2016 Odonata, Syrah, Santa Lucia Highlands.
In recent years Monterey’s Odonata Wines is a small family winery owned and operated by winemaker Denis Hoey, based in the Santa Lucia Highlands on River Road have been making some wonderful local focused sustainable and organic wines. Dennis Hoey says he subscribes to the idea of blending of old world winemaking methods and attitudes with new techniques and he is in a continuous search of ways for improvement, adding he is always learning and hopes to keep things (his wines) fresh, interesting and exciting, which Odonata does, from my own experiences I am discovering all kinds of thrilling stuff here, like their SLH Syrah. Hoey, who once worked in craft brewing actually made his first wines when he was just 21 years old and has traveled many times to Europe, including to France and Italy to gain perspective on traditional wines. He notes that he graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2004 with a degree in Business Management, but soon turned to wine as a career after he met Jeff Emery, a local legend and winemaker at Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, soon joining his famous winery. Their relationship quickly turned into an Old World apprenticeship for Denis, and he became the production manager for SCMV before starting his Odonata Wines 2005. For about a decade he grew his winery and portfolio gaining many central coast wine fans, then In 2014 Hoey and his wife, Claire, bought the old Marilyn Remark Winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands where Odonata now makes wines and grows some of their grapes as well as raising their family, becoming a serious and soulful presence on the Monterey wine scene. This Odonata Syrah, coming from the area’s sandy/loamy soils, saw a gentle and careful maceration with hand pilage and partial whole cluster, which is usually around 25%, fermentation to deliver purity and a slight wild or feral quality to the wine with mostly well season barrels being used to age the finished wine. This wine is drinking great right now and the tannins melt away with food, though they do give some grip and add to the palate impact, making the Odonata Syrah delightful with robust cuisine.

Odonata, which has found a niche with their bubbly wines, which are produced using the classic Methode Champenoise, but with an interesting twist offering sparkling Riesling and intriguingly a Rosé of Sangiovese fizz! That said, they make a dynamic range of red wines and I have tried a few outstanding bottlings, having mentioned their awesome Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Santa Cruz Mountains and more recently this well made and great drinking 2016 Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah. Even more impressive, is that it comes from a vintage that can be sometimes scared by the Soberanes Fire inferno that caused wide spread smoke taint in the region, but this wine shows none of this flaw in any obvious way with a beautiful and exciting fruit driven profile and fresh low alcohol feel. The fairly rich and power 2016 Odonata Syrah has a nice savory, almost meatiness, element to add complexity here going really well with a the core of blue and black fruits that includes blackberry, mission fig, plum, sweet currant and kirsch along with nice accents like dried lavender, violette pastels, camphor, minty herbs and cedar notes adding a touch of pepper, grilled fennel and iron/mineral tones with air. As the wine opens it carries a nice natural acidity and at just 13.3% it is well balanced in a cool climate style. As followers of grapelive will know, I am a huge fan of the Syrah wines of the region, especially from the Santa Lucia Highlands, I honestly believe since 2004, Syrah wines from here have been the equal to or even better than in some cases to Pinot Noir! To support my conclusions, I highly recommend Roar, Pisoni (Lucia), Morgan and Joyce, who’s Tondre is a thriller in the same fashion this wine is, as well as Wrath, especially their KW Ranch version, some of the older Big Basin from here too, along with speciality wines from Cattleya, Sling | Stone (made by Junior Banuelos, assist. winemaker at Odonata) and Sandlands to name a few. While the 2016 is mostly sold out, though is available through a couple of wine merchants, the 2017 and up coming 2018 Odonata Syrahs are certainly worth checking out!
($38 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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