The Ojai Vineyard
109 S. Montgomery St.

Some wineries are known by their reputations even before you try their wines. Such is the case with The Ojai Vineyard and its nearly iconic owner and winemaker Adam Tolmach.

There are a thousand decisions when you make wine (I know, I’ve done it) yet somehow The Ojai Vineyard manages to get all these things right.

“Our wines differ from others due to the experience of Adam, who has relentlessly pursued high-quality viticulture and winemaking for the last 35 years,” general manager Fabien Castel tells me when I visit on a warm May afternoon. “Adam has been a trailblazer pushing boundaries in what was technically and aesthetically possible, and we now find ourselves at the forefront of making more subtle and delicate wines.”

Delicate is right. There is very little oak in these wines and they are more nuanced and understated than mass-produced wines.

Also understated is the tasting room. It’s light and airy with plenty of windows with a cool glassed-in barrel room, and stained concrete floors. It presents a minimalist feel, echoing the wines. And though they don’t offer food, you are allowed to bring in food to the inside tables or the patio, and, yes, dogs are allowed on the patio, too. Locally the wines are carried by Paradise Pantry, Rhumb Line, and Ojai Valley Inn but you’ll also find them as far-flung as Stockholm, London, Paris, even Tokyo.

“Our visitors include locals, random visitors discovering Ojai, and a dedicated following who make a point to stop by to sample what we offer at the tasting room only, especially the library and reserve flights,” Castel told me.

The tasting room is open seven days a week from noon to 7 p.m. Tasting fees are $17 for typically, five wines, and wines offered by the glass are $10-$15. Also offered are “library flights” that might include wines over a decade old, and their tasting menu changes monthly.

2017 rosé

Made from carignan, syrah and Grenache, this is a clean, focused wine with lemon-lime, brulée, kiwi and raspberry notes and a slight nuttiness.

2014 Solomon Hills pinot noir

A wonderfully complex wine with notes of sage, fresh flowers, earth, red raspberry pepper and cola; a subdued version of pinot.

2014 syrah, John Sebastiano

A small-production wine (350 cases) from a cool-climate region producing pepper spice, dark raspberry, earthy and clay minerality; deep and brooding.