The Ojai Vineyard
Zaca Mesa Winery, which opened in the mid 1970s, spawned a multitude of prominent Central Coast
winemakers including Ken Brown, Jim Clendenen, Daniel Gehrs, Bob Lindquist, Rick Longoria, Lane Tanner,
and Adam Tolmach. Tolmach trained at University California Davis and was the enologist at Zaca Mesa. Jim
Clendenen and Adam Tolmach left Zaca Mesa Winery in 1982 and became partners in Au Bon Climat which
was begun very modestly in a small dairy barn in Los Alamos. By 1986 Clendenen and Tolmach added Bob
Lindquist and Ken Margerum as partners and eventually their winery became established in a warehouse on
the grounds of the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley.
Adam Tolmach founded his own label, Ojai Vineyard in 1983, along with his wife Helen, but continued as a
partner in Au Bon Climat until 1991. Tolmach’s initial vintage consisted of a small amount of Syrah produced at
Au Bon Climat. The next year he built a winery in Oak View, near the town of Ojai in Ventura County on land
that was left to him by his grandfather. All production has originated here since 1984. Pinot Noir was added to
the lineup in the early 1990s, initially sourced from Bien Nacido Vineyard. Through the years, Ojai Vineyard
has acquired a cult winery status do its small production and exclusivity. Most of the Ojai Vineyard wines are
vineyard-designated originating from Tolmach’s long term relationships in which fruit is bought by the acre.
Ojai Vineyard wines have been known for their bold and ripe flavors. In an article in the Los Angeles Times
(January 9, 2008, written by Corie Brown), Tolmach said that he has shifted course and now espouses earlier
harvesting of his grapes, lower alcohols and more finesse. He said, “We got the scores we wanted, but we
went away from what I personally like. We lost our rudder when we went for bolder, riper flavors.” He admitted
that he had stopped drinking his own wines and had decided to ignore the future opinions of wine critics. He
stated, “My goal is to produce 14% alcohol wines with nuance.” He now is committed to picking earlier than
I recently tasted a few Pinot Noirs from Ojai Vineyard from the 2004 and 2005 vintage and I am glad Tolmach
has changed direction. These wines were big-fruited and well oaked tannic brutes that lacked elegance. They
were highly structured in the mold of Syrah and lacked the charm associated with Pinot Noir. I look forward to
sampling the Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noirs from the upcoming 2007 and 2008 vintages.
2005 The Ojai Vineyard Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., $50. The grapes come from Block Q widely planted to UCD
Focused scents of ripe and dark red berries, wood and spice.
Powerful core of dark berries and cherries with a tug of earthiness and thick
oak. The tannins are well-corralled, the mouth feel is soft and the finish has
both an appealing tang and unappealing touch of astringency.
Ojai Vineyard wines are sold primarily through a mailing list with limited retail distribution. About 6,000 cases
are produced each year, divided among fifteen bottlings, including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Pinot Noir,
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. No tours or tasting. The website is www.ojaivineyard.com and
the phone is 805-649-1674.