There are over 200 vineyards located within the Santa Cruz Mountains — but you’d never know it. With the area’s rocky terrain, steep slopes, and endless forest landscape, sprawling fields are less common than in other major wine regions. But its these mountainous characteristics that give Santa Cruz grapes their signature concentration, the wines a certain rusticity. Here, Pinot Noir leaves behind the coastal climate stereotypes, amending itself to something that can be altogether brawny, tannic, and age-able.

About the Wine: Odonata Wines 2013 Falcon Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from Falcon Hill — a 1.5 privately owned vineyard, farmed organically by winemaker Denis Hoey himself.

The Pinot Noir is a blend of clones 667, 115, and 777. Hoey tends to keep his wines as natural as possible, using native yeast fermentation and aging in small barrels sur lie (combination new and seasoned French oak; exact percentages unknown). Racking usually takes place just once before bottling.

12.6% ABV

Flavor Profile: Out of the bottle comes a darkness. A dank darkness reminiscent of an angry prune but also squishy mud. On the pour, the wine is surprisingly light — rusty and dusty, but light — settling into the glass as the very definition of rouge. Initial aromas are simultaneously dark and bright, like over-ripe strawberries, damp fertile soil, and dark green herbs. Swirl, and the Odonata Pinot Noir releases a bit of a floral aroma, bittersweet chocolate, and a brambly kind of woodsy-ness. Move the nose to the top of the glass to find where that initial darkness is hiding — this time in the guise of a potpourri of dried fruits.

The palate of Odonata Wines 2013 Falcon Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir is smooth and full-bodied. There are consistently soft tannins from start to finish. The acid in the Pinot Noir is solid, but never once overpowers the taste or texture of the wine.  The dominant flavors are of those flowers sensed on the nose, and speak acutely of a rose garden — brambly bush and all. The fruit components are reminiscent of dehydrated strawberries, dusted with a bit of spice. That spice components is almost paprika-like in flavor only. Note: though the wine is spice-filled it is not at all spicy. There’s a calm wet wood or wet tree bark earthiness that lingers in the background, keeping things altogether calm and balanced. The finish — a culmination of these characteristics — leaves a lingering smokiness most akin to ashed herbs.

Food Pairing: I paired the Odonata Wines 2013 Falcon Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir with herb-crusted lamb tenderloin skewers and a quinoa salad. What was interesting about this pairing was that the herbs actually pulled out more of the fruit elements in the wine, giving it a rounder mouthfeel. Meanwhile the meat, cooked medium rare, highlighted that woody earthiness found in both the nose and on the palate. But my favorite part was how the char on the meat really brought out that smokey finish in the wine.

More Info: I purchased the Odonata Wines 2013 Falcon Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir at Denis’s Santa Cruz tasting room. Sale Price: $38. For more information about Odonata and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Odonata Wines website.

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