A new facet of Oregon: Evening Land Winery
Written By Guillaume St-Julien – Sommelier au Le Coureur des Bois Bistro Culinaire
The fine wines of Burgundy have always been a reference in the world for having charmed all of those who had the opportunity to discover them. Rajat Parr, a legend of the industry, has developed a particular affinity to these exceptional nectars. Renowned for his knowledge and his prowess in tastings, he inherits his expertise from, amongst other sources, his large network of winemakers. Now at the head of the Domaine de la Côte, of Sandhi Wines and of the Evening Land’s Seven Springs Vineyard in Oregon, he works symbiotically with his partner Sashi Moorman. With the unique style and terroir expression, the wines produced by the Evening Land Winery are reminiscent of the same essence that characterizes the fine wines of Burgundy.
It is indeed quite common nowadays to produce white wines with aromatic profiles related to “reduction”. These aromas are often characterized by notes of flint, matches or sulphur; even if those aromas do not seem very interesting at first glance, some enjoy them for what I brings to their product by conserving the purity and the freshness of the fruit, which makes the wines more precise and chiselled. Winemakers from Burgundy such as Jean-Marc Roulot, Arnaud Ente, Coche-Dury, Dujac or even Méo Camuzet are some of the better examples; Roulot is one of the good friends of Rajat and inspires him a lot in the production of his wines. The “reduction” style and the precision of the wines are the main direction of the Evening Land Winery.
The Seven Springs Vineyard is considered one of the best vineyards of its appellation, Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Planted in 1984 on old lava flows, this parcel is the crown gem of the Evening Land Winery. Certified as biodynamic since 2007, the vines are located in a slope and planted in high density from west to east on their famous volcanic soils. The appellation is almost entirely covered by these ancient lava flows, named “Jory Soils” that are represented as the official soils of the Oregon state.
Profound and rich in argyle, there is strong water retention, which always ensures redistribution during the season, an essential element in a region as hot and dry as the Willamette Valley. With this type of geology, the producers can harvest the Pinot noir at least one week later. This is what gives their products finesse, freshness of acidities, small red fruits aromatic pallets and fine and suave tannins.
Seven cuvees are elaborated from the grapes of this vineyard: “Summum Chardonnay”, “Anden Pinot noir”, “La Source Pinot noir & Chardonnay”, “Seven Springs Pinot noir & Chardonnay” and the “Seven Springs Gamay noir”. I had the opportunity to taste the “La Source” cuvees on the 2013 vintage and it was truly inspiring. Here are a few notes.
“La Source Chardonnay 2013” is aged for 11 months in new French oak casks. The elaboration process is ended with five months in Inox casks in contact with the lees. Of a pale yellow color, the wine is blessed with seductive golden reflections. The nose is intense and the first sensation plunges us in an extreme romantic state. Alongside the aromatic pallet of fruits, ripe lemon, cantaloupe and apple, the exciting aromas of aging infiltrate our nostrils with notes of grilled almond, brioche bread and salivating spices. Charming mineral notes of “reduction” that are reminiscent of matches and oyster shells complement this experience. In the palate, it is strong and precise, the fruit stays ripe and the aromas are numerous. The acidity, the real mastermind, keeps the wine strong to ensure the balance between finesse and strength.
“La Source Pinot noir 2013” is a particular cuvee: the vines are at the top of the mountain, where the soils are not profound and where the influence of the wind is the strongest. Aged for 16 months in 30% new French oak casks, the wine brings us back to the elegance of the Pinots from the Côte de nuits region. The nose, quite expressive, offers a burst of perfectly ripened red fruits: red cherry, raspberry and wild strawberry. Nuanced by more complex aromas of fresh mushrooms, a delicate note of blood orange strengthens its “sanguine” character. In my opinion, the aromatic aspect is mostly defined by its spiciness; without being too present, the aromas of nutmeg, clove and vanilla are well balanced, which brings complexity and structure to the product. In the palate, the wine offers aromas of small red fruits and spices that bring us slowly to a sumptuous, complex and very long finale. The tannins are fine and quite present, with a salivating acidity that immediately gets us craving another sip.
Lastly, I believe that the wines of the Evening Land Winery are the result of a passion for the fine wines of Burgundy by the expression of the very pure and precise style that characterize these wines, but also by the expression of the terroir that brings forth products that are seductive and fiery. The lexical field of sensuality was the first thing that came to my mind during this memorable tasting. I will look forward to discover new projects of these winemakers that do not cease to impress some of the most devoted amateurs of the fine wines of Burgundy.