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Meet Jackie Franklin of Topa Mountain Winery in Ojai

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jackie Franklin.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jackie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Topa Mountain Winery is the manifestation of owner Larry Guerra’s dream of seeing seasons change (grapevines being a perennial plant) and creating a communal space that serves as both a gathering spot for locals as well as an entertainment destination for out-of-towners.

As General Manager, it was my job to see his dream come to fruition (as well as sprinkle a few of my own visions for the space I once knew as an abandoned hot tub store). Together, we’ve created something really special – a place for celebration, and at our parties, everyone is invited!

I started at Topa Mountain Winery the day our doors opened to the public. The space, which was designed by local architects, landscapers, contractors and interior designers, is spectacular on its own. As a new winery and tasting room, it still needed a sense of identity and place. It’s not that it was a blank canvas, per se, but rather a nice leather bound book lacking narrative stuffing.

Three things were of utmost importance to me when helping brand Topa Mountain Winery:
1 Inclusivity.
Have you ever been to a Tasting Room with a lineup of crystal stemware that might crack just by looking at it wrong? I have – with my toddler in tow. Now, that was a personal mistake, but it taught me that there was a great need in the area and in the industry as a whole for a family friendly winery. Moms deserve to enjoy fine wine, too!

When shaping the brand of Topa Mountain Winery, it was crucial to me to create a space that is friendly to both wine novices and connoisseurs, young parents and baby boomers, and everyone in between.

2 Entertainment.
With my professional background being in music booking and concert promotion, I was itching to create a live music venue in Ojai that drew big names (Tommy Thayer of Kiss and Little Feat, to name a few) as well as host all of the local talent that Ventura County and LA has to offer. With free live music every Saturday and Sunday and larger ticketed concerts, Topa Mountain Winery has quickly become one of the most visited entertainment destinations in the area.

3 Millennials.
Yeah, you! When I was growing up in Ojai, my peers and I gauged our success by how far we could get away from this place. As I grew older and the town became more hip, I realized that this beautiful valley is actually pretty special. And seeing how many LA twenty/thirty-somethings come to visit on the weekends, now others think so, too! Millennials get a bad rap for being on their phones all the time, but truth is that Millennials value social and connective experiences, and being outside. That’s really what we’re all about here, at TMW and Ojai in general.

So where are we now? Topa Mountain Winery has been open for 2 years and since then we’ve created a family friendly, entertainment driven, weekend warrior gathering space that has really, really good wine.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
No road worth traveling down is smooth and the one that led us to where we are now had many a pot hole. I think the biggest struggle with any start up is being confident in your decisions and patient enough to see them through. When you invest so much time, devotion and money into a project, it’s difficult to accept any failed events or slow days. You start second guessing your approach and lean toward abandoning one idea for another. I have to remind myself to stay steadfast and tenacious and to see each failure as a learning lesson, as cliché as it sounds.

Please tell us about Topa Mountain Winery.
At Topa Mountain Winery, we create a lively, welcoming space for all the days’ worth commemorating and all the days you need to escape the monotony. When you come here, the joy is infectious with people of all ages and backgrounds smiling, interacting and enjoying what we’ve created. We’re so proud of the space we’ve created, the wine we’ve made and the community we’re a part of and we’ll cheers to that any day!

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Nothing – everything is as it should be, all faults included. But maybe we should have kept one of those abandoned hot tubs…


  • Wine Tasting – $15 per person plus tax
  • Wine by the glass – $12-14 plus tax
  • Wine by the bottle – $28 – $48 plus tax

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Ashley & Brian Wilson – Kuzmich Photography

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