“An Explosive Wine of Serious Intensity”
Spinning magic from the rolling slopes of Santa Barbara, the Wizard of Ojai, Adam Tolmach, produced TEN 94-96 point wines from the 2014 vintage alone in Vinous, leading Antonio Galloni to declare: “These are some of the best wines readers will find anywhere for the money.” The showstopper of the bunch was drawn from cool, desert sand hillsides near Los Alamos — a spot called “White Hawk.” Pinning on 95 points, Galloni hailed it as “one of the standouts,” and “an explosive wine of serious intensity.” Jeb Dunnuck matched the 95 points, finding it a “stunner,” “rounded,” and “beautifully textured.” With only 189 cases produced, the unanimous critical acclaim has already sucked most of the 2014 White Hawk Syrah out of Tolmach’s cellar at $49. We came away with some of the last remaining bottles at just $42 per bottle for Wine Access clients. If you covet coastal Syrah that marries chiseled concentration with riveting purple fruit aromatics, this is for you.
A maker of world-class California Syrah, alongside Joey Tensley, Steve Beckman, and Sashi Moorman, Tolmach has driven more than one grower to madness with his rigorous vineyard protocol. But he found his match with White Hawk Vineyard, said to be the most maniacally farmed site on the southern coast. Ojai, Sine Qua Non, and Sea Smoke grab every cluster they can get, despite being what Tolmach calls “some of our most expensive grapes.” Here’s why.
White Hawk sits on the south-facing slope of Cat Canyon, two miles from Los Alamos, with a climate colder than Ballard Canyon. The vines here seem almost anemic with few leaves, struggling to survive in ancient soil that resembles desert sand. The vineyard crew, Adam told us later, doesn’t really irrigate White Hawk. Instead, each plant is practically spoon-fed water, squeezing out a precious few clusters per plant of phenomenally concentrated small-berry fruit. In 2014, those stressed vines produced one of the year’s most stunning Syrahs, shot through with spine-tingling crispness and nerve.