208 E. Ojai Ave.
There’s a misperception about organic wine — that it’s a flimsy, watery wine with no flavor. The good news is that the aforementioned perception is not true. The better news is that Casa Barranca’s tasting room in Ojai they can prove it to you.
Founded in 2001, Casa Barranca uses organically grown grapes farmed in both Santa Barbara and Paso Robles to make its wines. These wines that come from certified organic vineyards are clearly labeled as USDA organic. But also important is that many vineyards farm organically but don’t have the expensive and time-consuming certification, meaning that they are still farming with organic practices but they don’t jump through the certification hoops. The main draw of organic wines is the very limited use of sulfites in the wines, typically added to stabilize and preserve a wine for the future. Organic farming also treats the vineyard and land differently, eschewing chemical fertilizers and herbicides.
“People are actively looking for organic wines,” tasting room manager Alysia Dewar told me on a recent visit. Casa Barranca only makes about 2,500 cases so it is small-case production, typically only a few hundred cases of each wine. There are a handful of restaurants in Ojai that carry the wines; aside from that you won’t find them unless you visit the tasting room located in the Arcade.
Their Arts and Crafts-themed tasting room, reflecting the Green & Green-designed winery facility (Greene & Greene were masters of the architectural design of the Arts and Crafts movement in the early part of the 20th century) is a long narrow space with a wood tasting bar, couches near the front and freestanding tables at the back. Tasting fee is $15 for five wines but that fee is waived with the purchase of two bottles. Or just get a glass of wine, which will range from $9 to $15, and relax while people-watching on Ojai Avenue. Cheese and crackers are available on site to purchase, or you are welcome to bring in food, and bring in your dog for that matter. Rotating local art hugs the walls and there are a handful of gift items.
Representative of what is poured, the following wines, all with a food-friendly acidity, might cause you to rethink the idea of organic wine.
2016 sauvignon blanc: Made with organic grapes, this offers a floral nose, which leads to lemon-lime, kefir, kiwi and honeysuckle notes. It avoids typical grassy flavors and instead hints at more tropical summer fruits.
2016 merlot: Made from USDA-certified organic grapes, this merlot is a soft wine with mild tannins and berry and jammy notes without being overly fruity. You’ll find boysenberry, blackberry, side notes of blueberry and red raspberry compote.
2015 pinot noir: From organic grapes grown in the Santa Rita Hills, there is an earthiness, to this wine, slight raspberry with pepper spice, soft tannins and great acidity.