Open That Bottle Night Sat. 2/27 + reviews of OLD Ojai Vineyard wines


If you love wine, chances are you’ve bought a bottle for a special occasion, or bought a bottle to share with someone, or to mark an event, or maybe it’s just so beautiful that you save and save it and have a hard time opening it because it’s too “special”?

I know it’s true for me! I held onto a 1984 Louis Roederer Cristal waiting and waiting for the right combination of factors and finally opened it on Champagne Day! And I still have a 1984 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a Stag’s Leap 1979 Cab…

Some of us are hoarders, some of us have too much wine to keep track of, some of us are just maybe too patient, or maybe we doubt the wine is any good any more.

What can happen is that the wine–or the friendship or the marriage– can spoil.

That the wine had spoiled was the fear of a collector who I met at a tasting in November. He’d been a member at The Ojai Vineyard for a number of years, and he had a number of older vintages that he doubted were any good.

Not so fast! I said. I bet they’re worth opening to see!


He accepted my challenge with an invitation to taste them — and next thing we knew, about a dozen of us gathered at his big table to taste over 30 wines — mostly older vintage Pinot noir and syrah from The Ojai Vineyard, some from his cellar, some of other people’s. NOTE: According to reports, these were all cellared carefully. We tasted most of them blind, as you can see from the photos above and below.

While a few of these older syrah and Pinot noir wines from Ojai Vineyard were lovely and worth drinking, most were a mere memory, and others were just plain undrinkable and they were unceremoniously dumped. One was corked.

As I have been focused on Santa Barbara wines this February during #WineStudio, and with Open That Bottle Night, it seems like the right time to post more notes on these older Ojai Vineyard wines which follow info on Open That Bottle Night!


Stories like these led to “Open That Bottle Night” held on the final Saturday of February for over 15 years.  Started in 1999 by John Brecher and Dorothy Gainer who wrote The Wall Street Journal’s wine column, “Tastings” from 1998 to 2010 and now write on “Grape Collective,”  Open That Bottle Night encourages us to do exactly that –Open That Bottle!

While Open That Bottle Night is indeed about opening one of those bottles that we’ve been saving, Dorothy Gainer says that along with the wine we need to bring the story to the table too.

They’ve invited their readers to join them at Open That Bottle Night, Feb. 27, at A Café, 973 Columbus Avenue, in Manhattan where they will be opening a magnum of 1994 Schneider Vineyards Merlot bought at an auction and signed by the owners and winemaker.

What will we Wine Predators be opening? Will it be the 1984 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon that Ima Zinner bought for my former husband and I? or the Stag’s Leap 1979 Cab that that former husband and I bought on our first wine tasting trip? Or something else that I dig up that needs to be opened– like a 98 from Brothers in Arms that Grateful Palate’s Dan Phillips chose for me? I am starting to get concerned about the 01 and 02 GSM blends from Ojai Vineyards that I bought to commemorate buying and remodeling my house but those I’d like to drink in November on those anniversaries…

So how to decide what to open for Open That Bottle Night?

My wine choices are usually determined by

  • A) I have a twitter tasting that night so that’s what I’m opening and drinking (and usually drink for the next few days until gone!)
  • B) what we will be eating which I may not know know until closer to dinner
  • C) I have a yen for a particular wine

At this point I have no idea what we will be opening!

So how about those old Ojai Vineyard wines?

The categories I chose:


I also included grades from A-F.


DRINK NOW OR SAVE (1, 2): I’m not sure why, but we started the blind tasting with two Chardonnay from Kistler, a 2011 and a 2012 both from Hudson. (Guess everyone drank their older Ojai Vineyard Chardonnay!) We didn’t know which was which. The 2011 we found to be floral on the nose with pear and fig notes, be oaky, voluptuous, simple, and a bit harsh in the finish. In contrast we preferred the 2012’s citrus notes and mineralogy; it was more spicy and oaky on the nose, and a bit closed still. I have a 2010 Kistler in my cellar, a Christmas gift. But no I won’t be opening that for #OTBN! Yes I am saving that to drink with the friends who gave it to me…

Next we tasted four Pinot Noir wines from Ojai Vineyard:

DRINK NOW (3)Ojai Vineyard’s Pinot Noir 2000 Bien Nacido  offered a lovely, lively sweet cedar nose, brick color, plum and berry fruit with good acidity, a light body, and nice touch of earth, truffles, and barnyard. This wine was definitely holding its own and made me optimistic for the tasting. Drink it soon! B-.

TRY NOW OR DUMP (4). The 2004 Fe Ciega OV did not fare so well (and I found that true when I opened that same wine April 2014 but I think my bottle was actually corked; regardless, Ojai Vineyard has promised to replace–I just have to bring in the empty bottle which I think I still have somewhere.) It had good color but as a group, we were not that thrilled, with most of us giving it a score in the low 7s out of 10. What this wine had to offer faded fast after opening. C-

DUMP (5). The 1998 Pisoni Pinot Noir OV was plain awful– harsh, acidic, oaky, cough syrup. Bet it was much better 10 years ago! D for DUMP.

DUMP (6). The 2001 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir OV did not fare much better. Nice color but unpleasant rubber tire and rotten mushrooms on the nose. D for Dump.

Then we tasted nine Ojai Vineyard Syrahs dating from 1996-2002:

TRY NOW or DUMP (7). 1999 Thompson Syrah OV was corked. Your bottle may be worth tasting to see if it’s any good. F for Fail.

DUMP (8): 2000 Stolpman Syrah OV. Good color, nice nose of black licorice, graphite, black pepper, cherry. Tannic. I might drink it and give it a chance with food but I’d want a back-up and most in the group gave it a failing score. Drink quickly: it got very acidic the longer it was open. D for Dump.

TRY NOW OR DUMP (9). I liked the 1999 Roll Ranch OV Syrah just fine, but the graphite and acid turned others off. Earthy, very peppery on the nose, fading fast. D for Dump.

TRY NOW OR DUMP (10). 96 Stolpman OV Syrah had a definite brick color typical of an older wine. Lots of black pepper, earth, tannic, asphalt, some blue fruit. Not a lot going for it. Past its prime, and on its way out. D for Dump.

WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER! DRINK NOW (11). 2002 Roll Ranch OV Syrah  showcased a gorgeous color and perfume of roses, and tasted like black/blueberry pie. This special bottling was one of my favorites (we could see the wax at the top of the bag). Nice mouth feel. I’d give it a B; Sue gave it a C+.

TRY NOW OR DUMP (12). The 1997 Roll Ranch OV Syrah  wasn’t as exciting: this vintage was silky and smooth, but it tasted like dirty cough syrup. D for DUMP.

TRY NOW OR DUMP (13). 1998 Roll Ranch OV Syrah was oxidized and rusty in color. While most said it was gone and wouldn’t drink it, I would say that if this was opened and drank immediately, it still showed grace and was worth drinking, but it sure faded fast. I’d give it a C but Sue gave it an F.

WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER! DRINK NOW (14). 2002 Melville OV Syrah still had lots of color, plenty of tannins and pepper; in fact it still tasted much younger than its year! Peppery cherry fruit on the nose, deep robust wine with a vibrant, beautiful color and lots of bramble fruit on the palate.  The group considered this the best. Both Sue and I gave this wine a solid B.

TRY NOW or DUMP (15). 2001 Melville OV Syrah has lots of super dense color but surprisingly thin and acidic on the palate. Might work with food.  C-/D for Dump.

Just to mix it up, there were some younger, non-Ojai Vineyard wines that we tasted at the end: three Pinot noir and three syrah. Although you’d think our palates would be fatigued by now, crackers and pâté got us ready to taste the pinots, and more crackers and cheese set us up for the syrah. All the wines brought to the table won us over including these three which deserved solid As:

Most of the group loved these wines which were all very rich, dense, and on the sweet side with acid to balance–what Sue calls “cocktail wines” since they hold their own with out the benefit of food.  They ranged in price from $30-75. Examine these labels and find these wines while you can! Standouts included:

Wrenhop 2013 “Architects & Saboteurs” Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills $75
This was probably our favorite wine of the night–delicious, rich, and addictive like candy.

Jemrose 2013 Cardiac Hill Syrah $45
Blueberry pie and plenty of sighs.

Morgado 2013 Rita’s Crown Pinot Noir $58
Beautiful wine– plum and earth. Summer day.

I’m curious if any of these wineries will be represented at tomorrow’s Lompoc Rotary tasting…

In all, we formally tasted 22 wines (and beforehand there were another three or four wines to taste that weren’t in bags!) Sad to say, that in general, the 15 year and older Ojai Vineyard wines didn’t hold up as well as I had hoped.

Results? Anything that’s 10 years older or so that’s in my cellar still I am making an effort to remember and drink. I am definitely going to drink the 01 and 02 GSMs as soon as possible and not later than November 2016. I spent a pretty penny on them only a few years ago and I’d hate to think they’re no good.

This experience has spurred me to start drinking more of my older vintage wines, in effect, making more nights “DRINK THAT BOTTLE NIGHT.”

So what will you be opening for OPEN THAT BOTTLE NIGHT?

PS My husband brought home fresh local calamari steaks from the Farmer’s Market so I am going to the cellar to look for an older Chardonnay. Check my twitter feed to see what we are drinking!


2 thoughts on “Open That Bottle Night Sat. 2/27 + reviews of OLD Ojai Vineyard wines

  1. Pingback: Together We Rise: The Ojai Vineyard’s 2001 Vin du Soleil GSM for #WinePW | wine predator

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