Wines of Place and Person

We first introduced you to Ojai in the spring of this year and we are happy to have two new wines from this pioneering California producer. The vision of Adam Tolmach, co-founder of the famed Au Bon Climat winery and a trailblazer in the non-interventionist winegrowing movement, Ojai is dedicated to making world-class wines without compromise.

Ojai sources fruit from the best vineyards in the Santa Barbara region through hands-on, long-term acreage contracts that allow Adam to farm the vineyards himself, working with the same rows year over year and in some cases for decades. An approach that is considerably more labour intensive and costly than purchasing grapes by the tonne, this deep connection to the vineyards ensures Adam gets the fruit he wants: intricately flavoured and at the ideal sugar levels to maintain balance and freshness in his wines.

Because Adam’s focus is on making natural wines that speak to their place of origin, in the winery there is very little intervention: all wines are made with natural yeasts and pumping, fining and racking are kept to a minimum. As much as possible, “nothing is added and nothing taken away” in order to create what Adam describes as: “racy and impressive exhibitions of vineyard character, unadorned by our hands – just subtly framed.”

The 2020 Bien Nacido Chardonnay hails from a coastal vineyard in the eastern part of the Santa Maria Valley planted back in 1973 and the Santa Barbara Pinot Noir is sourced from very cool (almost marginal) climate vineyards throughout the region. Both wines display the perfect combination of the vintage’s ample sunshine through brilliant aromatics and lush fruit balanced by the crisp acidity and salinity of these exposed coastal sites. With the gentle hand of Adam’s winemaking, these wines showcase both nature and nurture in perfect harmony.

Ojai 2020 Bien Nacido Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
Retail: $52.95 / btl

Ojai 2020 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara
Retail: $61.95 / btl

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The Wines

Ojai 2020 Bien Nacido Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
This vintage has radiant aromatics, offering an effusive and complex nose of meyer lemon, crisp pear and rich florals along with earthy notes of white pepper and sea salt, all contained within a subtle frame of French oak (just 11% new barrels). The palate is full of lemon curd, apricots and salinity. There’s great tension between the rich, round mid-palate of the wine and the crisp, mineral drive that propels its long finish.

Ojai 2020 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara
The nose is full of spiced tea, flowers and that distinct ocean saltiness the region provides. It’s pliant and silky on the palate, with swelling sweet red notes of berries and cherry that make a slow taper into resinous spice, smoky cedar and salinity.

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About Ojai

Adam Tolmach is one of the original artisans of the Central Coast. After graduating from UC Davis in 1976 with a degree in viticulture and enology, Adam settled on a property his grandfather had been farming in the Ojai Valley since 1933, and planted Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah vines. He co-founded Au Bon Climat in 1982 with Jim Clendenen, and then in 1991, Adam sold his share of ABC to Jim, allowing him to focus on The Ojai Vineyard.

In the ensuing 30 years, vineyard management and winemaking have evolved significantly, following Adam’s interest in producing natural, expressive wines with a light touch. He was a pioneer is contracting to buy fruit by the acre, rather than by the ton – allowing him to manage the vineyards himself, and focus on quality over quantity. He converted to sustainable practices, then organics, and manages the crop to achieve full maturity with lower potential alcohol. At the same time, his techniques in the cellar dictated a move to more used / less new oak; minimal then zero fining and filtering; minimizing use of sulphites, and adopting native yeast fermentation. Indeed, Adam refers to his journey as an evolution which is ongoing.

In January 2021, Adam and his wife Helen purchased the highly-regarded Fe Ciega (Blind Faith) Vineyard overlooking the Santa Ynez River in the Sta. Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County. Adam has been producing a Fe Ciega Pinot Noir since 2003, referring to it as a ‘luminary planting’, comprising 9 acres of vineyard on a 43 acre property. Conversion to organic is underway. An impressive array of vineyards provide fruit for The Ojai Vineyard, including La Côte, Bien Nacido. Antonio Galloni comments, “More than anything else, these wines give consumers a terrific opportunity to explore the personalities of a number of top sites at prices that are exceedingly fair.” – August 2020

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You can also email or call 416.693.7994. We’d love to chat about wine with you!

Ojai wines are represented in Ontario by The Vine Agency.

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