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OLD CREEK RANCH WINERY – OJAI
Wine Tasting and History in the Ventura River Valley

Wine Tasting Bar Old Creek Ranch Winery photo Wine tasting touring is a relatively modern idea, but wine making has been a feature of the Ojai valley since the 18th Century, though the wines you’ll find are not quite of that vintage. The Old Creek Ranch Winery, located just of the –Highway into Ojai is part of that long heritage. The original winery of old gravity equipment still stands in a rather dilapidated wooden structure behind the current tasting room and modern equipment. The winery history on the spot actually goes back to California’s first settlement.

The Spanish came to the valley of the Ventura River in the 1700s, but with the independence of Mexico in 1821, the control of the vast lands of California changed hands to the “Californios”. A 22,000 acre section of the valley now called Ojai was granted to Don Fernando Tico in 1837 who established his rancho, but with the coming of statehood much of that vast land became available. A renowned chef from Italy, Antonio Riva, born on the island of Corsica, who had made his reputation in the kitchens of Paris and London, had crossed the oceans to San Francisco in the late 1800s. Much like the urbanites of today who envision retiring to open a winery, he acquired a piece of the old Don Tico Rancho with the climate of his Mediterranean homeland to grow his own vines. Riva continued making wine on his ranch until 1942 using the gravity fed system. In the 1920’s during prohibition, he kept up his wine business by having his customers leave money on a clothesline and later return to collect their red wine in a non-descript jug left at the base of an oak tree.

Carmel maitland Art photoIn 1976, the Maitland family bought the property to revitalize the old ranch, planting vines. The vintages began in 1981 with many awards to follow. Mike Maitland was a record company executive and Carmel Maitland posed for the original label. She still adorns the wall of the tasting room and can be taken home as a poster. The Old Creek Ranch Winery is owned by John and Carmel Whitman and their wines continue to win awards continuing the family own label’s tradition. Though at the Old Creek Ranch, two wine labels share the barrel house. In 2007, when their wine master retired, John Whitman made local winemaker Michael Meagher an offer he couldn’t refuse. Vino V Bottles Tasting photoA graduate of the unique Oenology Degree program of U.C. Davis. Meagher would oversee the Old Creek Ranch vintages and also make wines for his own label Vino V. The partnership has proved a real success. The winery’s grapes are not grown on the property due to a blight which struck a few years ago, but from leases at premium vineyards in Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara County and Napa Valley. The wines from Old Creek Ranch focus on styles from the south of France, Spain and Italy with the Sangiovese of particular interest, along with the Petit Syrah and the fruity Spanish Albarino. Tours of the winemaking area can usually be had, mostly by asking.

Visting Old Creek Ranch Winery

The Old Creek Ranch Winery is open daily from 11 am to 5 pm with the tasting room attached to the winery facility in the midst of the ranch orchard. Tables outdoors on the red wood patio and among the trees allow for a visitors to bring picnic lunches to go along with wine purchased at the tasting room, though be prepared for some of the family’s friendly pet pooches who roam the farm to express a curiosity. © Bargain Travel West

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Old Creek Ranch

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