Vineyard 511. Living in Southern California with a shared passion for both travel and wine, proprietors of Vineyard 511, Irene and Ed Ojdana thought about having a home in Italy and France. But then as Irene says, they thought about “jet lag and all the time they already spend in airports plus the great distance to travel” and they made a wise decision to look a bit closer. They were referred to a real estate agent from a friend who also owned a winery; this agent introduced them to some hillside property in the Diamond Mountain District. Their original intent was to purchase a home with a small existing vineyard. This property perfectly qualified in that regard.
This tiny less than an acre vineyard is perched on a rocky volcanic west facing hillside in what feels like a very remote part of the Napa Valley (and is where we met Ed and Irene). The surrounding hillsides are mostly wooded and rural – and steep. Nearby vineyard neighbors include the acclaimed Diamond Creek Vineyards, Reverie and Von Strasser. At about 750 feet above the floor and based on their particular location they do not see frost during the critical late winter and Spring months when the vines bud and then bloom. Their elevation also puts them above the fog line. Almost without fail during the growing season, winds also come through in the afternoon – helping moderate temperatures on the site.
The vineyard was planted entirely to Cabernet Sauvignon in 2001 and the fruit was sold to Duckhorn for several years. After Ed and Irene purchased the property in 2008 they sold the fruit to another small producer. Then in 2008/2009 the economy turned south and resulted in abundance of wine grapes. They decided to keep their fruit; 2009 was their first vintage.
The label design is a direct result of a cruise they took in the Caribbean. While on this small cruise ship they met a number of other passengers – who when they found out the Ojdana’s were from Napa mentioned there was another couple from Napa on board and that they needed to meet. The individual they met was head of label design for Constellation Brands at the time. With perfect timing, they hired him to help design their own label. After a number of designs and input from friends and family they choose a classy looking outline of a diamond – which ties in well with their Diamond Mountain location.
The inaugural release, the 2009, is more restrained then the 2010 vintage yet has elegant aromatics. It is a delicate bouquet showing red fruit and as it opens more of the oak influence shows – revealing sweet vanilla. The palate is very much in balance between fruit and structure. Well integrated tannins anchor a pleasing finish. The mouth feel is smooth throughout. Their vision was to craft a wine that shows well upon release yet can age for 10-15 years. It is certainly drinking wonderfully as a youthful wine.
The 2010 reveals a plethora of aromas in the glass – it is bursting with life, showing bigger fruit than the 2009 vintage. A sweet core of fruit shows – initially black berry, a hint of white pepper and as the wine opens, baking spices. But the fruit is always there and as it evolves in the glass notes of brown chocolate come forth – think chocolate covered cherries. The palate is balanced – with fine grained delicate tannins. A clean finish lingers with high toned fruit – and lasts for some time.
Both Ed and Irene are actively involved in the wine community. Ed has served a number of years on the Executive Leadership Board for the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology program. He helped raise money to fund the college’s state of the art research winery. Irene serves on the board of the The Napa Valley Film Festival. Ed was also Executive Producer of the critically acclaimed “food” movie – Jiro Dreams of Sushi – about a Sushi Chef in Tokyo who runs a 10-seat restaurant in a basement of a metro stop – which also happens to have earned 3 stars from Michelin.
They maintain a mailing list; much of their wine is sold direct to their customers. Select distribution includes several local Calistoga Restaurants – a few premium wine shops in Los Angeles including Manhattan Fine Wines and in Indiana. Ed is an alumnus of Notre Dame – the college recently renovated the official hotel of the campus, Morris Inn. One of their changes in their wine program was to feature Notre Dame Winemakers. Ed is in good company; other prominent Notre Dame winemakers include Paul Hobbs and Ray Duncan at Silver Oak.
And while it is common for vineyard owners to have dogs, the Ojdana’s have a pet peacock (not the first Napa based winery we have come across with this pet but one of the very select few). You know your in wine country, when your pet is named Cabernet.
For more information or to join their wine club, visit: www.vineyard511.com