I have said this countless times. Every trip to a wine destination near or far uncovers a little gem, that special place where the terroir and the wine are in perfect harmony. This time, that place was J Ludlow.
During my recent day trip to Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County, I discovered J Ludlow quite by chance. I hadn’t read anything about it prior to arriving at the center of town. I happened to turn around and spotted their recently opened tasting room, whose space previously housed an art gallery.
J Ludlow’s owners, Jane and Allan Jones, make their home at the Westerly Stud Ranch in Happy Canyon, a place with an interesting past. It was originally owned by entrepreneur, technology pioneer and thoroughbred race horse aficionado Fletcher Jones, (no relation to the present owners, originally from Wales) who died tragically while piloting his private plane, in 1972, at the age of 41.
J Ludlow is a small-production boutique winery that appropriately specializes in Bordeaux type blends as the climate at the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley is similar to that of Bordeaux. Their grapes come from the aptly named Happy Canyon and Santa Ynez Valley AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) or appellations.
Damien Kriteman, the English Lord (seriously!) and General Manager of J Ludlow poured the winery’s current rosé and white wine offerings, which range from the refreshing Italian varietals Primitivo Rosé at $23 and, like Zinfandel, a clone of the Croatian grape Crljenak and Pinot Grigio at $19, both from the 2012 vintage. Their more complex and aged 2008 and 2009 Jigsaw (also their logo) Sauvignon Blanc at $28, a Bordeaux varietal, rounded out their white portfolio.
Damien then poured their exquisite, award-winning and well-balanced reds. Their 2010 Hudson at $42 is a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels and is drinking beautifully for a younger wine.
Their Left Bank Bordeaux options (Cabernet Sauvignon dominant) were the 2008 and 2009 Kemsley, at $30 and $34 respectively. Both vintages are 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot blends from the Camp 4 Santa Ynez Valley vineyard. The 2008 was aged for 22 months in French oak barrels and the 2009 for 24 months. Both had a lovely mouthfeel, softened tannins and good varietal character. Between the two, I slightly preferred the 2009 vintage wine.
Then the finale, the Right Bank (Merlot dominant) Bordeaux, Jane, named for owner Jane Jones. The 2008 sells for $38 and the 2009 for $34. Both wines are 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon blends from the Camp 4 Santa Ynez Valley vineyard and aged for 22 months in French oak barrels. Each showed beautiful aromas, enticing fruit and balanced acidity.
For me, the over winner was the 2008 Jane, with the 2009 Kemsley just behind in second place.
Not only are the J Ludlow wines fine examples of the terroir and current state of winemaking in Santa Ynez Valley, they are bottled poetry!
Tasting Room – open 11-5 Daily
2890 Grand Avenue
Los Olivos CA 93441
Until next time…à votre santé!
©2014Christine Humphrey – Top photo courtesy of J Ludlow Vineyard, others by Christine Humphrey