Get the Dirt about Old Creek Ranch Winery from owner John Whitman

2 Jul

The Ranch is part of a Spanish 22,000 acre land grant awarded to Don Fernando Tico, dating back to the early history of California. In the late 1800’s Antonio Riva of northern Italy purchased the ranch. He was a chef in Paris, London and later in San Francisco. He built a winery on the ranch at that time.

The Riva wines were made without electricity and utilized gravity as a means to move the wine in the processing. Riva produced wine until about 1942, including the prohibition years. Wine purchasers would leave an order and money on the clothesline and would return later to pickup a jug of red wine left at the base of an oak tree. On one occasion he was warned the FBI was coming to raid the winery. All wine beyond what was legal for one family to produce was dumped prior to their arrival.

In 1976 the Maitland’s purchased the property with the intention of revitalizing the old ranch. A couple of years later they were approached to start a new winery on the property. In 1981 the first vintage was introduced. Many award-winning wines were to follow.

As of 2007, Michael Meagher has been in charge of the winemaking. He has been making his own wines at the ranch since 2004 under his label, Vino V Wines.

A vineyard of 20 acres was planted during the 1980’s. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc were produced. Sadly, the vineyard fell prey to the bacterium that causes Pierce’s Disease. Plans are now being developed for a new vineyard at the top of the Ranch that will distance the grapes from the insects that transmit the disease.

1. What was your first vintage year? 1981

2. How many cases do you make per vintage? Varies, 75 to 300

3. Do you have a Tasting Room? We are open 7 days a week, 11AM to 5PM. 10024 Old Creek Road
Ventura, California 93001.

4. How did you get your start in the winemaking business? We did it the old fashioned way; we inherited half of a winery. Then bought out the other half.

5. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? It was because of the love of interesting varieties and complexity of quality wines.

6. What varietals do you work with? Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Why? I was introduced to dry wines with the Italian varieties. I find the wine varieties of Spain, Southern France, and Italy the most interesting. And, the combination of food with wines from those regions are so important.

7. What vineyards do you source from? We originally were an estate winery but we lost our vines to Pierce’s Disease. We mostly source from Santa Barbara Co., White Hawk Vineyard, Alisos Vineyard, Camp 4, Honea Vineyard, John Sebastiano Vineyard. From Edna Valley, Paragon Vineyard, and Napa, Branham Obsidian Vineyard.

8. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why? We exclusively use French Oak sourced from a few cooperages, and five different French forests. We are very conscious to not over oak the wine varieties we make.

9. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different special? Well, we have choices of vineyards outside of our region as stated above. Bottom line is I love the wines we make. As to our region, we are in the beautiful Ojai Valley with our winery and tasting room located on a 1940’s ranch. It is about idyllic as it gets.

10. What’s the story behind your name/label? We are located at a ranch on the Old Creek Road, hence the name “Old Creek Ranch Winery”. Our labels, for the most part are tributes to those who got us here, our founder, Carmel Maitland, and my wife’s Italian Great Grandfather. But we have fun with label art as well.

11. What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery? Know a great wine from a good wine from an average wine. You have to know where your wines fit in these categories. Like any endeavor, you really learn it by doing it.

12. We’re curious…do you even get tired of drinking your own wine? Is it considered bad form to dip into your inventory? I don’t know why it would be bad form to “dip” into your own inventory. No, I do not get tired of our wines, but then we make a large variety and they are excellent, so I “dip”.

13. Do you still have a day job? Retired from that, but now work the ranch.

To find out more about Old Creek Ranch Winery, please visit their website or follow them on FACEBOOK.

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