Rancho Ventavo Cellars
741 S. A St., Oxnard

When owners George Gilpatrick and Faye Hawes started Rancho Ventavo Cellars they decided to make only red wines. I asked Hawes if she feels that she loses some customers because they don’t offer white wines. “We thought, let’s start with just reds and see how many complaints we get,” she says with a slight twinkle in her eye. As you can surmise, they don’t get many complaints.

They started their 1,500-case winery 13 years ago. Gilpatrick makes the wine and Hawes sells it. A visit to their tasting room, a historic 1902 Craftsman located in Heritage Square in downtown Oxnard, is like visiting with neighbors; everyone seems to know everyone else and you’re always welcome to join the conversation. The tasting room is quintessential Craftsman bungalow with hardwood floors, green tin pressed ceilings, and wood built-ins equaling a beautiful display of artisan homebuilding. The choice to make this their tasting room was an easy one. “I didn’t want to be in an industrial park or shopping mall,” Faye says. “We knew opening here, it would take time for L.A. people to find Ventura, but they have.”

They buy grapes from mainly Santa Barbara but also Paso Robles, Lodi, even Amador in the Sierra Foothills. “We go where the good grapes are grown,” says Hawes. “It’s all about the grapes,” she insists. The proof of that is that their wines reflect these regions where they are getting excellent fruit. Though they don’t offer food, you are welcome to bring cheese and crackers or order a pizza from a nearby restaurant. Dogs are also welcome. Taste at the small bar or in the adjoining room where you can sit at tables and relax and enjoy a glass. Bottle prices range from $26 to $36 and a glass of wine is $10. The wines show a maturity that hopefully will surprise you. They are open for tastings Friday through Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. and offer monthly case specials.

Tasting well currently are their 2010 mourvèdre ($34), aged in barrels for two years, full of blackberry, boysenberry and a lithe near-anise back note, brambly and rugged.

The 2011 Essa ($28) is their take on a cabernet sauvignon/syrah blend and it offers great acidity with noticeable blackberry and blueberry compote, firm tannins and a lengthy finish. The 2009 cabernet franc ($32) is a smooth velvety wine with bright acidity, boysenberry, blackberry and blueberry notes.