Saturday, January 7, 2012

Taste N Trip from Westlake Village to Ojai

Exploring the Ventura County Wine Trail

My wife and I started a new holiday tradition - touring the Ventura County Wine Trail and tasting some of Southern California's interesting wines.  We're glad that the number of local wineries and tasting rooms near our home in North Ranch continue to grow. On a couple of Fridays at the end of December we drove up the 101 to Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura, and Ojai following the Ventura County Wine Trail map. We couldn't cover all of the 17 locations in 2 days, so we had to settle for just 10 tastings at 9 places to start with - whew! Lots of tasting fun!

We've already been to Malibu Wines for picnic/concerts, Wades Wines/Malibu Sundowner for tastings (whisky & craft brews too), Camarillo Custom Crush events, and a tasting at Casa Barranca, so that leaves only 4 places to complete the wine trail - Rosenthal, Los Robles Hills Winery, Magnavino Cellars, and Squashed Grapes.

We tasted at 5 wineries in the eastern part of the county first and then at 5 wineries in the western part of the county. The first tour included San Vicente Cellars, Bella Victorian Vineyard, Cantara Cellars, Herzog Wine Cellars, and Rancho Ventavo Cellars. This took us 5 hours and we covered a distance of about 50 miles (not counting the part where our GPS got us lost around Cantara Cellars).

The second tasting trip took 7 hours (including lunch at Suzanne's Cuisine in Ojai) and we traveled around 100 miles round-trip. We visited Boccalli Vineyards & Winery, The Ojai Vineyard, Old Creek Ranch Winery / Vino V Wines, and Four Brix.  Our idea was to start  up in Ojai and work our way back to Westlake Village. Brilliant logistics - except that we got to the first winery in Ojai a few hours too early and had to back-track to Old Creek Ranch Winery/Vino V Wines.  Luckily, they were open before noon and the commute between the Old Creek Ranch and Vino V wineries was just a walk across the Old Creek Ranch Winery tasting room to the other side where Vino V Wines poured their wines.

Most of the wineries/tasting rooms aren't always in large buildings or on large estates, some of them are located in very plain looking store-fronts or industrial complexes, but many are just as nice inside as the places you'd find in Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, or Santa Ynez.
Bella Victorian Vineyard
San Vicente Cellars
Cantara Cellars
Herzog Wine Cellars
Rancho Ventavo Cellars
Boccalli Vineyards & Winery
The Ojai Vineyard
Old Creek Ranch Winery / Vino V Wines
Four Brix
In addition to having some fun tasting local wines, we also wanted to check out places to take our friends when they visit. While all of the wineries were interesting, some of them didn't make our list to visit again in the future.  Our short list of wineries with a good overall experience and good wine includes:

These are not necessarily ranked in terms of quality, but listed in the order that would be best to visit them so that you finish near Westlake Village at the end. Four Brix is open from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm, so we recommend visiting them last whatever other order you select.

Of course there are tasting fees at all of these places, generally around $10 per tasting, although some tasting fees are waived when you buy a bottle (or two) of wine.

Not on the official wine trail, but an interesting stop anyway, is Cornell Winery & Tasting Room.  You can taste many local wines in this rustic tasting room and eat some great food at The Old Place Restaurant.

A printed version of the Ventura County Wine Trail map is available at most of wineries on the trail. Or you can find a Google Maps description of these wineries at www.venturacountywinetrail.com/maps: 
BELLA VICTORIAN VINEYARD
BOCCALI VINEYARDS & WINERY
CALABASAS PEAK VINEYARDS
CAMARILLO CUSTOM CRUSH WINERY
CANTARA CELLARS
CASA BARRANCA
FOUR BRIX WINERY AND TASTING ROOM
HERZOG WINE CELLARS
LOS ROBLES HILLS
MALIBU SUNDOWNER
MALIBU WINES
OLD CREEK RANCH WINERY / VINO V WINES
RANCHO VENTAVO CELLARS
ROSENTHAL—THE MALIBU ESTATE
SAN VICENTE CELLARS
SQUASHED GRAPES
SUNLAND VINTAGE (at Camarillo Custom Crush)
THE OJAI VINEYARD

Whatever wineries you choose to visit around Ventura County, I'm sure you'll enjoy a great tasting experience.

Cheers!

Gary Coon
CoonToonStudios