Thursday, December 4, 2008

An Ojai Trio

Ojai Vineyards is one of California's more controversial wine producers. The winemaker, Adam Tolmach made his name with high octane alcoholic super intense wines. Later, he wrote an article decrying the overuse of alcohol in California wine. So, where does he sit now? It seems that he is planning on restraining his winemaking. The vintages and wines I will be tasting are pre-declaration, however, so it will be interesting to see how they turn out. As a note, NONE of these wines had alcohol percentages listed (despite the BC law otherwise), hmmmm.

Wine #1: Ojai Vineyards Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay ‘Clos Pepe’ Vineyard 2005

Here we have a nose of toasted nuts, mainly almonds, and rich round apple and pear. The palate was replete with pineapple, toast, banana, and citrus – predominantly lime. With a nice balance of acidity and lushness, this wine reminded me of a perfect meringue. Full and long in the mouth, with great punch and clarity.

~$50 at Marquis

Wine #2: Ojai Vineyards Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir ‘Clos Pepe’ Vineyard 2004

The nose was all spice and strawberry – in fact I detected a very distinct blend of mulling spices, making this a great Christmas wine. The palate was actually less fruity than expected, and had great notes of cinnamon, clove, orange rind (dried and slightly bitter), and musty earth. I really enjoyed the palate – it was a cut above most New World pinots I have had. There was a touch of heat on the back end, but this was not at all offensive or extreme. And, it was freakin’ amazing with Foie Gras

~$50 at Marquis

Wine #3: Ojai Vineyards Santa Barbara County Syrah ‘White Hawk’ Vineyard 2004

Here is where I began to understand Ojai’s reputation. This was a mother of a syrah: a huge nose of roasted red fruits such as cherry, chocolate, game and scorched earth. Very big and juicy, almost creamy with rich chocolatey and dried fruit flavours on the palate. Very tasty, but too alcoholic and big for me – even unbalanced. The extraction is a little crazy and overwhelmed the palate somewhat. Maybe with a super rich red meat dish this would work better.

Very Good to Very Good+
~$50 at Marquis

So, in the end I was quite impressed with this Ojai trio, and didn't think they should be that controversial, except for the Syrah. I definitely recommend seeking these guys out and giving them a try, no matter what your predilections. You may, in the end, not like the wines, but you will learn something in the process.

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