Wine Advocate #202 – August 2012

Antonio Galloni

This is a gorgeous set of wines from Ojai and proprietor Adam Tolmach. The 2009 Pinots and 2008 Syrahs in particular are terrific. The best Ojai wines – and there are many that vie for that label – are gorgeous, transparent to site and highly expressive. As always, the style at Ojai is fairly non-interventionalist. Since 2005, the fermentations have been gentler, with less overall extraction. The malos proceed naturally and slowly. As a rule, the wines are never racked until bottling. The Ojai wines remain exceedingly fairly priced considering the quality and painstaking effort that goes into every bottle.

2009 Ojai Chardonnay Santa Barbara County-90
The 2009 Chardonnay possesses gorgeous depth. Rich layers of varietal fruit sit on a big frame. This is far from an easygoing Chardonnay. Rather it is a wine endowed with considerable depth and intensity. Rich varietal notes come to life on the layered finish. The Chardonnay is made from young vines from Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills. This is a gorgeous showing. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2019.

2009 Ojai Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard-92
Ripe apricots, honeysuckle, mint and flowers burst from the glass as the 2009 Chardonnay Bien Nacido shows off its personality. Today, the 2009 comes across as very young. The aromas and flavors are still very much closed. Hints of spices and fennel emerge on the expansive finish, but the 2009 is still at least another year or two away from giving its best. The old vines (planted in 1973) give the Bien Nacido notable intensity and depth. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2019.

2009 Ojai Chardonnay Solomon Hills-94
The 2009 Chardonnay Solomon Hills literally hovers on the palate with incomparable grace and class. The style is one of exceptional textural elegance. Cool, mineral notes, and a hint of spice frame a vibrant core of citrus in this bright, beautifully focused Chardonnay. The Solomon Hills is made from Dijon clones planted in 1999. It is an absolutely fabulous wine for the money. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2019.

2010 Ojai Riesling Kick On-88
Ojai’s 2010 Riesling is a pretty, soft wine laced with white peaches, jasmine and mint, all supported by fresh, lively acidity. This, too, shows lovely focus and energy throughout. Adam Tolmach blocks the malo on his Riesling, which contributes to the wine’s vibrant personality. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2014.

2010 Ojai Sauvignon Blanc McGinley-90
There is plenty of intensity in the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley. This is an especially broad-shouldered, full-bodied Sauvignon with serious depth and a layered personality that is highly appealing. Mint, sage and white peaches wrap around the finish. The personality of the year comes through loud and clear. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2016.

2010 Ojai Viognier ( Dry )Roll Ranch-88
The 2010 Viognier Roll Ranch offers up white flowers, nectarine, white peaches and spices in a crisp, vibrant style well suited for near-term drinking. Clean veins of minerality support the steely, focused finish. Tolmach and his team farm this parcel in Ojai. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2014.

2011 Riesling (Ice Wine) Kick On- 93
Ojai’s 2011 Riesling (Ice Wine) Kick On Ranch is flat-out gorgeous. Orange marmalade, honeysuckle, mint and flowers are all woven together in this layered, highly expressive sweet wine. The flavors build beautifully to a sweet, perfumed finish buffered by layers of clean, vibrant minerality. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2016.

2011 Riesling Botrytis dessert wine Kick On- 90
The 2011 Riesling Kick On Ranch Special Botrytis Bottling emerges from the glass with peach, apricot, white flowers and light floral honey scents. The aromas and flavors are very much on the bright end of the spectrum, while the botrytis notes lie in the background. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2014.

2009 Ojai Pinot Noir Kick On – 94
The 2009 Pinot Noir Kick On Ranch bursts from the glass with sweet cherries, tobacco, anise and mint, all supported by racy, finessed tannins. All the elements are in the right place in this beautifully delineated, precise Pinot. Kick On Ranch is one of the cooler spots in Santa Barbara and is the last Pinot Ojai picks. The 2009 was aged in neutral oak. It is a delicate wine of extraordinary class. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2021.

2009 Ojai Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard – 91+
Black cherries, plums and spices come together in the 2009 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard. In 2009 the Bien Nacido is a much bigger and darker wine than the Kick On Ranch. The combination of a sudden heat spike just before harvest and the use of 20% new barrels combined to yield a rich, big wine within the context of the Ojai house style. Another year or two in bottle should help some of the slightly rough edges to soften. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2021.

2009 Ojai Pinot Noir Fe Ciega – 93
The 2009 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega is gorgeous. It presents an attractive marriage of power and structure. There is an energy and raciness to the Fe Ciega that is compelling. Dark cherries, plums, menthol and sweet floral notes wrap around the intense finish. The Pinot clones in this parcel at Fe Ciega are 667, 115 and Pommard. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2021.

2009 Ojai Pinot Noir Fe Ciega (Special Pommard bottling)- 93
Ojai’s 2009 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Special Bottling is a selection of three barrels, all juice from Pommard clones. The wine wraps around the palate with deep layers of fruit. Hints of tobacco, earthiness and tar develop in the glass, adding complexity. This is an especially virile, intense Pinot. It is quite a bit different than the regular Fe Ciega in terms of its personality, but not that different from a pure qualitative perspective. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2022.

2009 Ojai Pinot Noir Presidio – 93
Another rich, intense wine, the 2009 Pinot Noir Presidio is loaded with fruit. Soft, silky tannins frame a gently spiced finish laced with dark red cherries, plums and mint. The integration of oak (25% new), fruit and structure is superb. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2021.

2008 Ojai Grenache Thompson – 89
The 2008 Grenache Thompson is a deceptively medium-bodied wine endowed with considerable palate presence and depth. Dark red cherries, flowers and mint are woven together in this relatively delicate, refined Grenache. I especially like the integrity of the fruit, but find less of interest in the aromatics. If the bouquet develops with further time in bottle, the 2008 could very well merit a higher score. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2018.

2008 Ojai Syrah Bien Nacido-93
Gorgeous depth and polish make the 2008 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard a standout. With a purity to the fruit that is compelling, this is a bolder, more fruit-forward style than the Melville. Today, the full range of aromatic nuances has yet to develop, but I see tremendous promise here. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2024.

2008 Ojai Syrah Melville Vineyard-92
The 2008 Syrah Melville is loaded with character and personality. Dark plums, tapenade and spices are some of the many notes that are woven together in this intense, varietally expressive Syrah. At four years of age, the 2008 is still an infant. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2023.

2007 Ojai Syrah Presidio-88
Rustic elements prevail in the 2007 Syrah Presidio. Game, tar, licorice, black pepper and olives emerge in this burly, intense wine. In my view, the Presidio lacks the level of textural elegance found in the best Ojai Syrahs. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2017.

2008 Ojai Syrah Roll Ranch-93
Another deep, expressive wine, the 2008 Syrah Roll Ranch fleshes out beautifully on the mid-palate. All the elements are in symmetry. This is a more radiant, ripe style of Syrah within the Ojai portfolio. The wine’s textural finesse compensates for a bouquet that is not especially varietal, at least today. The Roll Ranch stands apart from the rest of the Syrahs. It emerges from a warmer, earlier ripening site that is typically harvested in early September, a good month (or more) earlier than the rest of the Syrahs. The 2008 was co-fermented with 2% Viognier. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2023.

2009 Ojai Syrah Santa Barbara-91
Ojai’s 2009 Syrah is fabulous. Dark plums, cherries, licorice and mint burst from the glass in this gorgeous, entry-level Syrah. The estate’s Syrah is a selection of barrels made in the cellar, and includes bits of all of the single vineyards in the Ojai stable. In 2009, Adam Tolmach used less new oak than normal for his single-vineyard Syrahs, consequently there is a little more new oak (around 10%) in this entry-level bottling. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2019.

2009 Ojai Syrah Solomon Hills – 92
The 2009 Syrah Solomon Hills stands out from the rest of the Syrahs in the lineup for its soft, feminine personality. Crushed flowers and mint are woven together nicely in this understated, early drinking Syrah with Pinot-like overtones. Hints of black pepper, menthol and licorice are layered into the finish. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2019.

2008 Ojai Syrah White Hawk Vineyard-92
The 2008 Syrah White Hawk is one of the more medium-bodied Syrahs in this lineup. It shows lovely varietal nuance and length to match its understated personality. Plums, herbs and tar come together nicely on the expressive finish. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018.