Sometimes it will take a friend to tell you something is beautiful before you can realize it. Other times, we’re forced to choose.
Choices aren’t easy. Thankfully, most of the time, why we chose what we chose remains a mystery, but moreso a secret, easing us into quiet satisfaction that no one else needs to know. Unless you're in the public eye.
Public figures must reveal their choice publicly. They really, really need to think about their decision before revealing it to the world. After all, their choice can affect the status quo, inadvertently upsetting the applecart, and single-handedly starting a whole new era.
Odette Kahn made a choice that changed the wine industry forever. Serving as a judge in a prestigious national wine competition, she inadvertently (albeit authentically as it was a blind tasting) chose a competitor’s Napa Valley Chardonnay over her very own.
Granted, Odette’s choice was purely subjective — as is with all wine preferences, but the fact remains that her choice, coupled with her prestige, put Napa Valley wines on the map.
The Charisma (of Odette)
Odette Winery isn’t like any of the other wineries I visited on my off-the-beaten-path Napa Valley wine expedition, a journey began nine weeks ago at Trés Sabores. In fact, Odette is possibly the only winery I visited that embraces technology to an extent far beyond what one would expect to find associated with the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage of choice. Did you know, evidence suggests that the art of wine making goes back further than 4000 BC? Even back then people were filling their bucket list with a bucket of wine.
Odette became Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District’s, newest addition in 2012. The winery is located about six miles from the city of Napa. Incidentally, Stags Leap was designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1989 based on the unique terroir characteristics of the soil: sand, silt and clay sediments from the Napa River and volcanic soil deposits left over from mountain erosion.
Much like the infamous Odette at that wine competition and her feminine counterparts found in literature, this particular winery prides itself as possessing a feminine flair for beauty while being strikingly progressive.
For example, Odette’s winery building itself are veiled by massive, moveable screens curved in the shape of a woman’s body. The curves allow for the free flow of air and light without the need for a separate electrical apparatus. Also, it is in this building where much of the “behind the scenes” wine lab activity takes place, utilizing perhaps the ultimate form of recycling: everything occurs literally inside three massive, orange shipping containers converted into a fully-functional kitchen, office and meeting room.
Odette prides itself on being environmentally friendly; seeking to be a Gold LEED-certified winery (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, i.e.: resource efficient buildings). This voluntary LEED certification is an international benchmark. Odette’s partners were intent on mimicking standards used at their other properties: recycled concrete, insulation made from denim, solar panels to minimize electric use, renewable cork flooring and a push for water conservation: there’s a cistern housed below Odette’s vineyard to capture rain and storm water and an actual “living roof.”
Progressive practices are evident from the moment your visit begins. Odette masterfully blends the antique art of wine making into an in-demand, modernized masterpiece while retaining 45-acres of lush beauty, camouflaged in harmony within the dramatic palisades of the Stags Leap District.
Smell This. Taste This. Like This.
We already know that technology has made everyone more socially active (for better or for worse) and using technology to improve the things we like to do as well as to create cool things can not only be addictive, it can easily become a passion. Now, let’s imagine you’re a public figure, say an elected official, who is fascinated with technology — and you happen to love wine. What cool thing would you make?
California lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, happens to own Odette Winery. He and fellow investors, Gordon Getty (son of J. Paul Getty) and John Conover created Odette in 2012 releasing their first vintage, a Cabernet Sauvignon, in February 2015 (a signed bottle by wine maker, Jeff Owens, is prominently displayed and securely stored behind glass inside Odette’s chic and modern tasting room).
I asked Gavin Newsom what his favorite Odette wine is. He not only told me, he showed me.
2013 Odette Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
We saved this one for last, but I must mention it first. Crafted in early spring of 2014, and limited to 20 barrels, this vintage was aged in 80% new French Oak for 20 months. A varietal of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 4% Cab Franc, 4% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. Opaque purple in color, black cherries, blueberry, black currant, graphite, mocha and lavender, all wrapped up and supported by silky, supple tannins in a seamless, energetic expression across the palate.
Odette makes wines under two different labels, the Odette Estate (above) and Adaptation, both made by winemaker Jeff Owens (I must confess, Jeff gave me the description above, and I feel no guilt for appropriating it. After all, when he said he detects flavors of… etc, I simply said, “same.”)
In Search of Lost Time
One’s taste for wine is subjective much the same as beauty being in the eye of the beholder. And as much as Marcel Proust chose to make his Odette unappealing to her future husband — the poor girl remained unattractive to him until his sudden realization that her lips resembled those in a Botticelli painting, and then she finally became beautiful in his eyes, and eventually a Swan(n) — the beauty of Odette's wines are the inconspicuous subtleties in its progression.
Odette’s Adaptation wines represent the progression of wine produced in individual appellations to an anthology of single varietal labeled wines blended from AVAs, representing a pure expression of Napa Valley.
Regardless of which Odette you chose to adapt your experience to (literary or otherwise), Odette Winery maintains the best of both worlds: a swan by day, and a beautiful maiden by night. Odette is an experience that is nothing short of magical.
Odette Estate is located at 5998 Silverado Trail in Napa, open by appointment (707) 224-7533 seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
About the Author
Stefan Pinto is a male model and photographer. In 2007, he spent one week on expedition with National Geographic in Oaxaca, Mexico. His work has been published in Maxim, Out Magazine and The Advocate. He recently returned from the South of France covering Escale à Sète and Fortant for Forbes. Find him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram.