Food & Drink: Bottom line

West of Temperance big on experimentation

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John King (left) and Brian Ojalvo, both wine lovers, teamed up to make their own wines under the name West of Temperance. Photo courtesy of West of Temperance.

By Tanya Henry

With a keen interest in wine that began as early as in his late teens, John King fortuitously discovered that his Stinson Beach neighbor was also a wine lover. In fact, it turned out that Brian Ojalvo was not only a wine lover, but also the assistant winemaker to Bolinas-based Sean Thackrey.

Fast forward 10 years and King and Ojalvo began making their own wines together—in the summer of 2015, they released their first vintage under the name West of Temperance. “We are still very much a start-up winery,” explains King, who says the two are very hands-on and manage every aspect of the business.

Both men came to the wine business from vastly different careers. King, who grew up in San Rafael and holds a degree in Japanese from UCLA, lived in Tokyo for more than 10 years and worked in the tech industry. Ojalvo was born and raised in New York City and planned to put his Fine Arts degree to good use as a painter. However, a visit to Bolinas in 1992 resulted in landing a job with a residential youth program in Dogtown, and like many who find themselves in West Marin, he never left.

Given Ojalvo’s tutelage under Thackrey, it’s not surprising that West of Temperance is producing unexpected and interesting wines. For starters, they have focused on two lesser-known varietals—Aglianico, a black grape grown in the southern regions of Italy, and Teroldego, a grape originally from northern Italy. All of their small, hand-crafted production includes only red varietals (Pinot, Zinfandel and Sangiovese), and are vineyard designated.

Perhaps most interesting of all, Ojalvo has been experimenting with grafting his favorite varietals with the well-known raisin-making grape—Thompson Seedless. He began with his inlaws’ 100-year-old vines and continues to experiment with this unlikely grape. Additionally, the two have looked into sourcing grapes from places like Santa Barbara and Clarksburg (Yolo County). They have also traveled to the Central Valley, where the region is slowly overcoming its reputation for growing sub-par grapes.

With their very limited production (about 600 cases a year), the wines are only available through the West of Temperance website. But King and Ojalvo hope to partner with restaurants and retailers in the coming years, and making their own label is at the top of their to-do list. King apologizes for their lack of marketing readiness, but concedes, “It really boils down to what’s in the bottle.”

West of Temperance; 415/342-1603; westoftemperance.com.

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