Oh how I love discovering boutique wineries. There’s just something special about the personalities behind them — and I, inevitably, feel a certain camaraderie even if our only communication is through wine.

Odonata is owned and operated by winemaker Dennis Hoey. He has a lifetime worth of experience in the wine industry working with vintners big and small throughout California. In 2005 he started his own label, Odonata, and as of 2014 he’s focused, full time on his boutique winery, located in the Salinas and Santa Cruz area. He is a winemaker who sources his grapes predominantly from the Central Coast region, but is looking forward to planting his own 2 acre estate vineyard this year.

About the Wine: After I tasted this wine, I had to contact Denis and get the story behind the vintage. It was just such a unique experience for me Syrah-wise (as you’ll see in my tasting notes).

The Odonata 2014 Syrah is made from 100% Syrah grapes harvested from the Hahn Vineyard in Santa Lucia Highlands — “Super excited to call this our first vintage in the SLH!” says Denis. 2014 came with scattered bouts of hot spells, as did the harvest season, which pushed the grapes to ripen a bit quicker and with more intensity.

The fruit was fermented in small lot bins and, as Denis says, was “pressed ‘dirty'” meaning all the lees and stems and good stuff were left in — making an intense juice even fuller. The wine aged in French oak barrels (40% new) for 18 months, then rested in bottle for 6 months. The 2017 SLH Syrah is unfiltered and unfined.

15% ABV

I’ll leave this section with a few words from Denis, which completely back up my tasting notes:

“I always let a wine be what it is. So when it came in ripe we made a riper, more bold Syrah…the vintage makes the wine, not the winemaker!” –Denis Hoey, Odonata owner and winemaker.

Flavor Profile: Right as you uncork this bottle a rush of jammy fruits, like boysenberry preserves, will rush right out. From bottle to glass, the wine pools like liquified jam — it’s thick, purple, with an aura of magenta (read: hint of pink), but for all its voluptuousness, it’s clean on the swirl leaving no trace grape behind.

The smell from the glass is all about that boysenberry jam with little hints of cola and a background aroma of eucalyptus, maybe even menthol.

Amazingly, the flavors are more earthy than what the nose would imply. The eucalyptus comes through a bit more along with a bit of muddy earthiness — like you’re sitting right under the eucalyptus tree on a damp, foggy morning.

Texturally this wine is a journey taking you from an almost refreshing start to a spice-filled mid-palate and then to a finish I can only describe as dry heat. And the aftertaste — well, the aftertaste is a bit menthol-medicinal with that tinge on the lips and heat in the chest.

There’s no denying that this wine is full-on. I noticed that as the night progressed, the wine seemed to — not open up — almost envelope into itself. All those different parts just melded together. My recommendation is to open this wine at least 20 to 30 minutes before enjoying. Those jammy dark fruits sensed on the nose will come forward, the mouthfeel will smooth out a bit. But the finish will still be hot. In fact, even after letting the wine relax for the recommended 20 to 30 minutes, it tasted like if the grapes had sat just a bit longer — this Syrah could have turned into a late harvest port-style wine.

Not complaining. But I will add that this wine is a corker. Meaning one or two glasses, even with a meal, will do yah. Don’t be ashamed to stick a cork in it and save it for later. Or, as we say in my house “Rabb-it and rack-it.”

Food Pairing: This is an absolute food-pairing wine. The back of the bottle said pair with lamb, so that’s what I did. I enjoyed the Odonata 2014 Syrah with herb-crusted lamb rack accompanied by an arugula and roasted tomato salad (garnished with feta, cranberries, green onion, and a light balsamic dressing). The juiciness of the tomato along with the medium-rare lamb certainly amplified those late-harvest-Syrah qualities of the wine (aka the jamminess). And that’s really what you want. Yes, the herbs and arugula will complement the vegetative and spice qualities — but really think about juicy components and, to be crass, raw meat when you’re pairing food with this wine. It needs that textural elevation and your body will thank you for the sustenance as you consume this crazy Syrah.

More Info: I received the Odonata 2014 Syrah as a sample for review. (Cheers Dennis!) For more information about Odonata and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Odonata website.

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4 Comments on Odonata Wines 2014 Syrah

  1. I have not this one as I think its a fairly new release…I have had the Santa Cruz Mountain and the Santa Clara Valley version…the line “sitting right under the eucalyptus tree on a damp, foggy morning” reminds me of going to the SF zoo as a kid or golfing on a damp Saturday morning. nicely written Stacy!

  2. This is definitely in a class all it’s own — not a cranky SCM Syrah nor a yuppy SCV Syrah. And yes, that is exactly where I grew up and what I was thinking about haha

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