Upper Ojai, Ventura County

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This is a real blockbuster of a wine, and it seemed destined to be from the day we picked the fruit. 2007 was a drought year, and the vines were very stressed during the growing season, which caused the berries to remain small. The ratio of grape skin to pulp was very high, and since most of the flavor in wine comes from the skins, the result was a particularly intensely flavored wine. Possessing dark, dank, plumy aromas, this very fruity, primary wine has intriguing spicy high notes. The monster mouth feel, with huge quantities of soft, mouth-coating tannins and ripe fruit flavors comes across as both concentrated and lively. It is truly impressive, and reminds me of a high-end Chateauneuf du Pape. Right now this hearty wine works well with barbecued ribs, but it is built for aging.

I still remember the day this fruit arrived at the winery. What a shock to see such tiny berries from Roll Ranch! Mind you, I only expect perfection from local viticultural icon Martin Ramirez because he is so talented, but it was astounding to see pinot noir size fruit from a syrah vineyard.

In rainy years the vines at Roll Ranch grow excessively, and all sorts of work must be done in the vineyard to control and direct that growth. So when drought conditions struck in 2007 Martin and I saw it as an opportunity to get the vines to do what we wanted. Despite the dry conditions, we restricted the irrigation to slow the vegetative growth and to stress the vines during berry development. This caused the berries to remain small, so the ratio of grape skin to pulp was very high, and since most of the flavor in wine comes from the skins the result was a particularly intensely flavored syrah.

The fermentation produced a dark wine, and as it aged in barrel it appeared to have enormous potential, possessing dank, plumy aromas and very fruity primary flavors. The mouth feel, with huge quantities of soft, coating tannins came across as both concentrated and lively. At bottling the wine was tense, but now after nearly 4 years in the bottle it has opened up and reminds me of a high-end Chateauneuf du Pape. This hearty wine is drinking beautifully and works well with barbecued ribs and other hearty meals, but it is built for aging, and will not peak for another 5-10 years.

Blend: 98% Syrah 2% Viognier | Alcohol: 15.0% | Vinification: 20% New French Oak | Barrel Aging: 17 Months | Total Production: 488 cases

Press Reviews

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar

“Dark purple. Highly aromatic nose displays textbook syrah aromas of dark berries, violet, pipe tobacco, licorice and olive. Dense, lush, sweet and fine-grained, with a pliant, velvety texture and energetic red and dark berry flavors. Finishes seamless and lively, with echoing floral and berry notes.” – JR 92 Points

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

“The 2007 Syrah Roll Ranch comes across as decidedly powerful in style. This is the warmest microclimate Ojai works with, but it is the year that speaks loudest here. The vintage follows the drought year of 2006, and the berry size was quite small according to Adam Tolmach. The Roll Ranch is an intense, tannic wine that needs time to come around, but it is hugely fascinating. There is 2% Viognier co-fermented in the blend.” – AG 93 Points


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