Ojai Riesling Kick On Ranch 2010
Riesling is not associated with California, and for good reason. The grape generally does terrible there and prefers far cooler climates and schistier soils. There are a small number of exceptions, mostly of vineyards located in Santa Barbara County. One new producer called Graham Tatomer has been exploiting these sites to focus entirely on dry Riesling. While I haven’t been lucky enough to taste his wines, Ojai also makes a dry riesling from one of these rare sites.
Cool Climate California
The Kick on Ranch is located in western Los Alimos, Santa Barbara County and is extremely cool, seeing daily blasts of cold air from the pacific. Combined with these harsh winds, poor, sandy soils mean the Riesling actually struggles to ripen in this small enclave of California.
Adam Tolmach of Ojai has long produced fascinating wines from various key sites around Santa Barbara County, but it was only in the last few years that he started dialing back the ripeness in his wines. The results have been fantastic, and this Riesling (first introduced in 2007), is a perfect example of what Tolmach can do with the great fruit he has access to.
Killer Kick On
This wine is whole cluster pressed into steel tanks where it stays for 12 hours before being moved to old French Oak. It is a powerful but very dry Riesling with medium weight. Right now the wine is tight and focused, but also lithe, carrying its 12.5% ABV very well. Along with the linear citrus and mineral flavours, the Kick On shows a fascinating subtle vanillan richness, which undoubtedly comes from the old French Oak in which this wine is vinified. This richness does not overpower the fruit nor does it steer away from the wine’s fundamental savoriness, and I think it adds a delicious and unique signature to the wine. While I think the 2010 needs a couple years to fully develop, it is superbly made wine perfect for north eastern Italian food (broccoli rabe, lamb pasta) and Japanese food that is far too easy to drink now, especially with the improving weather.
$38 at marquis
UPDATE: Tasted again in April, 2014: The wine has completely come out of its shell. What was once steely is perfectly expressive. Ripe, but taught. Potent like great Austrian Riesling, with significant fruit power but salinity and balance. Excellent.