Here we have ten of Ventura County’s best wines from five of its best wineries. Grapes have been planted here off and on for hundreds of years by everyone from Chumaash natives to missionaries and all the way through the 1990’s. At that point, the dreaded glassy-winged sharpshooter infested the vines with Pierce’s disease and that seemed to be the end. Sort of. Winemakers like Adam Tolmach of the Ojai Vineyard and Manfred Krankl of the elusive and ethereal Sina Qua Non began growing vineyards again in the upper Ojai Valley area, careful to stay away from bodies of standing or flowing water—the results have so far proven fruitful. The county’s grassroots groundswell of demand for wine means that winemakers have a ready market waiting for them. So in the past five years, they have been sourcing fruit from all over the state, growing a bit more each year in the county itself and opening tasting rooms. The results have provided premium wines to one of the state’s more demanding markets.
This is a serious and focused wine with elegant red fruit and a toasty core that allows that fruit to push through the surface.
2009 Ojai Vineyard Viognier
Aromas and flavors of peach, apricot, and honey with hints of citrus, long lasting finish, and great body to boot.
Ojai Alisal Cellars 2012 Syrah
Grown in the upper Ojai valley, this Syrah’s smoky, luxurious, and rich plum flavors are laced with aromas of vanilla and toast. Of all the wines grown in Ventura County, this is the epitome of the region and its terroir.
Ojai Alisal Cellars 2012 Malbec
Also grown in the upper Ojai valley, the richness in this Malbec is on par with the best of this varietal. Dark berry flavors punctuated by rich tannins.
Cantara Cellars 2010 Franknvine
Not nearly the bastardization that the name suggests. This blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Zinfandel, Old Vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Malbec are actually a carefully crafted delivery system for flavors of licorice, tobacco, and earthy smokiness.
Mike and Chris Brown live in Ventura County and make their wines there, but they grow all their fruit in Lodi and that region’s Zinfandel credentials are well established. This expression of deep roots provide a deep and rich wine with juicy red fruit overtones and an oaky cedar laden core.
Vinemark Cellars 2012 Chardonnay
A true expression of crisp and acidy Chardonnay with perfect butter and oak with a creamy, long-lasting finish. Mark Wasserman sources most of his fruit from Paso Robles.
Vinemark Cellars 2012 Mezzanotte
A blend of 75 percent Primitivo and 25% Petit Sirah, this unique wine has all of the richness of the smoky Syrah and all the luscious juicy red fruit of Zinfandel’s big cousin—the combination is irresistible.
Magnavino Cellars 2012 Grenache
Ah, the Kool-Aid of wines. Grenache is loved and hated, mostly for the same reasons. This Grenache has all the basics, with a serious smoky core that is, perhaps, a bit more uncommon. Red fruit, juicy, and long-lasting on the palate, Robert Wagner has made a memorable wine. Website: http://www.magnavinocellars.com/
Magnavino Cellars 2012 Grenache Rosé
Easy to drink, not so easy to make, Rosé has become more popular in recent years. Magnavino’s Grenache Rosé is surprising for its darker color. Wagner allows the fruit to spend a bit more time on the skins, yet the wine still has the lilting lightness that makes it a true sipper. The darker color provides more body, more character; and honeysuckle, strawberry, and some cherry notes.