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Ojai, Grenache, John Sebastiano Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills 2016
Ah, Grenache! The darling grape of so many winemakers, yet so poorly understood by the average consumer. A big cause of that is it’s somewhat uncommon to see bottled as a stand-alone varietal; while it’s often a critical blending grape for bringing vibrancy and aroma in more southern latitudes, it often needs help from other varietals to bring depth. But special vineyards can bring out an ethereal completeness in Grenache, which takes us to John Sebastiano:
A lot of the Grenache world is pretty warm, if not hot. But here on the eastern edge of Sta. Rita Hills this varietal struggles to build sugar with the coastal wind that scours these slopes (so it’s usually the last fruit we harvest). That allows us to develop color and flavor in the grapes while avoiding the high brix ripeness that tends to efface this grape’s subtler charms. Instead we have something with knockout spicy fruit flavor, but with a feel more in tune with Pinot Noir than Syrah–and that’s a great thing.
Still, this site’s Grenache-ness is intense, with an earth-inflected fruity aroma that fills the glass like vapor. Imagine the scents that might greet a bartender muddling mixed berries (heavy on the raspberry) with a hit of kirsch, lavender and allspice—this expands outward, and that juicy berry medley fleshes out a supple, easy-going palate that closes with spicy tannin. It can be paired with most of what you can pair Pinot Noir with but also with things a bit rich for pinot, like pastor or jambalaya. Though all by itself is very nice too!
Vinification: traditional open top fermentation using 30% whole clusters. Barrel Aging: 15 Months in older French Oak. Total Production: 207 cases
Adam Tolmach, a viticulture and oenology graduate of UC Davis, started the now infamous winery with fellow employee Jim Clendenen in 1982, Au Bon Climat. After nine years together Jim and Adam decided to follow separate paths. Having planted his own vineyard in Ojai in 1983 (The Ojai Vineyard), Adam decided to concentrate his efforts there. Experimenting with new plantings, new areas, and a wide selection of varietals. Adam set his intention to strive to make the very best wines possible, through quality and unique sites over quantity and mass-produced blends. Craft principals with a mindful intention. It took some 10 years to produce really exceptional, consistently delicious fruit. Adam took steps to convert the farming from sustainable to organic practices whilst fine tuning the winemaking process to as natural as possible; minimal use of sulphites, avoiding fining and filtration, also reducing new oak usage as much as possible. Adam's influence in the region and the respect from his peers is worth mentioning, where some sites are exclusive to their owners, often Adam will be one of the very few with privileged access, examples being Puerta del Mar (Jonata) and White Hawk (Sine Qua Non). After spending two decades learning to farm better grapes, physiological ripeness was not an issue anymore but over ripeness was. When grapes were ripe but not overripe, the resulting wines were more aromatic and possessed finer balance. After more experiments the following years Adam started picking his fruit slightly earlier, opening a new stylistic era for his wines. Years of experience and humble dedication to his craft, showed him how the cooler climate sites were always better balanced and more expressive terroirs, in search of elegance. 'Great vineyards have something unique to say, it's our job to capture those characteristics in a clear, unadorned way.' Adam Tolmach
Vinous 93pts (2016) - The 2016 Grenache John Sebastiano is gorgeous. Deep and fleshy on the palate, with tremendous varietal character, the 2016 is a real winner. Sweet red cherry, pomegranate, mint and wild flowers all flesh out effortlessly in the glass. Over the last handful of years, John Sebastiano has emerged as one of the top vineyard sites in Santa Barbara. Ojai’s Grenache is one of many wines that show the potential of this large, sprawling ranch.