Odette Estate is the newest addition to the PlumpJack Group, which also includes Cade, PlumpJack, and Adaptation Wines. Purchased in 2012, the 45-acre property was the former home of the Steltzner Winery, the second oldest in Stags Leap. The vineyard, situated on the east side of the Silverado Trail, was first planted in 1965, at a time when the going rate for land was a mere $100 per acre (GULP!). Today, the vines remain some of the oldest in Stags Leap.
Odette’s debut releases in 2012 were fantastic, due in no small part to the age of the vines. These gnarled veterans, the oldest of which were planted in 1979, have anchored the vineyard and allowed the project to shine early on, while other sections are being replanted. When all’s said and done, there will be 38 acres under vine, planted with all five Bordeaux varieties. The soils are mainly Boomer and Perkins gravelly loams — richer and deeper on the lower, westerly elevations close to the Silverado Trail, and rocky and thinner on the steep hillsides and terraces to the east, all with excellent drainage and exposure. There is also a unique microclimate here, influenced by the the San Pablo Bay, which funnels wind up from the south, cooling the vineyard on hot days and preventing frost during early season cold spells.
Farming is done organically, and will soon be CCOFA — California Certified Organic Farmers Association — certified. The team here doesn’t use synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides, instead employing natural predators and cover crops like grass, clover, and mustard to ensure vine health. They also compost and create soil amendments by fermenting plant material that is then tilled back into soil.
The winery is housed in a state-of-the-art facility with a whopping 18,000 square feet of caves dug deep into the hillside. It was built with sustainability in mind and includes a “living roof” planted with natural vegetation alongside rows of solar panels, earning the the winery Gold LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — certification. There is also a newly renovated tasting room (completed a few days before my visit) that is airy and clean in its design, with sweeping views of the property.
Jeff Owens, who rose up the ranks in the PlumpJack family to become winemaker at Odette, has the enviable goal to craft wines that reflect the Stags Leap District’s unique soils and climate. Given how the 2012s turned out, Jeff seems well on his way. The wines are opulent, ripe, and richly concentrated, with enough up-front fruit to be approachable now, and enough stuffing and structure to age well. To use a phrase heard often around Stags Leap, these are wines like an “iron fist in a silk glove.”
In sum, it’s safe to say that the PlumpJack Group has created (or revived, in this case) another beautiful, unique, and compelling property. Jeff Owens has all the tools needed to make his mark in Stags Leap, and judging by his first vintage here, he is doing just that.