Wine Advocate # 214
This was a mammoth tasting with winemaker Adam Tolmach and assistant Fabien Castel. While I had a number of these shipped to my office in Colorado (where I was able to follow the wines for multiple days), there were still upward of 30 bottles to taste through when I showed up at the estate. Adam continues to pull in his harvest dates, and in a number of cases, has released two cuvees from each vineyard, one harvested early (the Special Bottling) and one harvested later, which is still on the early edge. I have mixed feelings about the new style here, and while these early pick dates give his wines beautiful tension, acidity and energy, it comes at the expense of texture and richness, and the wines have a sappy, resinous, if not green, character that won’t be for everyone. Nevertheless, there are certainly some outstanding wines here.
2013 Ojai Chardonnay Santa Barbara County-89
The 2013 Chardonnay Santa Barbara County is a bright, fresh and lively effort that excels on its purity and freshness more than its richness or depth. Citrus rind, apple blossom and some stone fruits emerge from the glass. The wine has medium-bodied richness, racy acidity and a pure, clean finish. Coming from the Bien Nacido, Solomon Hills and Puerta del Mar vineyards, it’s a delicious, borderline outstanding effort to drink over the coming couple of years. Drink 2014-2017.
2012 Ojai Chardonnay Santa Barbara County-90
A great introduction into the new style, Adam’s 2012 Chardonnay Santa Barbara County is deliciously fresh and lively, with classy lemon tart, apple, citrus and musky minerality in its medium-bodied, supple and balanced style. I love the purity here, and it’s an outstanding Chardonnay to drink over the coming couple of years. Drink 2014-2017.
2012 Ojai Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard-92
Rich and textured, the 2012 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard offers up an array of apple skin, cream, brioche, licorice and spice to go with a medium-bodied, rich and nicely textured feel on the palate. It too has racy acidity that comes through on the finish, yet I love the richness and depth through the mid-palate, as well as the length on the finish. Give it another year in the cellar, and enjoy bottles through 2019.
2012 Ojai Chardonnay Puerta Del Mar-91
The 2012 Chardonnay Puerta del Mar comes from the coolest vineyard in the portfolio and is defined by its bright acidity and purity of fruit. It exhibits a saline-like minerality to go with notions of lemon curd, citrus and leafy herbs. This flows to a medium-bodied, racy styled palate feel, and while there’s no shortage of acidity, it’s well-integrated, and it remains enjoyable.
2012 Ojai Chardonnay Solomon Hills-91
The 2012 Chardonnay Solomon Hills Vineyard is another racy, lively and crisp effort from this team. Showing plenty of oyster shell and marine-like salinity, it has pretty ripe apple fruit, brioche and hints of lively herbs emerging from the glass. Clean and classy all around, enjoy this medium-bodied, pure and elegant effort over the coming 2-4 years.
2012 Ojai Grenache Sebastiano – 89
The 2012 Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard checks in as a blend of 100% Grenache, all destemmed, that was aged in neutral barrels. Medium-bodied, lively and pure, with an elegant style, it offers up pretty berry fruit, flowers, mint and sappy herbs on the nose. It’s well-done in the style and will drink nicely for 3-4 years.
2012 Ojai Riesling Kick On-92
From a cool-climate site, the 2012 Riesling Kick On Ranch is the best vintage of this wine to date. Giving up textbook lychee nut, citrus blossom, green herbs and a just a kiss of petrol, this beauty flows onto the palate with fabulous purity, integrated acidity and a clean, dry finish. Buy this beauty by the case and enjoy it with food over the coming couple of years.
2012 Ojai Sauvignon Blanc McGinley-90
Also impressive, the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley offers racy citrus blossom, white peach and minty aromas and flavors to go with a medium-bodied, crisp and refreshing style on the palate. It’s another classy white to drink over the coming year or two.
2013 Ojai Roussanne Bien Nacido-90
Adam’s 2013 Roussanne Bien Nacido has classic stone fruits, white flowers, minerals and apple blossom-like aromas and flavors to go with a medium-bodied, nicely textured feel on the palate. Leaning toward the elegant and focused end of the spectrum, it still has pretty fruit and enough depth and richness to keep it drinking nicely for 2-3 years.
2012 Viognier (dry) Roll Ranch- 91
The 2012 Viognier Roll Ranch is a beauty! Perfumed, floral and classy, it has loads of sweet peach and tropical fruits, tangerine and white flowers that flow nicely to a medium-bodied, sweetly fruited profile on the palate. There’s good acidity here as well, and it should shine for 2-3 years.
2013 Viognier (Ice Wine) Roll Ranch- 92
A step up, the 2013 Viognier Ice Wine Roll Ranch checks in at a tiny 8% alcohol and was harvested, frozen, pressed and then aged all in neutral oak. It’s a beautiful dessert wine that offers fabulous apricot and honeyed peach-like aromas and flavors that flow nicely to a rich, decadent, yet clean and classy profile on the palate. This beauty balances its acid and sugar perfectly, and is a joy to drink. I’d lean toward drinking bottles over the coming couple of years, although I suspect it will have an interesting evolution beyond that as well.
2013 Riesling dessert wine Kick On- 89
Kicking off the dessert wines, the 2013 Riesling Ice Wine Kick on Ranch is an exotic, medium to full-bodied effort with sweet, layered aromas and flavors of lychee, white peach and honeyed citrus. It balances its sweetness nicely and stays clean and fresh on the finish.
2012 Ojai Pinot Noir Kick On – 93
The 2012 Pinot Noir Kick On Ranch shows a slightly savory feel, with notions of underbrush, ground herbs and earthy minerality slowing giving way to a core of ripe black cherry and darker berry-styled fruits. Made in a fresh, energetic and lively style, with crisp acidity and rocking focus and detail that comes through on the finish, it should drink nicely for another 5-7 years.
2011 Ojai Pinot Noir Kick On – 91
The 2011 Pinot Noir Kick On Ranch is a Burgundian-styled beauty that offers up layers of sweet strawberry, raspberry, Asian spices, dried flowers and potpourri to go with a medium-bodied, juicy, racy feel on the palate. Benefitting from time in the glass, it leans heavily toward the more delicate, nuanced side of the spectrum, with plenty of acidity. It will be better in another year or three and have up to a decade or so of longevity.
2011 Ojai Pinot Noir Kick On Special Bottling- 93
Consisting of a 4 barrel lot, the 2011 Pinot Noir Kick On Ranch Special Bottling shows more strawberry, underbrush, rose petal and spice characteristics to go with a medium-bodied, seamless, layered and elegant profile on the palate. Slightly more expansive on the palate, it has a similar acid profile, yet with more ripe tannin, texture and length. It’s an impressive Pinot Noir that will evolve gracefully for a decade or more.
2012 Ojai Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard – 92
Medium-bodied, lightly textured and exceedingly elegant, Adam’s 2012 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido has pretty rose petal, mint and sweet berry fruits to go with a seamless, pure and classy overall palate feel. It has more depth and richness than the special bottling, and it’s a beautiful Pinot that will have a decade of longevity.
2012 Ojai Pinot Noir solomon Hills – 92
Coming from a vineyard that lies within sight of the Pacific Ocean, the 2012 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills is a pretty, perfumed and elegant Pinot Noir that offers plenty of rose, violets and spice to go with light raspberry and red berry fruit. As with just about all of these 2012s, it has medium-bodied richness, vibrant acidity and a seamless, lightly textured profile on the palate. Picking up a slightly salty mineral-like quality with time in the glass, it’s an outstanding effort that will drink nicely for 5-6 years.
2012 Ojai Pinot Noir Puerta Del Mar- 92
Downright exotic, with perfumed floral, germanium, white pepper and sappy nuances, the 2012 Pinot Noir Puerta del Mar comes from a new vineyard for Tolmach, which lies to the west of Sta. Rita Hills, right up next to the Pacific Ocean. All about tension and clarity on the palate, it has bright acidity, fine tannin and impressive length, and it plays nicely in the new style of this estate. It will benefit from short-term cellaring and have a 7-8 years of longevity.
2012 Ojai Pinot Noir Fe Ciega – 94
The 2012 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega, which comes from the western, cooler part of the Sta. Rita Hills, is a drop-dead gorgeous effort that has both richness and tension. Showing classic forest floor, wild fennel, herbs and black raspberry and sweet cherry fruit, it hits the palate with medium-bodied weight, integrated acidity and a layered, elegant feel that’s hard to resist. This is very pretty, and it should shine for upward of a decade.
2012 Ojai Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Special bottling- 94
Harvest at the same time as the regular bottling, the 2012 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Special Bottling was aged all in new French oak as opposed to neutral barrels. Gorgeous all around, it gives up fabulously pure black raspberry, flowers, violets and just a hint of sweet oak to go with a silky, layered and seamlessly textured profile on the palate. Still playing in the elegant, lightly textured style of the estate, this classy, elegant and beautifully defined Pinot can be enjoyed anytime over the coming 5-7 years.
2011 Ojai Pinot Noir Fe Ciega – 93
Showing more tension and energy, the 2011 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard is a knockout effort in the lineup. Layered with Asian spice, black cherries, mint, underbrush and crushed flower like aromas and flavors, this beauty hits the palate with medium to full-bodied, layered, elegant and beautifully balanced profile that has nothing out of place, integrated acidity and sound underlying structure. Given the overall balance and purity, it’s certainly accessible now, but will no doubt evolve gracefully for up to a decade.
2011 Ojai Syrah Bien Nacido-91
The 2011 Syrah Bien Nacido is a classic Syrah from this brilliant site located just to the east of Santa Maria. Masculine in style, with ample pepper, smoked earth, crushed rock and violet-tinged dark fruits, this beauty flows onto the palate with medium-bodied richness, a firm, tight feel and ripe tannin. Give it a year in the cellar and drink it through 2021.
2012 Ojai Syrah Grenache Sebastiano (no so2) – 91
The 2012 Syrah Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard (No SO2), which is an even split of Syrah and Grenache bottled with no added SO2, sports a deep, inky color to go with ample dark fruits, black cherry, ground herbs and olive tapenade-like aromas and flavors. Beautifully textured, medium to full-bodied, layered and nicely concentrated, it has an up-front, approachable feel and should be consumed over the coming 3-4 years. I asked if there had been any reports of bottle variation due to storage issues with these no SO2 efforts, and so far so good. Nevertheless, make sure these are well-stored.
2012 Ojai Syrah Sebastiano – 91
Also outstanding, the 2012 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard (100% destemmed Syrah) offers fabulous purity and freshness in its layers of blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, ground herbs and hints of olive paste. This rock-solid, medium to full-bodied Syrah opens up nicely in the glass, has a seamless texture and a clean, nicely focused finish. In short, it’s a classic, cool-climate Syrah that can be enjoyed anytime over the coming 4-6 years.
2011 Ojai Syrah Grenache Sebastiano – 92
Made from a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache, the 2011 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard has a Cote Rotie-like bouquet of black raspberry, pepper, bacon fat and crushed flowers that continues to develop and change over the evening. Lively, fresh, elegant and pure, with a seamless texture, it’s a gorgeous, medium-bodied effort that will be better in another 2-3 years, and drink nicely through 2021.
2011 Ojai Syrah Sebastiano Special Bottling- 93
Even more impressive, the 2011 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard Special Bottling is a dead-ringer for classy Cote Rotie. Loaded with raspberry, white pepper, game, flowers and olive tapenade-styled aromas and flavors, this beauty hits the palate with medium-bodied richness, integrated acidity and a seamless, classy feel that carries all the way through the finish. It’s not a blockbuster, but excels on its balance, purity and complexity. It will have a decade of overall longevity.
2010 Ojai Syrah Roll Ranch-93+
The 2010 Syrah Roll Ranch is year-in, year-out, an outstanding wine. It also happens to age beautifully. Looking at this vintage, it sports an inky purple color to go with loads of black and blue fruits, licorice, ground herbs and distinct minerality. Similarly styled on the palate, it has medium to full-bodied richness, ripe tannin and a rocking finish. I like it now, but there’s some upside here as well. Ideally, it would be given 2-3 years in the cellar and will have 15 years or more of prime drinking.
2012 Ojai Syrah Santa Barbara-89
The 2012 Syrah Santa Barbara County is a solid value that’s a great intro into the new style here. Very pretty, fresh and lively, it offers notions of violets, pepper, earth and juicy berry fruits to go with a medium-bodied, forward and already delicious style. I don’t think it will make old bones, but it should dish out loads of pleasure over the coming 3-4 years.
2012 Ojai Syrah Solomon Hills-90
Even more mid-weight, with vibrant acidity and a tight, focused, lean feel, the 2012 Syrah Solomon Hills Special Bottling offers pretty flowers, violets, pepper and raspberry-styled aromas and flavors. As with the 2011, it’s a classy, juicy effort that will drink nicely for 7-8 years.
2011 Ojai Syrah Solomon Hills-92
There are only two barrels of the 2011 Syrah Solomon Hills Special Bottling to go around, and this blend of 100% Syrah spent 18 months all in older oak. Reminding me of a classy Saint Joseph, it exhibits pretty violets, white pepper, bacon fat and hints of crushed rock to go with a medium-bodied, lively, pure and elegant style on the palate. As with all of Adams 2011s, it has vibrant acidity and an energetic feel. It should evolve nicely over the coming 7-8 years.
2010 Ojai Syrah White Hawk-92
The 2010 Syrah White Hawk is one of the riper, more textured and layered efforts in the lineup. Possessing notions of plum and cherry pit-like fruits, violets and smoke, it’s medium to full-bodied, nicely concentrated and has bright, yet integrated acidity. It too needs short-term cellaring, and will have over a decade of longevity.
2012 Ojai Sangiovese White Hawk- 88
First made in 2010, Adam’s 2012 Sangiovese White Hawk is a solid effort that has an inky purple color to go with bright crushed berries and violet-like aromas and flavors. On the palate, it has medium-bodied richness, good overall texture, yet shows slightly too much acidity on the finish. Nevertheless, it’s certainly an enjoyable, fresh and lively red that will shine on the dinner table.
2013 Ojai Rose-88
The 2013 Rose is a pretty, Provencal-styled effort that offers up loads of orange blossom, rose petal, herbs de Provence and hints of ripe cherries in its juicy, crisp and easy-drinking personality. It’s a classic, dry rose to buy by the case and enjoy over the coming summer months.