With its Mediterranean climate, indie-anchored charm, and mountains that epically turn pink at sunset, few places are less polarizing than the idyllic nest of restoration known as Ojai. Apt for a city named after the moon, an air born salve of serenity wafts through its winds, lavender scented, pixie seasoned, where fair trade and locally made are the laws and legacy of this ever-loved land.
Dotted with olive oil tasting rooms and quaint corners to read and recalibrate, it’s a bit hard to believe this foot-friendly, art centric enclave is a mere 65 miles north of Los Angeles. Beneath its historic arcade, its main street of mercantile is ripe with antique stores and organic eateries, wine tasting rooms, and locally owned boutiques. Community pride is omnipresent, as is the want to become one with it, by anyone stopping by.
Needless to stay, as an Angelean, I have “stopped by” many, many times.
Holding rank as one of my favourite spa destinations, this time, it was with the intent to have a quick sleepover and taste some wine.
With an aesthetic appeal consistent with Ojai’s Mission Revival roots, we bunked at the Su Nido Inn, an all-suite oasis bathed in sunlight, stonework, and enveloping a centric cobblestone courtyard. Plan on parking your car (if that’s how you arrived) and not returning to it until it’s time to leave – there’s really no need. Fortunate, when so much worthwhile wine tasting is steps outside your room.
But first, a dip in the tub with those Molton Brown amenities. Rooms are spacious, private, and gloriously sun lit. Our Heron Suite featured a secluded wraparound terrace with views of the valley. Swoon. Then, out the door, tangerine tinged market umbrellas above, weathered stone below, olive trees and terracotta tiles, at Su Nido (Your Nest) the Ojai feels are comfortingly consistent. Follow the fountain and off you go.
Wine tasting in Ojai is its own exercise in sublimity. So many assembled, a sweet saunter through the village, and all is there; close, casual. No airs of ostentatiousness, an ease makes what is indigenously wonderful, easily accessible. From walks to wines to wellness, there’s a reason Ojai’s revisit rate must be through the roof. (Feel free to check me on that).
And it seems entirely fitting that the first certified organic winery in the Central California Coastal region would be here, at Casa Barranca Organic Winery & Tasting Room. Here, the sunlight banks off the Craftsman-style interiors, where warm woods and cushioned barstools make sticking around and sampling a flight, a no brainer. Choose from two flights, the Topa Topa or the Chiefs Peak (or, um, see insider tip, another no brainer). With sustainable practices at the forefront of their focus, utilizing exclusively organic grapes, you can taste in good conscience. Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs, Grenache Blancs and Cabernet Franks, ask for Alysha. Every seat taken, she handles the room with an informal grace, a reverie for the vine, a wonderful air, coupled with good humor.
Same goes for all those delightful boutiques, home hewn, situated so conveniently for in between the tastings and the electric pink sunsets. Summer Camp to Sunstream Goods, Fig to Bungalow by Fig, the artistic enterprising is impossibly inspired. Seasonal festivals that celebrate everything from lavender to tangerines, residents line the streets with lawn chairs securing their spots for parades. The small-town charm combined with the large-scale ingenuity ignite an elixir of suburban summons us city folk can’t help but want to make our own.
But to solidify Ojai as an oenophile destine, which almost seems unfair given its allotment of allures, we figured we’d test out one more tasting room. Offering exclusively oak aged varietals, housed in an old refurbished firehouse, (awesome), The Ojai Vineyard combines European balance with Southern California bounty. Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and Syrah’s. The Rosé, unlisted, is a showstopper. Wine Spectator junkies, yes, this is the one with all the awards. Talk to Charlie.
With its laid-back beckon behind its lure, such contentedness to its culture, Ojai infuses an irresistible want within anyone who spends time there. The shop owners all seem to exhibit this enviable tranquillity, farm to table might be the only way people eat, and a climate which mimics the Mediterranean is prototypically, well, perfect. It’s no wonder living in Los Angeles, why people flee and flock here as often as they can make happen. And it’s no wonder why people who live everywhere else, once they visit, are inclined to the same.
Su Nido Inn, 301 North Montgomery Street, Ojai, CA 93023, USA.
Tel: +1(805) 646-7080
Casa Barranca Organic Winery & Tasting Room, 208 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA 92023, USA.
Tel: +1(805) 640-125
The Ojai Vineyard, 109 South Montgomery Street, Ojai, CA 93023, USA.
Tel: +1(805) 649-1674
Insider Tip: At Casa Barranca, tell your tasting room server the magic word WINELOVER, and receive a second flight with their complements! Thank you, Ojai may I have another! And another tip: if you can visit midweek, you’ll enjoy a far less populated experience.
Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles.
Photographs by Jolie Loeb