Friday, June 15, 2012

The 26th Annual Ojai Wine Festival

The Rotary Club of Ojai-West sponsored the 26th Annual Ojai Wine Festival at Lake Casitas recently. The festival attracts thousands of people from the Central Coast and Southern California. There were 50+ wineries and 3 different areas pouring beer.

There were arts and crafts vendors, musical entertainment with a dance floor, and free boat rides on the lake. A silent wine auction featured fine wines. I could hear good music playing in the background throughout the day. The act that I caught was the Beatles tribute group, Sergeant Pepper. They were Beatley and got the dancers jumping.
General admission included unlimited tastes of wine and beer plus an "Oh Lord, won't ya buy me a Mercedes Benz" logo wine glass. VIP ticket holders had the same package plus early entry and access to the VIP Lounge. The VIP Entry included either Brut CuvĂ©e or Pink Miscato Bubbly from Barefoot Winery mimosa-stlye with a giant strawberry added.
The VIP Lounge was located on the lakefront and it included seating in and around a big tent with nice hors d’oeuvres and sushi, plus select wines and imported beer.
Spicebox Canadian Whisky (with Vanilla)
Best of Belgium - Leffe, Stella Artois, and Hoegaarden Beers on Tap

At noon the hors d’oeuvres area was very popular and the line for the hors d’oeuvres wound outside the tent. I started at the opposite side where there was no line and a huge selection of great sushi! 
The hors d’oeuvres were served by La Piu Bella Tavola and the sushi provided by Sakura Ojai. After enjoying the sushi with a glass of Kiara Reserve Sauvignon Blanc from LeVigne Winery I focused on the tasting the rest of the VIP wines being poured.
The Kiara Reserve Sauvignon Blanc was outstanding with the sushi! I enjoyed both of the LeVigne wines in the VIP area as well as the ones being poured at a festival table. The next white wine I tasted was named Pearl, an excellent blend from Hearthstone. The estate grown Hearthstone reds from Paso Robles west were very good as well. The VIP tasting tables were a nice, relaxing way to discover new wineries: Hearthstone, LeVigne, and NICORA; and revisit one I had tasted at the Santa Barbara Vintners Festival: Silver.
The VIP wines being poured included the following wineries.
Hearthstone Vineyard & Winery
2009 Pearl is a blend of 58% Roussanne and 42% Viognier.
2007 Lodestone is a blend of 50% Syrah, 33% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - Paso Robles 

LeVigne Winery / Kiara
2010 Kiara Reserve Sauvignon Blanc - Paso Robles
2006 Le Vigne Cabernet Franc - Paso Robles

2009 Euphoric is a blend of 85% Grenache and 15% Syrah - Westside Paso Robles
2009 Buxom is a blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Grenache - Westside Paso Robles

2008 Trentotto File is a blend of 98% Syrah and 2% Viognier - SBC
2008 Saviezza is a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon - SBC
2009 Grenache Blanc is a blend of 93% Grenache Blanc and 7% Viognier - SBC
2009 Chardonnay, Sierra Madre Vineyard - SBC

The NICORA wines were fun to taste. It was interesting to try a blend of more Grenache than Syrah, and then a blend of more Syrah than Grenache. Oddly enough I couldn't pick a winner, both were great. The Silver white wines and the sangiovese blend all tasted great as well. The VIP wines were all winners with me!

When I tallied it up I tasted wines from 20 of the 56 wineries at the festival.  Not bad for the 3 1/2 hours I was there, that averages out to about 10 minutes per winery :-)

I was glad to check out these wineries that I hadn't tasted at yet:
  • Calcareous Vineyard
  • Hearthstone Vineyard & Winery
  • LeVigne Winery / Kiara
  • Ojai Ridge Vineyard & Winery
  • Panaro Brothers Winery
  • Phantom Rivers Wine
Calcareous Vineyard
I liked the Calcareous Marsanne and their other label, Twisted Sisters, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Syrah.
Ojai Ridge Vineyard & Winery / Dufau Vineyards
 Ojai Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah were both very good.
Panaro Brothers Winery
I liked the Panaro Brothers' Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, and Late Harvest Merlot (which was almost like Port).
Phantom Rivers Wine
Phantom Rivers Wine had a nice Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Edna Valley.

And I was happy to see some familiar wineries where I had tasted before.  I had a chance to taste at a few of them again...
  • Casa Barranca
  • Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard and Winery 
  • Herzog Wine Cellars
  • Labyrinth Wine Cellars
  • Lone Madrone Winery
  • Malibu Sundowner Wines / Wades Wines
  • Rancho Sisquoc
  • Robert Hall
  • Silver Wines
  • Summerland Winery
  • Tablas Creek
  • Vines on the Marycrest
Casa Barranca
Malibu Sundowner Wines / Wades Wines
Rancho Sisquoc
Vines on the Marycrest

Long lines for Shock Top Beer
Firestone Walker was busy too.   DBA was my favorite beer at the festival.
Beer Bag Toss was popular
On the wine tasting road near a picnic area
Cub reporter on the scene
Custom Jewelry Vendors (hmm, they look familiar)
My Assistant Photographers
Allure Winery
LeVigne - Corkscrew arm tattoo (no, the other arm didn't have a cork tattoo)
This wine festival was like no other that I have ever been to before.  It had a fantastic park-like location on Lake Casitas, the weather was perfect (no real June Gloom yet), and although there was a large crowd of festival-goers, the layout was convenient for visiting all of the wineries, breweries, food and craft vendors, and musical entertainment. The setting made it easy for people to taste, relax in a picnic style, or dance to music on an outdoor dance floor.
This festival is not to be missed and it supports the many worthy projects of the Rotary Club of Ojai-West.  I plan to be there next year on June 9th for The 27th Annual Ojai Wine Festival!
Picture by my assistant photographer
All of the wineries and breweries that were pouring at The 26th Annual Ojai Wine Festival can be found online here.

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