Showing posts with label Ojai. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ojai. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Ventura County Wine Trail

Ventura County, once a Southern California stop-for-gas locale between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, now has a great reason to stop and stay awhile - a wine trail of their own.  The Ventura County Wine Trail is made up of 11 wineries calling Ventura County home plus four located in Malibu.

The area is a little too spread out to make for a convenient one-day excursion, but you can break it up into smaller segments and manage it a bit at a time.

The Malibu Section

Four wineries are in the Malibu and Malibu Hills area, up in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Elevations of around 1,400 feet and cool ocean breezes make for some good grape-growing conditions.

Rosenthal Malibu Estate

In 1987 George Rosenthal planted the first grapes in this area since Prohibition and spearheaded the effort to get AVA status for Newton Canyon, which is contained in California's South Coast AVA.  The winery's tasting room is actually down at sea level, on Pacific Coast Highway, with a great view of the beach.

Cornell Winery and Tasting Room

Cornell has its own wine to pour, but Tim Skogstrom also pours the wine of nearly two dozen other vintners in the Malibu Hills.  It's a laid-back, history-laden place.

Cielo Malibu Estate Wineyards

Richard and Diana Hirsh founded Cielo in what was to become the Saddlerock Malibu AVA.  Their '06 Syrah Blackcrow Mountain was a double gold award winner at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.  The Cielo wines may be sampled at the SIP Malibu Tasting Room in Agoura.

Malibu Wines

Way up in the mountains right between the 101 Freeway and Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu Wines has two labels to offer.  Semler is their estate label and Saddlerock is wine produced from grapes sourced elsewhere in the Central Coast.

The 101 Freeway Section

Four Brix Winery

Gary Stewart and the Four Brix Family source eleven different varities of grapes from nine vineyards in six appellations.  Taste their wines at The Wineyard, home of their official tasting room in Thousand Oaks.

Los Robles Hills Winery

Also in Thousand Oaks, the Los Robles Hill vineyard is named Puerta del Cielo, which means "Gate of Heaven."  It's an homage to the Spanish missionaries who traveled El Camino Real and planted a lot of grapes themselves.

Camarillo Custom Crush Winery

This a place where other vintners come to make their wines.  The tasting room - open on weekends - features the wine of three local vineyards per week.

Bella Victorian Vineyard

A Victorian-style home with a vineyard in the backyard - it's a refreshing break from Southern California suburbia.  The tasting room features a bistro, and the grounds are offered as a beautiful place for weddings.

Cantara Cellars

Cantara sources Northern California grapes from Lodi and pours their wines at the winery's tasting room in Camarillo.

Herzog Wine Cellars

Driven from their Slovakian home in 1948, the Herzog family moved to New York City, where they made wine until moving to California in 1985.  Their winery was constructed some 20 years later in Oxnard.  The tasting room is on-site, where you can try the Baron Herzog and Herzog Wine Cellars labels.

Magnavino Cellars

This Oxnard winery relies primarily on Lodi grapes.  Their Viognier is sourced in Santa Barbara County.

Rancho Ventavo Cellars

Operating from an Oxnard avocado and lemon ranch, winemaker George Gilpatrick draws fruit from a variety of locales, including Paso Robles, Santa Barbara County and the Sierra Foothills.  The tasting room is in downtown Oxnard.

The Ojai Section

Old Creek Ranch Winery

Wine production on the Old Creek Ranch in the Ojai Valley dates back to the 1800s.  The original winery is still on the property, but the current version was founded in 1981.  Old Creek Ranch is cattle ranch with fruit orchards, so the grapes are sourced from Napa Valley and a number of notable vineyards in Santa Barbara County.  The tasting room overlooks the orchards.  Feel free to bring a picnic lunch.

Casa Barranca

The Casa Barranca Estate is a national historic landmark featuring the 1909 California Craftsman Pratt House.  The estate is unfortunately not open to the public, but the tasting room in downtown Ojai is.  Their ICO certified organic vineyard produces Syrah, Grenache, Semillon and Viognier grapes.

Ojai Vineyard

Adam Tolmach produces excellent wines using grapes from Santa Barbara County - including the Sta. Rita Hills - and the Ojai Valley.  The tasting room is located in downtown Ojai.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Ojai Vineyards Thompson Vineyard Syrah

Greenblatt's Deli on Sunset Boulevard is not only a very fine deli, it also happens to be a fine wine shop.  Now that's a combination I can live with.  I had some time to kill and took the opportunity to have a great glass of wine while browsing the racks there.  I actually skipped the deli altogether and ordered a glass of the 2005 Ojai Vineyards Thompson Vineyard Syrah.

While browsing, I noticed Greenblatt's had this wine by the bottle, marked down from $45 to $30.  That's quite a bargain, and the $12 by-the-glass price isn't bad either.

The wine is colored very darkly, with purple tinting at the edges.  The nose is great, with blackberries and an earthy, beefy aroma coming forth.  It's very dark on the palate, too, with blackberries and plums giving way to black pepper and mocha on the finish.

If you get the chance, Greenblatt's is a great browse.  They cover a nice stretch, from $7 Borsao (which is great, by the way) to Screaming Eagle, with a lot of nice wines in the $20 range.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Ojai Vineyards

We'll keep the summertime wines rolling with a look back at a rosé I had a couple of summers ago and enjoyed immensely, the Ojai Vineyards Rosé 2007.
This pink comes in a clear bottle that really shows off the beautiful salmon-colored contents.  The diamond-shaped label shows it to be a California Table Wine at 14% abv.  It's a blend of Grenache, Mourvèrdre, a touch of Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.
A floral sense dominates the nose, with notes of cranberry and strawberry.  On the palate, bone dry!  That's always a pleasure.  How disappointing is it to taste a rosé and find it to be a pretty little candy bar?  Not this one.  It sooo wants some food.  This wine would be great with the usual pairings of salad and fish, but I think it would also pair well with heavier fare, like pork chops.  I had mine with some crackers and extra sharp cheddar, and it scored.
Run by Adam Tolmach and his wife, Helen for more than a quarter century,  Ojai Vineyards is probably best known for their Syrah.  Adam writes on the website, "In the old days we used to make it dark, soft, and full to the point that it could have been confused with a Pinot Noir.  The wine was a meal in itself.  But I have turned away from that style; I now prefer rosés light and zippy-so much easier to slurp with lunch on an unbearably hot day."  The '07 sure fit the bill.  I understand their '08 rosé contained Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre, while the '09 sports Roll Ranch Syrah with a spot of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc.
If you have found it difficult getting your hands on a variety of Ojai Vineyards wines, you should note that the Tolmachs plan to open a tasting room - for the first time - with a target date of July 15th.  The tasting room will be in the historic firehouse at 109 South Montgomery Street in Ojai.  Sounds like a jaunt to Ojai may have just popped up on the summer calendar.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Ojai Wine Festival

A trip to Ojai is always a good thing, but it's that much better this coming weekend.  The Ojai Wine Festival takes place Sunday June 13, 2010 from noon to 5:00 p.m.  The pouring will actually stop at 4:00, so get there as early as you can.

More than 40 wineries and breweries will pour their wares in the great outdoors of the Lake Casitas Recreation Area, on the northern shore of the lake.  The wineries are mostly Central Coast producers, but there is a smattering of wineries representing Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Lodi.  You will also be able to visit a "by-the-glass" section, where you can sit and relax with a six-dollar glass of wine.

Some Central Coast favorites will be pouring, like Alma Rosa, Brander, Bridlewood, Curtis, Core Wine, Cottonwood Canyon, Daniel Gehrs, Dragonette, Lincourt, Foley, Hitching Post, Mosby, Ritual, Santa Barbara Winery and Summerland.

Entertainment will be provided by by a pair of bands, 11-piece rock'n'soul band Tom Thumb and the Hitchikers and a tribute band named Sgt. Pepper.  You'll also be able to take a 20-minute boat ride around the lake for free.

Tickets are a pretty reasonable $30 in advance, $40 at the gate.  Parking is $5 on site.  A ticket buys ten tastes of wine or beer and a souvenir wine glass.   The proceeds from the festival benefit the Rotary Club of Ojai-West and the countless organizations they help.


From the 101 Freeway exit north onto State Route 33. Five miles north of the 101 (at the Foster Park Exit) the speed limit drops to 35 mph and the four lanes become two. At this point, North Ventura Avenue merges with Highway 33. From this point on, street signs refer to it as either North Ventura Avenue or Highway 33. Proceed north on Highway 33 to Baldwin Road and turn left.

There is a scenic route given on their website as well. Feeling adventurous?

Where Highway 33 narrows to two lanes, exit at Casitas Vista Road. Loop around to the right, go under the freeway, over the dry Ventura River bed and turn right onto Casitas Vista Road. In a short while, turn right again onto Santa Ana Road. Go over the bridge toward the Casitas Lake entrance. In about ten miles, the Recreational Area will be on your left.

All this information, and more, is available on the Ojai Wine Festival website.

Feel free to leave comments on this blog, or you can always email Randy Fuller at

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tasting Room Notes: Summerland Winery

Why had we never gotten off the 101 freeway in Summerland before? Maybe it's because when we pass that way we're usually headed for either Santa Barbara or the Santa Ynez Valley, and it seems we should just press on and get where we're going. Maybe it's because we never knew there was a really great little highway grocery there. Maybe it's because we never knew about the Summerland Winery.

Well, this time we were headed for Pismo Beach, so it was actually perfectly positioned as a stopping place. We needed to pick up a few things at a market of some sort. The Summerland Winery just happened to be there, in the right place at the right time.

The tasting room is in a tidy little building in the seaside community of Summerland, between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. There's a bay window upstairs and a flag adorns the front, flapping in the cool ocean breeze. I had imagined it would look more like a boutique and less like a tasting room inside, but I was wrong. Ample bar space beckoned, so I picked up a tasting menu and got started.

I had just sampled Summerland's wares at the Ojai Wine Festival a week earlier - my pourer recognized me - so I knew there were good wines here. The tasting fee is $8, $12 to keep the glass.

Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Barbara County, 2007 - A pungent aroma leads to tropical flavors and grapefruit. The acidity is quite nice, so I would guess it's a good wine to have with food. It's very crisp and refreshing, so you could just sip it if you like.

Pinot Gris, Santa Barbara County, 2008 - More tropical flavors, and a nice clean finish.

Chardonnay, Rancho Santa Rosa, 2007 - 10 months in oak left its mark on this one. It's very oaky, although with a clean taste and finish.

Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, 2007 - Brilliant aromas and flavors in this one - black cherry and clove all over the place. This is not subdued - it's a very lively Pinot Noir.

Grenache, Paso Robles, 2006 - This medium-bodied Grenache surprised me. It tasted a lot spicier than I expected. Fairly nice, but I can think of several other Grenaches I like better.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, 2006 - The black currant profile is very strong here. French oak for 14 months gives a nice effect, but the wood is rather restrained.

Orange Muscat, Santa Barbara County 2008 - This dessert wine isn't sappy, it's nice and crisp in fact. The sweetness is there, it simply isn't overdone.