AWG Correspondent

Julie Dorris

Ojai Vineyard Photos

Ojai Vineyard Review

Region: California

Reviewed: June 16, 2012 by Julie Dorris
Published: August 16, 2012

In the idyllic, sage-scented town of Ojai, CA, there is some serious winemaking going on, and wines bearing the Ojai Vineyard label embody all the hard work and heart and soul that go into crafting fine wines. Winemaker Adam Tolmach started the Ojai Vineyard along with his wife Helen in 1983, with the goal of using Central Coast grapes to produce wines in the tradition of Burgundy and the Rhone Valley. His artistic process begins with choosing grapes from the finest terroirs and ends with critically acclaimed wines that can be found on menus at fine restaurants and resorts.

I had encountered these wines on a few occasions, and I knew they were of high quality and characterized by the taste and aroma of the Santa Barbara region. Still, I was curious to see what the tasting room had in store for me.

The Place:  The Ojai Vineyard tasting room is located on the northeast side of Libbey Park, in the center of downtown Ojai. You can park anywhere in town and walk to it. It is housed in the old historic firehouse next to an art gallery and across from the popular Agave Maria’s restaurant. The light-filled tasting room boasts a clean, simple décor with some personal touches, such as the nifty bag holders beneath the wooden bar—much appreciated by the ladies. During the cooler months, it’s typical to see people enjoying a spot in the sun on the front patio.

The Experience:  I was warmly and promptly greeted as I entered and sat down in the only space available. A server explained the tasting flight to me, a pricey $15 for five wines, waived with the purchase of two bottles. The menu varies, and on this day Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot, Syrah and a Rose were being poured. My server prepared me for each taste with information on the wine, and he always followed up to see what I thought. I started asking questions, which opened up the floor for much wine discussion. As it turns out, the servers were not only wine aficionados but viticulture experts, so all I had to do was sip and absorb their knowledge. I was surprised to find out that the owner was one of the founding co-owners of Au Bon Climat, another highly reputable Santa Barbara label. I also learned that Ojai Vineyard contracts with carefully selected growers to acquire its grapes, and the vines are cultivated under certain standards set by Tolmach. He is constantly striving to improve his growing practices and has implemented organic and biodynamic methods in some of the vineyards.

The Wines:  The wines are named after the vineyards where the grapes are cultivated, since this is the most important aspect of winemaking for Tolmach. The Chardonnay I tasted from Bien Nacido Vineyards comes from older vines, giving it a rich character on top of an aromatic, fruity nose. The Riesling Ice Wine from Kick on Ranch, which is one of their most popular, is fragrant and exhilarating. Despite my preconceptions, I was lucky to taste the Rose, which was the daily selection. More often than not I find these bland, but this one was blossoming with flavor despite its pale appearance. Tolmach’s approach to making Rose deviates from the norm. He chooses grapes specifically for making this wine instead of using leftovers. The grapes are not crushed and left to macerate, but are treated like a white wine and placed immediately on the press.

After tasting at The Ojai Vineyard, I’m now positive that these wines do exactly what wines are meant to do: complement and bring out the flavors of food.

Extras:  The winemaker offers special deals on the website, and wines can be shipped.

Address & Contact Information: 109 S Montgomery St Ojai, California 93023. Telephone: 805-649-1674, email:, website: Tasting Hours: 12:00-5:00 and by appt..

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