My tasting this year at Ojai was epic. Winemaker/Proprietor Adam Tolmach and Assistant Winemaker Fabien Castel have done a fabulous job with these new and upcoming releases. The highlights are centered among the Pinots and Syrahs. I am less enthused with the 2012 Chardonnays, which lack some of the customary level of Ojai energy. In exchange, though, those wines will drink well right out of the gate. Tolmach adds that the 2012s continue to put on weight in bottle, while the 2013s were born with more density and structure. Both years produced generous crops. In 2012, the Fe Ciega, Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills Pinots were all made with dollops of whole clusters, while all of the Syrahs were made from fully destemmed fruit. Because of the short harvest and low production, the 2011 reds are going to be hard to find. The 2012s, on the other hand will be more readily available. Given the number of small-production bottlings in this range, the best approach is to sign up for the winery’s mailing list. Also tasted: 2013 Rosé.
2012 Syrah Solomon Hills Special Bottling
Ojai’s 2012 Syrah Solomon Hills Special Bottling is even better than the 2011. Here the richness and radiance of the year add extra dimensions of density and complexity. Hints of orange peel, sweet tobacco, mint, leather and pine lift from the glass, while the depth of the fruit gives the wine a verticality that is impossible to miss. This is one of the most impressive wines I have ever tasted from Ojai.
97 2015 – 2024 $71.00 Jul 2014
2011 Syrah Solomon Hills Special Bottling
The 2011 Syrah Solomon Hills Special Bottling wafts from the glass with sweet tobacco, pine, cedar, mint and exotic spices. The flavors are wonderfully lifted and gracious throughout. A Syrah built on finesse and elegance rather than sheer power, the 2011 delivers the goods. The 2011 was made from fully destemmed fruit and aged in neutral oak.
96 2016 – 2026 $71.00 Jul 2014
2011 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard
A drop-dead gorgeous wine, the 2011 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard is deep and powerful to the core. Blackberry, blueberry, tobacco, smoke and game meld together in an inward, implosive wine built on serious density. Black pepper, cloves and juniper berries add complexity on a finish laced with a suggestion of whole clusters. Readers who can be patient will be rewarded with a magnificent Syrah.
95 2016 – 2026 $45.00 Jul 2014
2011 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard Special Bottling
The 2011 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard Special Bottling was vinified with 70% whole clusters and spent about eight months more in barrel than the straight 2011 John Sebastiano Syrah. Crushed flowers, anise, mint, tobacco and red berries meld together in a deep, resonant wine endowed with terrific depth and nuance. There is a lot to like here, but the 2011 needs a little more time in bottle for its explosive personality to emerge fully.
95 2016 – 2026 $71.00 Jul 2014
2010 Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard
Black fruit, scorched earth, smoke, tobacco and iron burst from the glass in the 2010 Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard. A rich, explosive Syrah, the Roll Ranch is not for the timid. The sheer power and intensity of the fruit take hold of all the senses and never let up. This is the only Ojai Syrah that is co-fermented with a dollop of Viognier, which is felt in the wine’s perfumed, floral-laced finish. This is yet another gorgeous new release from Ojai.
95 2014 – 2024 $45.00 Jul 2014
2010 Syrah White Hawk Vineyard
The 2010 Syrah White Hawk Vineyard tastes like it was made yesterday. The flavors are bold, rich and intense. Here it is the wine’s structure and tannin that stand out most. Readers will have to be patient, as the 2010 is going to need at least a few years to fully blossom. When it does, it should be fabulous.
94+ 2016 – 2025 $45.00 Jul 2014
2012 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard Special Bottling
One of the more explosive, full-throttle Pinots this year at Ojai, the 2012 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard Special Bottling hits the palate with a rush of dark fruit, mint and sweet spices. The Special Bottling was aged in 100% new oak, which is unusual for Ojai, but an inspired choice given the inherent richness in the fruit. Stylistically, the 2012 flashy, extroverted and impossible to resist.
94 2014 – 2022 $71.00 Jul 2014
2012 Syrah Grenache Sebastiano (No So2)
The 2012 Syrah Grenache Sebastiano (No SO2) impresses for tis depth, power and explosiveness. Layers of racy, dark fruit hit the palate in a super-impressive wine bursting with personality. Rose petal, violets and sweet spices add complexity on the ample, resonant finish. Wines bottled with no SO2 are by nature fragile, especially when not stored or transported properly, so readers need to be careful. Still, this is a gorgeous and totally thrilling wine.
94 2014 – 2022 $38.00 Jul 2014
2011 Pinot Noir Kick on Ranch Vineyard Special Bottling
The 2011 Pinot Noir Kick on Ranch Vineyard Special Bottling brings together all of the best qualities of the Ojai Pinots in this vintage. The savory aromatics recall Bien Nacido, while the overt fruit is more in line with Fe Ciega and Solomon Hills. Sweet herbs, dried flowers and red cherries inform the silky, exceptionally polished finish. This is a wonderfully complete wine from Ojai. In 2011, Ojai did two picks at Kick On separated by ten days. The straight Kick On Pinot is a blend of equal parts both picks, while the Special Bottling is the earlier pick alone.
94 2015 – 2026 $66.00 Jul 2014
2010 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard
Distinctly ferrous, savory notes meld into dark red and black fruits in the 2010 Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard. A host of dark, meaty aromas and flavors hit the palate in a dense, concentrated Syrah endowed with tons of depth and pure power. In 2010, the Bien Nacido is a wine of real gravitas and intensity.
94 2015 – 2024 $45.00 Jul 2014
2010 Syrah Melville Vineyards
Dark red plum, blueberry, mint, sage, tobacco and black pepper lift from the glass in the 2010 Syrah Melville Vineyards. Nuanced and beautifully expressive on the palate, the 2010 is a drop-dead gorgeous beauty. Hints of lavender, violets, mint and blackberries are layered into the super-expressive, lifted finish.
94 2015 – 2022 $49.00 Jul 2014
2012 Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard
The 2012 Grenache John Sebastiano Vineyard bursts from the glass with racy dark red cherries. Sweet floral and spice notes appear later, but the 2012 is essentially a wine built on fruit. Dark red cherry, plum and menthol wrap around the succulent finish. This is a striking Grenache from Ojai.
93+ 2014 – 2024 $38.00 Jul 2014
2012 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard
Dark red cherry, plum, smoke and spice notes flesh out in the 2012 Syrah John Sebastiano Vineyard. A rich, ample wine, the 2012 dazzles with its depth and soft contours, although there is plenty of underlying weight and structure. The 2012 was made with fully destemmed fruit, so the fruit remains front and center. This fleshy, super-expressive Syrah will drink beautifully pretty much right out of the gate. Tasted next to the No SO2 bottling, the straight John Sebastiano Syrah is a bit less exuberant, but it, too, is very beautiful. This wind-swept site is one of the most pedigreed vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills.
93+ 2015 – 2024 $45.00 Jul 2014
2011 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills
A drop-dead gorgeous beauty, the 2011 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills bursts from the glass with dark red and black stone fruit, crushed rocks, white flowers and mint. Vivid and wonderfully alive, the 2011 is a more than worth follow up to the spectacular 2010. Today, the fruit is front and center, but another few years in bottle should bring more aromatic complexity and nuance.
93+ 2015 – 2021 $55.00 Jul 2014
2012 Pinot Noir Puerta Del Mar
Bold, direct flavors emerge from the 2012 Pinot Noir Puerta del Mar. Sage, rosemary, tangerine, cloves and leather add layers of nuance as this rich, ample Pinot shows off its breadth and power. The 2012 finishes with gorgeous aromatic intensity.
93 2014 – 2020 $49.00 Jul 2014
2012 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard
The 2012 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard is one of the tighter, more focused Pinots in this range. Orange peel, spice, dried flowers and mint all add an exotic flair. Today the tannins are quite firm, which is unusual in this vintage. Ideally the 2012 is best cellared for another year or two. There is real density here, but it needs time to fully emerge.
93 2014 – 2022 $60.00 Jul 2014
2012 Pinot Noir Kick on Ranch Vineyard
Bright red cherry, plum, sage, mint and tobacco are laced together in the 2012 Pinot Noir Kick on Ranch Vineyard. Supple, aromatic and highly expressive, the 2012 offers lovely up-front juiciness married to savory, floral notes that add complexity. There is a lot to like here. The 2012 was done with fully destemmed fruit and picked on the early side to preserve aromatics and acidity. The 2012 is soft and caressing, in the style of the year, but also exceptionally striking and bright in its purity. Tolmach and Castel captured the best the vintage had to offer here.
93 2014 – 2022 $49.00 Jul 2014
2012 Sangiovese White Hawk Vineyard
The 2012 Sangiovese White Hawk Vineyard is fabulous. Cranberry, bright red cherries, smoke and spice notes jump from the glass. There is plenty of depth to match the open, radiant personality of the year. In this vintage, the greater tannic spine of Sangiovese vis-a-vis Pinot extends the finish and adds energy. What a gorgeous wine this is.
93 2014 – 2024 $38.00 Jul 2014
2013 Riesling Ice Wine Kick on Ranch Vineyard
Ojai’s 2013 Riesling Ice Wine Kick on Ranch Vineyard is soft, pretty and very nicely textured. Jasmine, lychee, spices and mint meld together in an expressive, high-toned sweet wine laced with the essence of white peaches, mint and wild flowers. The 250 grams of residual sugar are barely noticeable in this impeccable, refined dessert wine. Light on its feet, the 2013 should drink nicely for at least a handful of years.
92 2014 – 2019 $33.00 Jul 2014
2012 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard
Ojai’s 2012 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard is beautiful. Dark red and blue-toned fruit, menthol, pine and spices are all laced together in a floral, lifted Pinot with gorgeous aromatic presence, mid-weight pliancy and terrific balance. Here, too, the style is pretty immediate, which suggests the 2012 is best enjoyed sooner rather than later. Subtle saline notes round out the finish. This parcel is planted with Martini and 777 clones.
92 2014 – 2022 $49.00 Jul 2014
2012 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills
Freshly cut roses, violets, mint, licorice and pine lift from the glass in the 2012 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills. This is the most subtle, understated and perfumed of the Ojai Pinots, much of that a reflection of the sandy soils in this site, yet there is plenty of mid-palate resonance.
92 2014 – 2020 $55.00 Jul 2014
2012 Syrah Santa Barbara
The 2012 Syrah Santa Barbara is exceptionally beautiful and polished. Bright cranberry, tangerine and floral notes are lifted and precise in this stunningly gorgeous, impeccable entry-level Syrah from Ojai. Vineyard sources include Bien Nacido, Roll Ranch and White Hawk.
92 2014 – 2022 $33.00 Jul 2014
2011 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard
The 2011 Pinot Noir Fe Ciega Vineyard is wonderfully supple, generous and resonant. Dark red cherry, plum, cola and spices meld together in an open, generous Pinot with tons of near-term appeal. This is a gorgeous, expressive Pinot from Ojai.
92 2014 – 2019 $60.00 Jul 2014
2011 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard
Savory herbs, dried rose petals, mint and sweet red cherries lift from the glass in the 2011 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard. Lifted and aromatically expressive, the 2011 is probably best enjoyed sooner rather than later given its mid-weight structure, although the tannins could use another 6-12 months to soften a bit.
92 2014 – 2019 $49.00 Jul 2014
2011 Pinot Noir Kick on Ranch Vineyard
A supple, expressive Pinot, the 2011 Pinot Noir Kick on Ranch Vineyard is wonderfully expressive today. Crushed flowers, mint, cinnamon and a light touch of savory herbs flesh out on an inviting, mid-weight Pinot to drink now and over the next handful of years. The Kick On Pinot is all about silkiness. In 2011, Ojai did two picks at Kick On separated by ten days. The straight Kick On Pinot is a blend of equal parts both picks, while the Special Bottling is the earlier pick alone.
92 2014 – 2021 $49.00 Jul 2014
The 2010 Apricot is an intriguing blend of Sangiovese and Grenache from a site that was once an apricot orchard, hence the name. Plum, sweet red cherry and spice notes meld together in a supple, juicy wine with plenty of near-term appeal. This is yet another striking, beautiful wine from Ojai.
92 2015 – 2022 $55.00 Jul 2014
2013 Viognier Ice Wine Roll Ranch Vineyard
Apricot, mango, spices and a host of tropical fruits emerge from the 2013 Viognier Ice Wine Roll Ranch Vineyard. Lavender and mint add an attractive upper register. The Viognier Ice Wine is richer and weightier in texture than the Riesling Ice Wine, and will appeal most to readers who like richer dessert wines. Volatile acidity – which is present in all wines, especially sweet wines – is borderline noticeable here and may prove distracting to readers who are especially sensitive.
91 2014 – 2017 $33.00 Jul 2014
2012 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Special Bottling
The 2012 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Special Bottling emerges from rows in the vineyard planted with younger, Clone 777 Pinot. Floral and lifted in style, this bottling presents a distinctly aromatic, sensual personality, with bright acidity and delicate, mid-weight structure that suggests it is built for near and medium-term drinking.
91 2014 – 2020 $66.00 Jul 2014
2013 Viognier Roll Ranch Vineyard
The 2013 Viognier Roll Ranch Vineyard jumps from the glass with white stone fruits, lemon and jasmine all in a crisp, floral style best suited for drinking over the next handful of years.
90 2014 – 2016 $28.00 Jul 2014
2013 Roussanne Bien Nacido Vineyard
Apricot pit, peach, spice and dried flowers meld together in the 2013 Roussanne Bien Nacido Vineyard. This is a decidedly soft, textured Roussanne built on silkiness and depth. The 2013 is the first Roussanne Adam Tolmach has made in a number of years, and it is quite pretty, but as always, made in the laid back style Tolmach seeks these days.
89 2014 – 2016 $28.00 Jul 2014
2013 Chardonnay Santa Barbara
The 2013 Chardonnay Santa Barbara is an excellent introduction to the Ojai house style. Lemon oil, flowers, sweet spices and a hint of tropical fruit grace the palate in an exquisite Chardonnay to savor over the next handful of years. This gorgeous introductory level wine more than holds its own next to far more expensive Chardonnays from other famous regions. The Santa Barbara Chardonnay is a blend of fruit from a number of sites including Puerta del Mar, Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills.
89 2014 – 2019 $28.00 Jul 2014
2012 Riesling Kick on Ranch Vineyard
The 2012 Riesling Kick on Ranch Vineyard is another soft, floral white with plenty of near-term appeal. Expressive floral notes meld into pear, green apple and white stone fruits as this accessible, mid-weight Riesling shows off its attractive personality.
89 2014 – 2016 $28.00 Jul 2014
2012 Chardonnay Solomon Hills
The 2012 Chardonnay Solomon Hills is soft, supple and easygoing. Sweet floral notes meld into white stone fruits and mint. The style is lifted and perfumed throughout. There is good Solomon Hills character, but at the same time, the 2012 could have used a little more depth.
89 2014 – 2019 $33.00 Jul 2014
2011 Chardonnay Solomon Hills
Lemon peel, spices and white flowers open up nicely in the 2011 Chardonnay Solomon Hills Vineyard. There is a lovely sense of oily richness in the glass, yet the 2011 remains polished and poised throughout.
89 2014 – 2019 $33.00 Jul 2014
2009 Syrah Presidio Vineyard
The 2009 Syrah Presidio Vineyard is built on serious richness and power. There is no shortage of depth in the glass in a Syrah that is built on power. Game, leather, smoke, soy and incense add complexity and layers of intensity. The 2009 is excellent, but perhaps just a bit less compelling than the very best wines in the range.
89 2015 – 2020 $49.00 Jul 2014
2012 Sauvignon Blanc Mc Ginley
Ojai’s 2012 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley is soft, floral and quite pretty. This light-bodied, accessible Sauvignon is an excellent aperitif-style white to enjoy over the next few years.
88 2014 – 2016 $28.00 Jul 2014
2012 Chardonnay Puerta Del Mar
Ojai’s 2012 Chardonnay Puerta del Mar hits the palate with a burst of yellow stone fruits, butter, spices and lightly honeyed floral notes. There is plenty of mid-palate depth here, but not quite the finesse of the very best Ojai Chardonnays.
88 2014 – 2017 $33.00 Jul 2014
2012 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard
The 2012 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard is rich and almost exotic in the glass. Almond paste, apricot, honeysuckle, tangerine and spice notes meld together in a textured, yet mid-weight Chardonnay built for near-term drinking. Today, the 2012 is quite forward and tropical, almost surprisingly so for an Ojai Chardonnay.
87 2014 – 2018 $30.00 Jul 2014