Ventura County is California’s newest “wine country”. Stay local and sample all types and styles of delicious wines. Plan your tasting by visiting the Ventura County Wine Trail at their website (www.venturacountywinetrail.com). Over a dozen wineries are listed from Ojai to Malibu. Since Ventura County has very few commercial vineyards, many of these wineries bring in grapes from some of California’s finest wine regions.
My current favorite local wines are from The Ojai Vineyard, Old Creek Ranch Winery and Vino V Wines. Although Vino V is fairly new, Ojai Vineyard and Old Creek Ranch have been crafting wines for many years since the early 80s.
Adam Tolmach of The Ojai Vineyard is a well-respected winemaking veteran that favors balance and finesse over fruit bombs. His chardonnays, pinot noirs, and syrahs have all earned rave reviews in the national wine press. Many of his wines are vineyard-designated from Santa Barbara County standouts such as Clos Pepe, Bien Nacido, and Fe Ciega. Ojai Vineyard often makes a syrah from the Roll Ranch, which is located just below the face of the Topa Topas in upper Ojai. I recently tasted the 2008 Santa Barbara County pinot noir and loved its balance of fruit, aroma, and finish. Ojai Vineyard has just opened a new tasting room in downtown Ojai in the historic firehouse building at 109 South Montgomery Street.
Old Creek Ranch Winery, owned by Venturans John and Carmel Whitman, has also been making wine since the early 80?s. The ranch was once home to estate vineyards, until they were wiped out by disease. Old Creek Ranch is now focusing on Spanish, Rhone, and Italian varietals from some very fine sources in the Napa Valley and Santa Barbara County. I recently tasted their line-up and was very impressed. The wines are quite tasty and a good value.
The newest winemaker at Old Creek Ranch is another local, Michael Meagher, who just happens to be the owner of Vino V Wines. Did you know that the “V” stands for Ventura? Michael formerly assisted at The Ojai Vineyard for several years, so now you can see my tasting connection. I highly recommend a current release, the 2007 “Confundido” red. This annual blend is mostly syrah, with a little grenache and albarino (yes, a little bit of white blended into a red). Michael’s goal with this blend is to make a great tasting wine, regardless of the blend composition, from year to year. The Vino V wines are appearing on some fine restaurant wine lists, including Spago Beverly Hills and our own Brooks in Ventura. Vino V Wines does not yet have a tasting room, but hope to be offering their wines at the Old Creek Ranch Winery after September 1st.
Ojai Ridge is a new, small winery that makes all of its wine from its own Dufau Vineyard on Sulphur Mountain near Ojai. It is one of the few, if not the only, winery in Ventura County that uses only Ventura County grapes. Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars is the current winemaker consultant. Just tasted the Rose of Cabernet and found it to be a nice summer sipper, not too dry and not too sweet.
Want to taste a variety of local wines without all the driving? Just stop by the Paradise Pantry wine and cheese shop at 677 East Main in Ventura. They have a great selection of artisan wine and cheese, with many local Ventura County wines. Owners Kelly Briglio and Tina Lebar have put together a nice variety from Ojai Vineyards, Old Creek Ranch, Ojai Ridge and Vino V. Sign up for the Pantry email list to get invited to their frequent winemaker tastings. Adam Tolmach and Michael Meagher have been recent visitors and will likely be back soon.