Monday, January 19, 2015


A Winery With A Past

Old Creek Ranch Winery is a winery with a fascinating past. 

Today's tasting room
outside patio

Set on a Spanish land grant, the winery was created by Mike and Carmel Maitland in 1981 and is now owned and operated by their daughter Carmel and her husband John Whitman.  
John Whitman

 As they ask in Hollywood, if there’s a land grant, what’s the back story?

In the earliest days of California, Don Fernando Tico was given a huge Spanish land grant.  In the late 1800s, Antonio Riva bought the ranch.  He’d been a chef in Paris, London and San Francisco, but wanted to make wine.  “Riva” wine was made without electricity, using gravity as a means to move the grapes through the wine making process.  His building still stands behind today’s winery tasting room and you can see how the land from the building slopes downhill to create that gravity pull.

Antonio made wine until 1942, even during Prohibition when customers would leave orders and money on a clothes line, then later pick up their jugs under an oak tree.  The FBI didn’t approve and raided the place, but Riva had been warned and dumped his wine, leaving the FBI empty-handed. 

When the Maitlands bought the property in 1976 with a view toward revitalizing the ranch with cattle and orchards, thoughts of opening a new winery were born.

Today the winery prevails, although the vineyard planted in 1980 was destroyed in the 90’s by bacteria.   Michael Meagher has been the winery’s award winning winemaker since 2007, and buys a majority of grapes from Santa Ynez growers.

Michael Meagher

Back to the present.  It was time to take "flight" with Tara, our knowledgeable barista.

The first pour was a 2012 Moto Vino ($22) - made from a grape found mostly in the Northern Italian region of Friuli, this is a light fruity white wine with a hint of mint.  A perfect complement w/ cheese on a warm summer evening.

Next up, the 2013 Pinot Grigio ($22) - the winery's first foray with this Italian varietal.  Straw-colored, with aromas of apple and passion fruit and hints of key lime pie and pineapple, it's an all senses delight.

The 2013 Rose, Barbera ($22) fills the nose with scents of strawberries and rosemary, and the tongue with tastes of red fruits and citrus zest. Perfect with fish or fowl. 

Chiara, Italian for bright and beautiful, is the pefect name for this 2013 light red ($25) which should be served slightly chilled and paired with salmon or chicken. This fruity wine finishes with a light touch of tannins and should be drunk over the next two years.

The 2011 Carignane ($27) is the winery's 4th edition of this varietal. I could smell the dark plum, and the hints of graham cracker and bacon fat. Yes, graham crackers and bacon!  Married to tastes of rhubarb pie, tea and cola with some morels thrown in, what's not to like?  Magnums are available.  

On to the richer reds...

First up was the 2012 Grenache ($35) - a delicious wine from the classic Rhone varietal. This wine i verything that grenache should be and Tara suggested pairing it with duck and a cherry reduction sauce. Sounds perfect!  Or just stick a straw in the bottle and drink (yes, it's that yummy), but wait 1-3 years to let it age to perfection.  Magnums available.

The 2011 Barbera ($28) is another delicious red with all the fruit, smoke and spice that makes a great Barbera.  Because of its concentration and acidity, this fine wine will age nicely for 5 years or more.  Magnums available.

Slipping back a year to the 2010 Barbera (sale price $29) - this robust red with all the appropriate nose notes of  vanilla, violets, leather and plums, and tastes of herbs, cardamom and blueberries is a lovely, complex red that will benefit from another 6 months in the bottle. After that, it will shine for 3 or more years to come.

The 2012 Sangiovese ($35) is a rich, flavorful wine with a deep ruby red color and is the perfect wine for, well, just about everything, with its scents of honeysuckle, cedar and white chocolate and tastes of red fruit balanced with a hint of pancetta.  Magnums available.

Last but not least is the 2011 Petite Sirah ($35) and there's nothing petite about it as the aromas of fruit, nuts and forest fill your nose, followed by the tastes of figs and dates, rich fruits and cloves.  The tannins allow this wine to age well over the never 5 years.  Magnums available.

When handing out awards for Old Creek Ranch wines... 

...they’re high on the gold standard.

Old Creek Ranch Winery
10024 Old Creek Road
Ventura, CA  93001


Susan said...

I always drive by that place and wondered about it. Thanks for the history lesson.

Anonymous said...

Love this article. Can almost taste the wines described and I don't even like red wine! Thanks. Kitty

Anonymous said...

Your writing continues to be interesting, informative, and personal, with a distinct and pleasurable 'voice'!

Keep 'em comin'!


Elise DePuydt said...

Hello Ilona.

I writing to see if I can have permission to use one of the ranch winery photos that are in your blog. It is the one of the tasting room exterior. I am working on revising an Ojai history book for the OV Museum and would like to possibly include the photo in the book. We would give credit. I've contacted John Whitman but he is out of the country for a while and doesn't have access to photos. Thanks, Elise DePuydt

ilona saari said...

Sorry that I just saw your request. Yes, of course, you can use it, but please give the credit to my husband, Richard Camp, who took the picture for me. ilona

You can contact me further thru Facebook message if you need to.