The unique, transverse nature of the valleys of Santa Barbara County provides a patchwork of micro-climates and terrains, resulting in a highly diverse collection of terroirs. Best known for Burgundian varieties, it also produces some of California’s most striking Syrah, sitting somewhere in between those of the Northern Rhône and South Australia.
Adam Tolmach of the Ojai Vineyard has been working and farming in Santa Barbara County since 1976. In that time, his journey towards vinous enlightenment has followed a winding path, pursuing his vision of wines that spoke of the place where they were grown. Nothing added and nothing taken away – just impressive exhibitions of vineyard character, subtly framed by a lifetime of experience.
“The wines we make today are a culmination of four decades pursuing excellence with the fruit grown in our region. We believe that a history like ours is an asset only insofar as it is defined by evolution. Craft is not an overnight sensation; it is the step-by-step progress that only comes from intuition and experience.”
2021 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley – 94 points, Jeb Dunnuck
“The 2021 Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard comes from one of the Grand Cru sites in California and has a classic style in its more honeyed orchard, musky orange, and pear-like fruits as well as chalky minerality and spice-driven nuances. Beautifully textured on the palate, it has a forward, supple mouthfeel, terrific balance, and a clean finish. Drink this any time over the coming decade.”
Retail $56.95 / btl
2021 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County – 90 points, Jeb Dunnuck
“Leading off the Pinot Noirs, the appellation 2021 Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County reveals a translucent ruby hue to go with charming, up-front aromas and flavors of ripe cherries, strawberries, sappy herbs, and underbrush. This medium-bodied, forward, total charmer is perfect for enjoying over the coming 3-5 years. It reminds me of a great Village-level Burgundy.”
Retail $64.95 / btl
2019 Syrah, Santa Barbara County – 91 points, Jeb Dunnuck
“A year in, year out winner is the 2019 Syrah Santa Barbara County. Medium ruby-hued and semi-opaque, it has a great, perfumed nose of ripe berry fruits, violets, and peppery herbs that carries to a medium-bodied, silky, wonderfully balanced Syrah that’s going to deliver loads of pleasure over the coming 4-6 years.”
Retail $59.95 / btl
THE OJAI VINEYARD, Santa Barbara
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.