although it will be even better in another few years. The 2013 was done with 15% whole clusters. Adam Tolmach adds that he is working to tame some of the inherent strength and opulence of this site.
92 Antonio Galloni 2018 – 2028
2013 Chardonnay Solomon Hills
The 2013 Chardonnay Solomon Hills is the freshest and best-balanced of the three Ojai Chardonnays I tasted. Lemon peel, white flowers and chalk all make an appearance in this nicely delineated, mid-weight Chardonnay. The style is all about understatement here.
91 Antonio Galloni 2015 – 2020
2013 Syrah-Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard (No SO2)
The 2013 Syrah-Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard (No SO2) tastes like it was just drawn from barrel, so pure are the flavors and textures. This blend of Syrah and Grenache from John Sebastiano, bottled with no SO2, is bursting with intensity and personality. Dark red and blue-fleshed fruit, mocha, spices and wild flowers wrap around the succulent finish.
91 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2023
2013 Sangiovese White Hawk Vineyard
As if making a bevy of fabulous Pinots and Syrahs weren’t enough, Ojai also does a terrific job with Sangiovese. The 2013 Sangiovese White Hawk Vineyard is laced with sweet red cherry, rose petal and mint, all propped by the distinctive, salivating acidity that is such a Sangiovese signature. A host of floral/savory notes accompany the finish, backed by firm, dusty Sangiovese tannins. This is a very, very pretty wine.
91 Antonio Galloni 2015 – 2025
2013 Pinot Noir La Cote Vineyard
The 2013 Pinot Noir La Cote Vineyard is Ojai’s first wine from Domaine de la Cote’s La Cote vineyard on the western edge of the Sta. Rita Hills. Crushed rose petals, earthy notes, smoke, anise, tobacco and mint are some of the signatures. Today, the 2013 comes across as austere and tightly wound, with less mid palate depth than the other Ojai Pinots and unexpressive fruit. It will be interesting to see if the 2013 opens up, or if what is in the glass today is simply the inherent expression of La Cote, a cool, decidedly marginal site for growing Pinot.
90 Antonio Galloni 2016 – 2025
2013 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard – Sold out
The 2013 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard is a surprisingly succulent wine from Ojai. White orchard fruit, candied lemon, chamomile and mint are front and center. There is no shortage of immediacy, but the Bien Nacido loses a bit of intensity through the mid-palate and finish.
89 Antonio Galloni 2015 – 2019
2013 Chardonnay Puerta del Mar
The 2013 Chardonnay Puerta del Mar is a pretty, immediate wine best suited for near-term drinking. Apricot pit, smoke, mint, peach and butter notes are present. Most of the appeal is in the wine’s up-front presence, as it loses a bit of depth through the mid-palate and finish.
88 Antonio Galloni 2015 – 2019
2013 Syrah (Santa Barbara County)
Savory herbs leather, tobacco, smoke and cedar are all found in Ojai’s Syrah 2013 Santa Barbara. Powerful and intense, especially for an appellation-level bottling, the 2013 shows the more savory side of Syrah, while the fruit lies a bit more in the background. A dollop (20%) of whole clusters adds aromatic nuance. The 2013 is a blend of fruit from Bien Nacido, Roll Ranch and White Hawk.
88+ Antonio Galloni 2017 – 2024
2013 Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County)
Ojai’s 2013 Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County) is a pretty, entry-level offering. Crushed flowers, savory herbs, mint, blood orange and sweet red cherries all lift from the glass in a hugely appealing, mid-weight Pinot loaded with class and personality. Perfumed and translucent, the Santa Barbara County Pinot captures the essence of the Ojai house nicely. The 2013 is a bit more saline and savory but less fruity than some prior editions, which Adam Tolmach ascribes to picking a bit earlier. The 2013 is a blend of fruit from Kick On, Solomon Hills, Bien Nacido and La Cote.
88 Antonio Galloni 2015 – 2022
2013 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley – Sold out
The 2013 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley is a tasty, straightforward white to drink young. The flavors are fresh, floral and crisp throughout, although I would prefer to see a little more texture and overall complexity.
86 Antonio Galloni 2015 – 2017
2014 Riesling Kick on Ranch
Ojai’s 2014 Riesling Kick on Ranch is laced with white pear, jasmine and apple scents. Drink this light to medium-bodied Riesling over the next year or two.
86 Antonio Galloni 2015 – 2017