Santa Maria Valley AVA
Ojai Vineyard's Adam Tolmach is firmly in control with a hands on approach to winemaking.
Owner Adam Tolmach’s family allowed him to taste wines as a youth and that experience propelled him into a lifelong love affair with wine and the wine industry. After his family moved to the Oxnard, CA area, Adam Tolmach continued to develop his fascination with the almighty grape. When college called, he matriculated to the University of California Davis and received his Viticultural degree from that top-rated institution in 1976. Around that time, both Napa Valley and Sonoma Counties were beginning to innovate and grow in size and reputation.
Tolmach eventually joined the venerable Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards operation (one of the first three wineries in Santa Barbara County) and then teamed with Jim Clendenen in originating the heralded Au Bon Climat Winery that became an industry trend setter for the Central Coast for a number of years. After more than a decade, Tolmach then left Au Bon Climat and headed south to his family’s long-held agricultural property located in Ojai, just south of Santa Barbara.
“My grandfather bought the land in 1933 and had a number of acres under vine,” Tolmach explained during a recent interview. “It has been chopped up a bit since that time but there are still 45 acres left of the original plot.”
When Ojai Vineyards became a reality in 1983 (original production was only 300 cases), Tolmach used only his homegrown grapes. A decade or so later, and Pierce’s Disease (a bacterium found in the water conducting tissues of the vine) wiped out much of the vineyards around Ojai, forcing Tolmach to find other sources of fruit.
“I started buying grapes from North Santa Barbara County due to the quality and the fact it was a cooler growing region,” he related. “When the area became highly successful in the eyes of the general public, I was truly delighted.”
The fact that the Solomon Hills AVA has become one of the darlings of the Central Coast is no surprise to Tolmach, an expert on terroir and terroir-driven varietals. “There are so many variables in our business, each little aspect affects the ultimate quality of the wine. In a Pinot Noir, terroir is even more important since the grape itself is so tricky. In my mind, the trick is finding nuance and elegance. The ultimate objective is to do next to nothing and let the vineyard express its unique personality. Given all that, I’m afraid winemaking is my real passion, the opportunity of a truly great wine.” In the ensuring years, Ojai Vineyards has become one of the industry standards by which top Central Coast wines are measured. Annual production has remained between 7,000 and 8,000 cases, a level that has stayed constant for the past decade and a half. Ojai Vineyards currently purchases more than 95% of its fruit from outside growers and intends to do so for the foreseeable future. The distinctive Ojai Vineyards label is the product of Adam’s brother Richard, also the graphic artist of Au Bon Climat fame.
“We have managed to produce exceptional wines since our inception,” concluded Adam Tolmach. “We intend to continue doing more of the same in the future.” Tolmach controls his own winemaking and in his own words, “I keep it small and crafty. I mean to get my hands dirty, the sign that I am making good, solid wines from the ground up.”
It is a distinct pleasure to offer this marvelous Ojai Vineyard 2014 Pinot Noir to our Pinot Noir Wine Club members, a wine that will remain in your memory for some time to come. Cheers!