Wine Advocate #208 – Aug 2013 – Jeb Dunnuck

This was one thrilling lineup of wines by Adam Tolmach and assistant winemaker Fabien Castel and this is always one of my favorite visits during my trip through the region. After making wine for close to 30 years, Adam continues to push for improvement and is subtly tweaking his wines to get more freshness, focuses and elegance out of them. Minimal new oak, low SO2 and few rackings are all the norm here, and these 2009s, 2010s and 2011s are some of the strongest wines I’ve tasted from this estate. They’re all highly recommended.

2010 Ojai Chardonnay Santa Barbara County-90
Starting off the whites, and coming mostly from Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills, the 2010 Chardonnay Santa Barbara County is a beautiful wine with focused, clean aromas and flavors. Charcoal, white peach, citrus and subtle toasty notes all emerge from the glass and possesses beautiful mid-palate richness and depth. Fermented and aged all in older French oak and never racked, it’s an outstanding effort to drink over the coming handful of years. Drink now-2016.

2010 Ojai Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard-93
Beautiful, with the richness and minerality of the vineyard, the 2010 Chardonnay Bien Nacido is classic Chardonnay through and through. Offering of rich apple, musky peach, brioche, lavender, crushed stone and hints of toast, it hits the palate with a medium-bodied, rich texture that stays beautifully focused and clean. From vines planted in 1973, it’s a serious Chardonnay that has loads of class. It should drink well through 2019 and most likely, beyond. Drink 2014-2019.

2010 Ojai Chardonnay Solomon Hills-93
From a cool, sandy plot located in the Santa Maria Valley, southwest of Bien Nacido, the 2010 Chardonnay Solomon Hills is flat out gorgeous. Offering up loads of citrus, mineral, lemon curd and hints of nuttiness, it has a steely, racy feel on the palate with superb clarity and definition. While lean and racy, it builds beautifully on the palate and has plenty of richness. Enjoy it through 2019. Drink 2014-2019.

2011 Ojai Riesling Kick On-90
The 2012 Riesling Kick-on Ranch comes from a downright cold site and was harvested towards the middle of October. Made with four grams residual sugar, it offers classic lychee nut, citrus, lemongrass, lime and green herbs as well as a medium-bodied, rich mid-palate and a dry finish. Beautifully made, I’d enjoy it in its fresh and lively youth, although I’m sure it could age as well. Drink now-2016+.

2011 Ojai Sauvignon Blanc McGinley-91
The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley Vineyard is a gorgeous effort that was barrel-fermented and had malo blocked. Offering up perfumed, mineral-laced white grapefruit, herbs and citrus rind, it is lean and racy on the palate with vibrant acidity and superb purity. A perfect meal starter, enjoy it over the coming couple of years. Drink now-2015.

2012 Viognier (Ice Wine) Roll Ranch- 92
We finished the tasting with two impressive dessert wines. The 2012 Viognier Ice Wine, which was harvested at 23.5 brix, has 200 grams residual sugar and 10% alcohol as well as fantastic purity and definition with notions of peach, apricot and flower oil as well as a full-bodied, decadent palate that balances its sweetness and acidity beautifully. Drink now-2018.

2012 Riesling dessert wine Kick On- 93
Even more impressive, the 2012 Riesling Ice Wine (also with 200 grams residual sugar) is decadently sweet and pure, with plenty of honey, lychee nut, lime and hints of green herbs on the nose and palate. Full-bodied, decadent and with building sweetness and depth, it’s a knockout dessert wine to drink over the coming 5-8 years (although it will no doubt age much longer). Drink now-2022+.

2010 Ojai Pinot Noir Kick On – 91
Moving on to the Pinots, the 2010 Pinot Noir Kick-on Ranch is a pretty, racy effort that saw 100% destemming and no new oak. It offers beautiful Pinot Noir typicity with its underbrush, forest floor, smoke and cherry pit-styled profile and is medium-bodied, fresh and laser-focused on the palate. Firm and edgy at present, it should round into shape with another year or two of bottle age, and drink nicely through 2020. Drink 2015-2020.

2010 Ojai Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard – 91
The 2010 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido sees a touch of stem inclusion and roughly 20-30% new French oak. A balanced, rich effort, with notions of wild strawberry and black cherry fruit, lavender, spice and forest floor, it hits the palate with a rounded, supple texture, excellent mid-palate depth and juicy acidity that focuses the finish nicely. Richer and fuller than the Kick-on Ranch, it should benefit from short-term cellaring and have 10-12 years or more of longevity. Drink 2015-2022.

2010 Ojai Pinot Noir solomon Hills – 94
Totally stunning, the 2010 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills has brilliant cut and definition, with vivid black cherry, earth and superb underlying minerality flowing to a medium-bodied incredibly pure Pinot Noir that has knockout class and poise. Showing solid concentration through the mid-palate, it should age gracefully through 2022. Drink 2015-2022.

2010 Ojai Pinot Noir Fe Ciega – 94
The 2010 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega comes from the southern part of the Santa Rita Hills and offers, bright, fresh aromas and flavors of juicy berry, incense, flowers and forest floor to go with a rich, mouth-filling and textured profile on the palate. Despite that solid fruit, I love the underlying structure and depth. Give it a year or three in the cellar and enjoy through 2022 or so. Drink 2015-2022.

2009 Ojai Syrah Bien Nacido-95
The 2009 Syrahs are impressive across the board and a significant step up from his 2008s. Starting off, the 2009 Syrah Bien Nacido is a classic example of the vineyard with its deep, dark and smoky fruit, toasted nut, pepper, mineral and underlying meatiness. This medium to full-bodied beauty has brilliant detail and focus on the palate, with superb mid-palate concentration and layers of tannin that frame the finish. It’s knockout stuff and will have 10-12 years of longevity. Drink now-2021+.

2009 Ojai Syrah Melville Vineyard-95
Every bit as good, with a touch more gaminess and meatiness (which is common for the vineyard), the 2009 Syrah Melville dishes out superb blackberry, pepper, bacon fat and smoke as well as supple, voluptuous feel on the palate. Medium to full-bodied, with gorgeous purity of fruit and a solid mid-palate, it will have over a decade of longevity. Drink now-2021+.

2008 Ojai Syrah Presidio-95
The most masculine and gamey of the lineup, the 2008 Syrah Presidio Vineyard is gorgeous. Meaty and peppery, with green herbs, bacon fat, smoke, mineral and loads of dark fruit, this medium to full-bodied Syrah has superb purity and definition on the palate. Still backwards and tight, it needs another 2-3 years of bottle age and will thrill through 2024. Drink 2016-2024.

2009 Ojai Syrah Roll Ranch-94
Always one of Adam’s richer, fleshier wines, the 2009 Syrah Roll Ranch is a glass-stainer and dishes out notions of plum, lavender, spice, violets and spring flowers on the nose. Rich, concentrated and full-bodied, it’s perfectly balanced and has ripe tannin and good acidity. From a hot region located around the town of Ojai, it’s a superb Syrah and will have 15 years or more of longevity. Drink now-2024.

2009 Ojai Syrah White Hawk-93
Showing more fruit, with an essence of blackberry, flowers, toasted bread and roasted meat-styled bouquet, the 2009 Syrah White Hawk flows onto the palate with superb purity, medium to full-bodied richness and a seamless, elegant feel. It’s a big Syrah, yet beautifully done. Enjoy it over the coming 7-8 years or more. Drink now-2021+.

2011 Ojai Sangiovese White Hawk- 90
A rock-solid example of the variety, the 2011 Sangiovese White Hawk, which was 100% destemmed and aged 15 months in barrel, is soft and loaded with fruit. Surprisingly supple, with juicy acidity and a gulpable feel, it gives up quality spice and licorice-laced aromas and flavors and should drink nicely over the coming 3-5 years. Drink now-2018.

2012 Ojai Rose-89
The 2012 Rose comes mostly from the Roll Ranch Vineyard in Ojai and is primarily Syrah, yet with a splash of Grenache. Whole cluster pressed and barrel-fermented, it offers up notions of dried cherries, herbes de Provence, rose and tinges of minerality in a medium-bodied, juicy, Provencal style. Drink it over the coming year or so. Drink now-2014.