Highlights: The Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard 2017 Santa Maria Valley, California

Adam Tolmach began his wine career at Zaca Mesa in Santa Barbara County. Before long he decided to do his own project, and he started a winery with fellow employee Jim Clendenen in 1982. The winery, Au Bon Climat, was an overnight success, but after nine years together Jim and Adam decided to follow separate paths. Jim bought the business in 1991 and went on to further glories. Meanwhile, Adam started the Ojai Vineyard, and also made some highly acclaimed wines. In 2005, he made a shift in style, picking earlier and looking for more focus in the wines.

His Santa Barbara County wines, which were sought after and received high critic scores, were tipping15% alcohol and beyond. Tolmach decided he didn’t like them anymore, and made the brave decision to change things. “I’d stopped drinking my own wines,” he’s quoted as saying. One of his early forays into lower alcohol, more balanced wines was his 2005 Ojai Vineyard Pinot Noir Clos Pepe Vineyard (Early Harvest) bottling. Parker reviewed it and described it as a borderline failure, giving it a score of 81/100. Interestingly, though, fellow critic and ex-Parker protégé Antonio Galloni gave it 93/100 when he reviewed it in 2014, suggesting that it had aged quite nicely.

The Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard 2017 Santa Maria Valley, California
13% alcohol. From one of the most famous vineyards in the region, first planted in 1973. Adam Tolmach has been working with this vineyard since 1988. From a warm vintage, this is rich but shows restraint with lovely peach, pear and ripe apple fruit. It has a keen citrus core and good acidity, both of which provide a foil to the richness. There are notes of spice and nuts, with a touch of honey. It’s really long and intense in the mouth. There’s some Californian richness, but also old world structure and acidity. Lovely stuff. 94/100 (Available from UK importer Tiger Vines, who are currently offering some mixed cases DTC)

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