Partners Gavin Newson, Gordon Getty and John Conover, with their success at PlumpJack and CADE Estate Wineries, were open to the possibility of a third winery. In the fall of 2011, an opportunity to round out their trio of wineries presented itself in the form of a historic property in the Stags Leap District – this prime piece of land would be the future site of Odette Estate Winery.
The 45-acre estate, originally purchased by the Steltzner family in 1964 – was tucked into the dramatic palisades of the Stags Leap District, just east of Silverado Trail. After purchasing the property, Richard and Christine Steltzner converted the open land to vineyards in 1970 and sold the grapes on property through their own vineyard management company. The Steltzner vineyard was the second in the district planted to cabernet sauvignon grapes, following one planted in the 1960s by Nathan Fay, now owned by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. It wasn’t until 1977 that the Steltzner’s realized the potential of their Stags Leap District property and decided to make their own wine.
In 1980, the first 500 cases of wine from the property were released under the Steltzner Vineyards label. The brand produced a wide variety of wines, including Bordeaux varieties and Syrah. Over the years, the couple slowly expanded their winery in the Stags Leap District to include a tasting room, underground tunnels and a cave (one of the first modern caves built in Napa Valley). The estate would even include a private airstrip which is now planted to award-winning cabernet sauvignon grapes.
The Steltzner’s would boost their annual production of their namesake label to 25,000 cases annually with an array of different varietals such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, cabernet franc, and a small amount of tintoria and pinotage. But the time had come for them to pass the torch, and the Steltzner’s wanted to make sure their property was going to be in good hands.
In early 2012, the Steltzner’s sold the winery and surrounding vineyards to Newsom, Getty and Conover, making the trio just the second owners to farm the vineyard. “The PlumpJack Family was presented with an opportunity to purchase an exceptional vineyard from pioneering grape grower Dick Steltzner,” Conover said. “The unique terroir of this vineyard reflects our vision and commitment to estate‐grown wines, allows us to produce wines from the Stags Leap District, and helps meet a growing demand for exceptional wines.”
In the fall of 2012, the property would quickly see several renovations with Napa-based Shopworks Design turning the previous winery building into a chic and modern hospitality center. The caves would be also updated and retrofitted and the vineyards re-planted and converted to 100 percent organic farming, in accordance with the PlumpJack Group’s continued commitment to organic viticulture.
Renowned young architect Juan Carlos Fernandez, whose striking modern design of CADE Estate Winery, among other projects, has drawn widespread acclaim, was tapped to design the new winery. Like CADE Estate, the new winery at Odette Estate would be built to achieve LEED Gold certification. Both achievements would be recognized in 2017, with Odette Estate Winery earning Gold LEED certification for the winery and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) for the vineyards.
The small, state-of-the-art winery building, would become one of just a handful of wineries to feature a living green roof, planted to grasses and plants. In addition to the vegetation, the roof also contains 2,500 square feet of solar panels. The winemaking laboratory, constructed from recycled shipping containers from China, is the only one of its kind in the Napa Valley.
The man at the helm in this winemaking lab, Jeff Owens, has been with the PlumpJack Group since 2006, working as assistant winemaker at CADE Estate, Owens would become winemaker for Odette Estate. Owens would make history in 2015, scoring a perfect 100 points by The Wine Advocate with Odette Estate’s inaugural release – the first winemaker to do so in an inaugural release and the first wine to receive the award bottled under a screwcap.
Odette Estate, like PlumpJack and CADE Estate Wineries, was given its name from Shakespeare and other historical works. Odette was a pivotal character, penned by Shakespeare and Proust, and also in Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake. In the wine world, Odette was the name of one of the French judges at the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 when a red wine from Stags Leap District beat out the French competition to take top honors.
Odette is a fabled princess, a mistress and a judge – these three characters are meant to symbolize the wine produced on the estate, embodying the femininity, strength and power of the three ladies. You will find them hidden and in plain sight, with photos of them in the tasting room, artistically rendered statues on the south end of the property and across the label of Odette Estate Cabernet Sauvignon wine bottle.
Today, winemaker Jeff Owens and his winemaking team continue to produce awarding-winning cabernet sauvignons from the Stags Leap District estate vineyard that encapsulate the inspiration for the property – combining power and elegance, while simultaneously showcasing the unique properties of the AVA.