Lurid purple. Intense, expansive dark berry liqueur, allspice, violet and woodsmoke aromas are complemented by subtle hints of licorice and sandalwood. Sappy and incisive, offering vibrant black raspberry and bitter cherry flavors that slowly gain sweetness in the glass. The spice and floral notes come back emphatically on the youthfully tannic finish, which clings with superb energy and focus. Making so many different wines from different varieties and vineyards "keeps the mind active," according to Adam Tolmach, and it also "keeps you curious-it's impossible to fall into a rut." Assistant winemaker Fabien Castel noted that Ojai has been steadily moving to fewer punchdowns during fermentation "to preserve elegance and avoid overextraction" and that the oak regimen continues to rely heavily on neutral and "really neutral" barrels. Tolmach said, again, that while he continues to be pleased "more often than not" by how the richer, more powerful wines that he made in the past have aged, "that's not the style that makes me happy."
The 2011 Syrah Bien Nacido is a classic Syrah from this brilliant site located just to the east of Santa Maria. Masculine in style, with ample pepper, smoked earth, crushed rock and violet-tinged dark fruits, this beauty flows onto the palate with medium-bodied richness, a firm, tight feel and ripe tannin. Give it a year in the cellar and drink it through 2021. This was a mammoth tasting with winemaker Adam Tolmach and assistant Fabien Castel. While I had a number of these shipped to my office in Colorado (where I was able to follow the wines for multiple days), there were still upward of 30 bottles to taste through when I showed up at the estate. Adam continues to pull in his harvest dates, and in a number of cases, has released two cuvees from each vineyard, one harvested early (the Special Bottling) and one harvested later, which is still on the early edge. I have mixed feelings about the new style here, and while these early pick dates give his wines beautiful tension, acidity and energy, it comes at the expense of texture and richness, and the wines have a sappy, resinous, if not green, character that won’t be for everyone. Nevertheless, there are certainly some outstanding wines here.
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