Odonata Chardonnay

Last spring, I went wine tasting in Santa Cruz, Calif., during the quarterly Passport Weekend. It’s a fantastic way to try Santa Cruz wines and spend an afternoon within a short walk of the Pacific Ocean. You buy a passport ($40) that has a page for all the wineries belonging to the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, which is just about every winery and tasting room in Santa Cruz. And you taste your way through the book. Word to the wise: Don’t try to fill out the entire passport in one weekend (really, don’t! I learned the hard way.). You can keep it and use it again and again until you visit every winery in it. The benefit is that you can use the passport as a guide to tasting rooms, and many wineries pour special vintages while others ONLY offer tastings during Passport weekend. Many local restaurants offer discounts to Passport holders too.

I love family-owned businesses. It’s a small way I show my patriotism; I don’t wear flag pins or have a yellow ribbon magnet on my bumper, but I do support locally owned, family owned businesses. So when my friend and I wandered into the borrowed tasting room for Odonata Wines during Passport Weekend, I was intrigued. The man pouring the wine was the winemaker, Denis Hoey. He talked about his love for wine, the science of winemaking and how he hopes to grow his winery. But he didn’t just talk, he listened. He listened to my reasons for not liking most white wines (too sweet, too fruity, too tart, no depth, too oaky, blah, blah, blah) and he poured me his 2008 Chardonnay.

How did he know? How did he know that this would make me eat my words… or drink them, at least? The Odonata Chardonnay is at first like microwaved popcorn – buttery with just a hint of toasty vanilla . The fruit taste is a mellow apple or pear, not melon like a sauvignon blanc or grapefruit like a pinot grigio. And it doesn’t depend on overpowering oak flavor to give it depth like so many chardonnays. There’s a distinct minerality to the wine, something I haven’t paid much attention to in most other wines. It’s a wine that makes you stop and think about what you’re tasting, and want another taste!

I immediately bought a bottle, and was disappointed to learn that Odonata wines are made in small batches. So like all best things in life, you have to grab it when you find it and savor it.

And savor it, I did. Tonight I made chicken provençal (chicken and bell pepper, onion, eggplant, tomatoes and herbs sauteed in white wine and chicken broth) but went easy on the tomatoes and heavy on the bell pepper and onions. It would have gone well with a red wine, but I chilled the Odonata Chardonnay and was pleasantly surprised by how well it paired with dinner. The bell pepper seemed to bring out the butter in the wine.

Cheers to trying new things, appreciating a vintner who takes the time to talk to his customers, and enjoying a warm spring afternoon in Santa Cruz!

(In checking Odonata’s website, I see that the 2008 Chardonnay is still available. It’s $24, and the winery only offers tastings the first Saturday of the month or by appointment.)