Fruit of the vine
Area vintners offer their special varieties of wine
Odyssey Winery & Vineyards, just three miles past the Chico airport on Cohasset Road, is a perfect example of the kind of high-quality, artisan-winemaking enterprise the Chico area is lucky to have in relative abundance.
Owned and run by local dentist Norm Rosene and his wife, Janice, Odyssey is spectacular for a number of reasons. Situated amidst row after row of carefully tended, organically grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Symphony grapes, the Odyssey Winery building—a white-with-blue, Greek-inspired, architectural masterpiece designed by Janice’s architect father John Papadakis—is beautiful, both outside and in.
One enters the tasting room after being greeted by Greek words meaning “Welcome,” artfully laid out by Norm himself in mosaic tile set into the concrete entry walkway.
Odyssey’s wines—Fideaux (a Cabernet/Syrah blend) and the award-winning Barrel Select Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, French Colombard and Late Harvest Symphony, a sweet dessert wine—share space in the cool, roomy tasting room with works of art and a selection of local foods, such as Lodestar Olive Oil and Mooney Farms’ sun-dried tomatoes, offered for sale.
Well-known local artists such as Lynn Criswell and her husband, Michael Bishop, are represented on the walls at Odyssey, as is Petaluma’s Lauri Luck, known for her colorful paintings of dogs, and the whimsical sculpture work of Sacramento artist Joe Scarpa.
A collection of nature photographs by another local dentist, Ken Landis, is among the visual art gracing an upstairs loft-like area used as the stage for concerts in Odyssey’s Summer Jazz Series (well-known local musicians Charlie Robinson and Bob Aranguren are among those who have played there). Aspiring tenor-sax player Norm’s practice area is tucked away upstairs as well.
The Rosenes are proud of their “scientifically based” winemaking process.
Janice—who, like her husband, studied viticulture while obtaining a bachelor’s degree in zoology at UC Davis—pointed out, among other things, that her grapes (“I take care of the vineyard, Norm makes the wine”) are not strip-sprayed with any chemicals. Rather, she uses a cover crop of clover, mixed broam and “Zorro” fescue to keep out weeds between the quadrilaterally trellised rows of grapevines.
Quadrilateral trellising provides Odyssey’s grapes with “an umbrella-like canopy of foliage” that shields the grapes from direct sunlight—important in a hot summer climate such as Chico’s—to prevent sunburn of the fruit.
It is precisely the kind of meticulous and loving care that both Janice and Norm put into their vineyard and winery that Jo Scott, co-owner (with three other local women) of Mangrove Avenue wine shop and tasting room Vino 100 gets so excited about.
“Janice—her stuff is exceptional,” offered Scott. “Those vines are her babies. That is purely her love, definitely, that goes into [Odyssey] wine. Her wine is very, very good. It’s always been a best-seller here at Vino 100.”
Vino 100 boasts a large selection of small-batch, local artisan wines. Bottles produced in Chico, Oroville, Forest Ranch, Vina and Oregon House fill the racks that Vino 100 has showcased front and center in the retail area in the front half of the store. (Vino 100’s tasting room takes up the rear of the shop; dividing the floor space in this way makes it legal for, say, a mom with young children to pop in and buy a bottle of wine, while tasting can go on at the same time.)
“I think we have every local wine,” said Scott. “I don’t think we’re missing any.”
Chico weighs in with Odyssey, Bertagna Son Kissed, Honey Run and Gale Vineyards wines. Next to the Chico wines are the certified organic wines from Forest Ranch’s LaRocca Vineyards, wines from New Clairvaux Vineyards at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, and selections from the Oroville wineries, Quilici, Long Creek and Grey Fox. Representing Oregon House are Renaissance and high-end, numbered bottles from Clos Saron, the pet project of Renaissance winemaker Frenchman Gideon Beinstock.
Beinstock’s Clos Saron (pronounced “Sharone”) in-demand wines are almost worth it just for the near-poetic wording on the labels. The label on a 2004 bottle of “La Cuvée Mysterieuse” reads, in part: “A unique expression of a privileged terroir in the foothills of an undisclosed mountain range in California.” A 2007 Tickled Pink Syrah Rosé announces: “The unexpected silly side of a sun-baked granite slope.”
New Clairveaux’s wines—Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Syrah and blended Red Table Wine—are Vino 100’s “No. 1 seller for local wines,” advised Scott. Made by winemaker Aimee Sunseri, New Clairveaux’s wine is the product of vines that are divided into two “blocks,” the St. James block, tended by the monks of New Clairveaux, and the Poor Souls block (the “civilian” block), tended by Sunseri.
“I have a lot of customers who come and taste every local wine and leave with a bottle of New Clairveaux,” said Scott.
Another very popular wine, said Scott, is the Bertagna Cabernet-Barbera-Sangiovese blend, “and it’s one of my favorite blends personally.”
But Scott is keen to emphasize that she loves all the local wines, for the tender loving care put into them that produces a great, unique wine.
“It’s the love put into the wines that is so important—that’s true for all of these local wines,” summed up Scott. “The love, the dedication— it shines through. A lot of these people aren’t making a lot of money off of it. They’re doing it for the love, and the craft.”