In advance of the River Road Wine Trail’s first annual “Tunes, Trucks and Tastes” event on June 12, we are doing out best to visit those way-too-unknown but oh-so-easy to get to wineries along the western Salinas Valley, sitting at the eastern foothills of the coastal Santa Lucia Mountains.
We have been out and about on the Wine Trail and learned that this special food, entertainment and wine event is selling out quickly! Go here to learn more and to purchase your tickets!
All we knew about Odonata Wines was based on the recommendation of a pourer during our River Road Wine Trail adventures. Sure, we'd driven past on weekdays and wondered what Odonata might be all about. We had already made plans to visit in order to see what Odonata had to offer, and we confidently predicted we’d be in and out of there in 90 minutes, tops.
Wrong. We spent a good 4 hours there, chatting with the winemaker Denis Hoey, sampling and re-sampling his wines, talking about grapes, talking about his plans for his property, talking about chocolate …
But first, the wines! And to ruin any suspense you might have, we liked everything we tasted!
Odonata Wines was established by Denis and his wife, who looked to the property itself for inspiration in naming their new venture. Sitting in an open field close to the Salinas River, the couple were surrounded by many dragonflies. Dragonfly Wines is an already overdone name (a quick Google search reveals wineries in Maine and Maryland)—but Odonata, which is the scientific name of the order in which dragonflies are classified, certainly is an unusual name. The logo is a stylized dragonfly, designed with overtures of a Pacific Northwest totem and Celtic symbols. Odonata’s wines are produced in small but carefully tended lots.
We started with a 2012 Blanc de Noir sparkling wine. This beautiful wine spends three years laying around with yeast to produce the bubbles. The grapes are sourced from Morgan Hill, in the Santa Clara Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). This super-fun and showstopping wine smells of fresh green apples and the taste does not disappoint the palate. Odonata’s sparkling wine is one of only two produced by wineries on the Wine Trail. Our recommendation: get some!
Next up was a 2014 Reisling, with grapes sourced from the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. There is a pleasing pear scent on the nose with a dry-mineraly taste on the tongue, along with ripe stone fruits. This wine begs to be put alongside your best Thai-inspired spicy dishes, or go ahead and cook up a Bratwurst and spaetzel and enjoy this wine!
The 2015 Rosé of Mourvedre found its way into our glasses. Made from Morgan Hill grapes, this wine is a little young, all of the right parts are there, and it is still pleasant to drink. With blueberry/strawberries and tropical fruit on the nose, with the berries carrying through to the tongue, this easily drinkable wine is the prefect accompaniment to a crisp green salad with a vinaigrette dressing, or your favorite shellfish dish.
Being just slightly north of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, or course we had to try some Pinot Noir. Odonata’s 2013 Pinot is made from grapes sourced from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. While it is what you expect from a Pinot (the earthiness on the nose and the palate, along with dark cherry on the tongue), this is a very nice wine that our non-Pinot drinker finished happily. We are now searching for a recipe for a chocolate pinot pudding to give this wine something fun to do!
Made from grapes sourced from Monterey County, east of Soledad at the base of the Gabilan Mountains, Odonata’s 2013 Syrah delivers the essence of blackberries and grassiness on the nose, which turns into overtures of black pepper, sage and ripe blackberries. This versatile wine can be dressed up or dressed down and be perfectly happy doing do. Think of serving it with a black pepper-crusted pork tenderloin, or a simple rib roast.
As expected, we had to try the Malbec. Odonata’s 2013 Malbec is still a bit young, and it will definitely get better with age as long as you care for it properly. Aged for 1/3 of its time in Hungarian oak, which gives the wine its spicy overtones, and the remainder of the time in French oak to give it a candy-like structure, this wine will definitely make you smile if you like a bold red. Which of course we do.
The 2013 Sangiovese is made from the same grapes as the Blanc de Noir sparkling. In our party was a traditionally non-red wine drinker who went crazy for this stuff!
Next up was the 2013 Petite Sirah. This is a very California wine, with dark stone fruit on the nose and a leathery and buttery caramel sensation on the tongue. This is a very nice wine.
We concluded with the 2012 Lomita dessert wine. Made with a bit of brandy which gives this port a fun tingle on your nose, the Lomita practically begs to be paired with chocolate. We are working on an original brownie recipe and had a bit in the car to keep us going. We brought it into the tasting room and shared with our pourer and the winemaker. Absolute heaven—this wine and that fudgy brownie recipe were created to be together. When we are ready, we shall share. But for now, get yourself a bottle of the Lomita and wait for the brownie recipe.
After all that, we decided that Odonata’s wines were truly unique and something we wanted to be a part of—so, guess what? We joined another wine club! With four shipments per year, two bottles per shipment, your price per shipment will never exceed $90. Wine club members get first access to the handcrafted, small lots and special releases. Being wine club members, we are invited to a special event to be held at Odonata's River Road tasting room, a "Past, Present and Future" wine tasting, featuring verticals of several different vintages, on August 13. Join the wine club and get your invite, too!
We went home with a bottle of Lomita and Black Darter, a delicate “grenachy” red wine blend that is available only to wine club members. It is going to be carefully tended to for at least a year, and has already been hidden from plain sight to avoid the temptation to drink it. It is going to be savored with a lamb dish, or chicken made with Herbs de Provence.
Don’t need to buy wine? There is also locally-sourced all-natural honey for sale by the jar. We watched several people take home purchases of honey along with their wine.
Can’t make it to the tasting room southwest of Salinas? Then check out Odonata’s tasting room in Santa Cruz, at 2343 Mission Street. Odonata Wines are also being poured at the wine bars at San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland International Airports, so if you happen to be passing through, go check these very unique and so-very-worth your attention wines.