On a recent visit to the other coast, we stopped by a wine making area that we had never stumbled upon before… You’re shocked, I know – Paul and Betsy were on vacation and they went to wineries… The region of which I speak is called the Ventura County Wine Trail (www.venturacountywinetrail.com) in southern California, about an hour north of Los Angeles.

The brochure lists fourteen wineries sprinkled across Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura and Ojai, with an interesting mix of urban and rural surroundings. Because the discovery was somewhat accidental, we only had a few hours to make some visits, but I think we selected well. Of the fourteen wineries listed we made it to three, and those three each had excellent wines with very interesting stories and tremendously nice folks to talk to.

First on the list was Bella Victorian (www.bellavictorianvineyard.com) located at 2135 E. Ventura Blvd. in Camarillo, CA. Bella Victorian was started by Jerry and Kimberly Monahan in 2004 and is a very family-oriented operation. The names of the wines all represent a number of generations of family members and it is clear that Bella Victorian is a labor of love and the wines are a true expression of the Monahan’s passion for fine wine. The tasting room shares a space with their Bistro and had we not stopped for lunch earlier, we would have taken advantage of the food – it smelled and looked delicious! Our visit was managed by a terrifically enthusiastic gentleman named John Ragan. He was obviously passionate about Bella Victorian and his dry wit was a delight! We tasted nine wines, all of which were quite nice. The following are my thoughts, along with some details… Prices are on the website…

Wine Garden Pinot Noir 2008 (Estate vineyards in Camarillo, CA)
(36 months in oak)
Red berry, fresh fruity nose. Medium bodied with firm acidity and moderate tannin – good balance. Juicy, red berry fruit, rose attar and clove – a bit hot – 14.4% alcohol. Moderate length with spice and vanilla. Drinking well now and should improve with another 2 to 3 years in bottle. Nice.

Brooklyn Pinot Noir 2009 (Sta Rita Hills)
Bright red fruit nose, raspberry and strawberry. Medium bodied with moderate acidity and moderate tannin – well balanced. Red fruit with raspberry and rose water. Moderate length with nice fruit. Drinking well now and should hold for another 2 to 3 years. Nice.

Romeo Grenache 2008 (Sta Rita Hills)
Dark fruit nose, jammy blackberry hints. Full-bodied with moderate acid and firm tannin – good balance. Dark fruit core with black pepper and jammy berry fruit notes. Moderate length. Drinking well now and should hold for another 2 to 3 years.

The Garage Syrah 2007 (Estate vineyards in Camarillo, CA)
Black cherry fruit with dried herb hints. Full-bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannin – well balanced. Dark fruit core with blackberry. Moderate length. Drinking well now and should improve for another 3 to 5 years. (Wine Spectator 91)

Elena Syrah 2008 (Blend of grapes from York Mountain and Estate vineyards in Camarillo, CA)
Spicy nose with bright cherry fruit. Medium bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannin – well balanced. Dark fruit core with blackberry and dried herb. Long finish with layered complexity. Very nice – drinking well now and should improve with another 3 to 5 years in bottle.

Big Red Trolley 2008 (65% Napa Cabernet (Coonsville), Syrah, Mourvedre, Cournois, Viognier, Grenache)
Dense, jammy nose with black cherry, tobacco and vanilla hints. Full bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannin – well balanced. Black cherry, tobacco and black pepper. Long finish with persistent peppery notes. Very nice – drinking well now and should hold for another 2 to 3 years.

Kimberly Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Napa Valley – Coonsville)
Black cherry, vanilla, dried herb hints. Full bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannin – well balanced. Black cherry and tobacco on the palate. Long finish with savory and seductive notes. Very nice – drinking well and should hold for another 2 to 3 years.

The Painted Lady 2009 (Sta Rita Hills)
Spicy, floral and cherry hints. Medium bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannin – good balance. Juicy, red berry fruit. Moderate length with a smooth finish. Very nice – drinking well and should improve for another 2 to 3 years.

The Painted Lady Chardonnay 2009 (Sta Rita Hills)
Apple, citrus nose with vanilla hints. Medium bodied with moderate acidity – good balance. Apple and lemon fruit on the palate with some oak. Moderate length – simple finish. Drinking well now – not for aging.

 

Our next stop was Old Creek Ranch Winery (www.oldcreekranch.com) located at 10024 Old Creek Road in Oakview, CA. Old Creek Ranch Winery has been producing wines since 1981, concentrating primarily on Italian, Spanish and Southern French varietals. Michael Meagher is winemaker, producing small lots of very high quality wine.  John Whitman and his wife Carmel own the property and their passion for great wine shines in the product!  Rich mans the tiller in the tasting room and while a little leery at first (but who wouldn’t be if two “touristy” adults with an iPad and a rambunctious six year-old walked in to your tasting room on a Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 pm looking for a taste…), was a gracious host. We tasted nine wines, all of which were excellent. The following are my thoughts, along with some details… Prices are on the website…

Moto Vino Tocai Friulano 2011
Exotic nose with rose water and floral hints. Medium bodied with firm acidity – well balanced. More exotic and tropical fruit on the palate.  Clean and refreshing finish – drinking well now – not for aging.

Viognier 2010 Vogelzang Vineyard (Santa Ynez)
Soft, melon nose. Medium bodied with firm acidity – well balanced. Soft, tropical fruit palate – very pretty. Clean and refreshing finish – drinking well now – not for aging.

Rosé 2011 (Carignane – Santa Ynez)
Soft, perfumed nose with red berry and floral hints. Medium bodied with firm acidity – well balanced. Lovely fruity palate, bright red cherry, strawberry and raspberry notes. Clean and refreshing finish – drinking well now – not for aging. Close your eyes and you could be in the south of France. Very Provençal.

Bronco Rojo (Santa Ynez)
Fruity, bright nose. Medium bodied firm acidity and supple tannin – good balance. Dark red fruit with spice and black pepper on the palate – fun. Moderate length – smooth and easy drinking. Not for aging.

Carignane 2009 (Santa Ynez)
Dark fruit nose, cherries, tobacco and dried herbs. Medium bodied with moderate acid and supple tannin – well balanced. Black cherry, rustic palate. Moderate length with a smooth finish. Very nice – drinking well now and should improve with another 2 to 3 years in bottle.

De La Tierra 2009 (Mourvèdre, Syrah, Viognier)
Spicy, exotic nose with lush berry fruit hints. Full bodied with moderate acidity and dry tannin – well balanced. Dark fruit core with fresh herbs and wildflowers – seductive. Long finish with layers of complexity. Very nice – drinking well and should improve with another 3 to 5 years in the bottle,

Sangiovese 2009 White Hawk Vineyard (Santa Barbara)
Ripe nose with sour cherry and allspice hints. Medium bodied with firm acidity and dry tannin – well balanced. Cherry fruit palate with saddle and rose petal notes. Moderate length with a dry finish. Nice with food. Classic, true-to-type Sangiovese – much nicer than most other California Sangiovese I’ve tasted.

Barbera 2009 (Santa Ynez)
Dark fruit aromas, with dried fruit and violet hints. Medium bodied with firm acidity and firm tannin – well balanced. Black cherry palate with anise and floral notes. Long finish with several layers of complexity. Brooding. Drinking well and should improve with another 3 to 5 years plus in bottle.

Petite Sirah 2009 Branham Obsidian Vineyard (Napa Valley)
Ripe nose with jammy black cherry and blackberry hints. Full bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannin – good balance. Gutsy with a deep, dark fruit core – blackberry, black currant and mint notes. Long, smooth finish. Drinking well now and should improve for another 2 to 3 years in bottle.

Our last stop was at Ojai Vineyards (www.ojaivineyard.com) located at 109 S. Montgomery St. in Ojai, CA. Award winning winemaker Adam Tolmach has been producing wine at The Ojai Vineyard since 1983, primarily focusing on Burgundian and Rhone Valley styled wines in California. The tasting room is cordially managed by Bill Reynolds, who is both knowledgeable and passionate about The Ojai Vineyard. Bill took extra good care of us! We tasted six wines, all of which were quite nice. The following are my thoughts, along with some details… Prices are on the website…

2010 Riesling Kick On Ranch (Santa Barbara)
Soft, floral nose with light citrus hints. Medium bodied with moderate acidity – good balance. Citrus fruit palate with light petrol notes. Crisp and refreshing finish – pretty.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc McGinley Vineyards (Santa Inez)
Grassy nose with herbaceous and grapefruit hints. Medium bodied with crisp acidity – well balanced. Tangy and tart palate with a soft fruitiness. Moderate length, clean and refreshing. Very nice.

2011 Rosé (50% Mourvèdre – Vogelzang Vineyard – Santa Inez; 25% Grenache – Rich Vineyard – Ojai; 25% Syrah – Roll Ranch – Ojai)
Floral nose with red berry and allspice hints. Medium bodied with crisp acidity – good balance. Soft, fruity palate with strawberry and fresh cherry notes. Moderate length, crisp and refreshing – very pretty.

2008 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills (Santa Maria)
Bright red berry nose with lovely perfumed raspberry, cherry and strawberry hints. Medium bodied with moderate acidity and supple tannin – well balanced. Lush cherry palate, dark and seductive. Long finish with layers of complexity. Very nice – drinking well now and should improve for another 3 to 5 years in the bottle.

2006 Syrah White Hawk (Santa Barbara)
Jammy nose with black pepper and black cherry hints. Full bodied with moderate acidity and firm tannin – well balanced. Dark fruit core, quite intense with great depth. Moderate length, tight with layered complexity and echoing black pepper. Really nice – drinking well now and should improve for another 3 to 5 years in the bottle.

2011 Riesling Ice Wine Kick On Ranch (Santa Barbara)
Bright citrus nose with perfumed, floral hints – pretty. Medium bodied with crisp acidity – well balanced. Lush palate with sweet, honeyed pear and apricot notes. Long finish that is remarkably clean – not cloying – for such a sweet wine. Absolutely lovely – drinking well and should improve with another 5 to 7 years in bottle.

Cheers!

Advertisements