Ojai Wine Fest 2019 Quick Notes

Screenshot_20190704-174036~2.pngA few quick hits from Ojai Wine Festival last week. I love coming down from San Luis Obispo for this event because of the South-805 wineries you run into.  Things you don’t often see or get to taste in the myriad of events up in SLO wine country and Paso Robles.  The weather is always perfect, the sun is always shining (remember, it can still be cold and dreary in SLO in June!), and this is a jam-packed festival where you always run into a bunch of old friends and new discoveries.  Most of this post is gleaned from my Instagram the day of, but I get to add a lot more here.

IMG_20190609_153014_186.jpgAfter clearing the Barefoot Wine VIP tent, headed straight for Beckmen Vineyards, where they always keep good stuff under the table. See, now here’s a prime example: Total Santa Ynez Valley stalwarts who never come to any events up north!  So glad I get to visit them at least once a year. That Grenache OMG, easily the funkiest and old-worldy wine in the room, such an unsung label.  


Cavaletti Vineyards and Clos des Amis both Ventura wineries, wines are nicely done. Both new to me, and Cavaletti rosé a brilliant refreshing Tempranillo & Grenache, perfect color and a fabulous companion to their other Spanish and Rhone wines and blends.  Clos Des Amis also deals in Spanish and Rhone varieties, but plays heavily with Pinot, Riesling and Sauv Blanc.  

IMG_20190609_153014_185.jpgThose two little Summerland Wine *Central Coast Series* are 20-dollar wines and–as usual with this brand–pack a serious bang-for-your-buck. Any loyal reader of mine knows what a fan of this winery I am, and one of their strong points is–in addition to making some sublime hi-end stuff–cranking out sub-30$ pinots for us poor people to enjoy.  

IMG_20190609_153014_188.jpgDusty Nabor Wines and company pouring a full array of both Dusty Nabor and Bolt To Wines and sorry, but I LOVE these animal labels. I’ve had a BUNCH of these wines and these two are doing great things with fruit from Santa Ynez Valley to Paso Robles in everything from 15 bucks to 75 bucks.  


All right so my WINES OF THE DAY in a little two-fer here. These are Petite Verdot–or blended a bit–from Clarksburg, and holy wow are they good. Perfect balance, ridiculous tannins, awesome fruit. The Wine Boss is doing everything right with this grape. Pepper and Harmata Shedeh are wines you NEED to find. The former is the easy blends and the latter the CLARKSBURG nectar: Petit Verdot and OF COURSE Chenin Blanc (because Clarksburg grows the best Chenin in the world).  

IMG_20190609_153014_245.jpgHalter Ranch showed up from Paso Robles with a nice pair: A GSM blend with a splash of Tannat (not sure that’s legal in CdP, but oh well…) Nonetheless, a beautiful GSM and Rosé version of the same wine.


While we’re on the subject of Paso. Jeff Branco brought out his line-up, and this was a first for me. I actually had never heard of him, but apparently has quite a history in Paso Robles wine-making circles. I need to visit these wines in a more controlled environment on their own. Potentially impressive.

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Another great showing from the far north, Austin Hope brought down a bunch of popular stuff including the new QUEST, my first sampling of it. Like all of the Hope Family Wines, it is big and rich and loaded with concentrated fruit and lovely oak–all for a nice price!


Nice to see some canned wine show up. I’ve enjoyed quite a few in the past years as it has grown in popularity, and these bubbly versions from BABE were just…. well, I couldn’t walk by without tasting. Barely spritzy and naturally sweet, I see their place in modern marketing, but not really in any serious wine-person’s list of daily drinkers.


At the opposite end of the spectrum, have you had these MAIL ROAD‘s??? Buck-twenty-five, allocated and ridiculously Burg-snob-friendly, with their massive tannins and funky fillings. Quite a shock to see them pouring at a festival–and they poured out early–but it just goes to show you the kind of star-power the Ojai Wine Fest can pull.

Next year is the 34th Annual Ojai Wine Festival–YES the LONGEST RUNNING in California and benefiting ROTARY all along–they even have their own wine competition.  I look forward to this event all year as I get to sneak off to Ojai for a couple days, taste great wine and see new scenery. It pretty much spells SUMMER for me. SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!


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