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Evening Land, Oregon

by Tom Cannavan, 03/10

In 2008 I published my in-depth report on Oregon and its wines. In it, I mentioned a new venture that I'd heard about whilst travelling through Oregon called Evening Land. Joining Domaine Drouhin, the Oregon outpost of Burgundy's Joseph Drouhin, this newly established project was under the guidance of another legendary Burgundy winemaker, Dominique Lafon. Evening Land was setting up shop to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from some of Oregon and California's finest vineyards. Now, the wines have appeared in the UK for the first time through importer and retailer Ten-Acre Wines Limited.   

    Brainchild of former Hollywood producer/director and businessman Mark Tarlov, Evening Land's stated aim is to "discover the definitive Pinot Noir terroir in the USA,". They also say they want to "make wines to rival those of Burgundy's finest estates." To that end, Tarlov has been acquiring some of America's best vineyards over a number of years, including the Seven Springs Vineyard in Oregon which was previously the source of fruit for Rex Hill, Penner-Ash and Domaine Drouhin. In California, Tarlov purchased Sonoma's Occidental Vineyard, once described by Robert Parker as "California's Musigny," and formerly the source of Kistler vineyard's top Pinot Noir, the Cuvée Elizabeth.

It was something of a coup to secure Lafon as consultant winemaker - the first time he had agreed to consult outside of Burgundy. Dominque Lafon sees the Oregon project as an extension of what he tries to achieve in the Cote d'Or: "I want to emphasise purity and elegance."

As well as ultra-premium Oregon wines under the Evening Land label, the Evening Coast series combines fruit from both Oregon and California, whilst the ONCE Sommelier Series features bespoke Californian blends, produced in conjunction with some of the USA's top restaurants, specifically designed to match their menus.

These are extremely interesting and impressive wines, and Lafon's decision to make them once again suggests that Pinot-obsessed Oregon has potential to seduce some of Burgundy's top talent - and potential to make some great Burgundy-style wines.

STOP PRESS: Ten Acre Wines are offering wine-pages visitors a 10% discount for case sales of the 2006 Evening Coast Pinot Noir & 2007 'The Table' (may be mixed) for first-time buyers who mention this article. Visit Ten-Acre Wines Limited or phone 01992 618017

the wines

Evening Land, Seven Springs Vineyard La Source Chardonnay 2007, Oregon
The price is eye-watering, but then this is an extremely finely-tuned Chardonnay, and rumour has it Dominque Lafon de-classified the vast majority of the fruit to end up with just a couple of hundred cases of this 'Grand Vin'. It has a very pale green colour, and an extremely fine, Burgundian nose with a Puligny-like marriage of relatively gentle, crushed oatmeal notes and taut citrus and apple fruit cut by minerality. On the palate the concentration and ripeness of the fruit is immediately obvious, with a fairly searing effect as it streaks across the tongue. This is uncompromising, taut, mineral and citrus stuff, with all sorts of pithy and chalky notes scything through any traces of sweetness and oak, both of which are submerged by this wine's sheer precision. A style that is absolutely resolute and really quite unlike any other Chardonnay I can think of from North America. 93/100. £80.00, Ten Acre Wines

Evening Land, Celebration Gamay Noir 2007, Oregon
Sourced from Eola and the Amity Hills in Oregon, this Gamay has a pale-ish cherry colour and a sweetly-fruited, strawberry pulp and gently sous bois and spice nose. Fine, lively palate with lots of crisp, sprightly red fruit that maintains a lean, sinewy, food-friendly edge. Refreshing, nimble and delicious. 89/100. £18.95, Ten Acre Wines

Evening Land, The Evening Coast Pinot Noir 2006, California
Impressive in its wax-sealed, heavyweight bottle, this has a medium-density ruby colour and richly bramble and black-fruited nose. There's an echo of something fine and mineral too, adding a savoury edge. On the palate the sweetness of the fruit floods the mouth, with some bright kirsch notes and a certain plushness. It is medium-bodied, but the sweet fruit melds with some spice and chocolate to create quite a sumptuous impression. Again, the wine retains good acidity and crisp tannins, making it lively and fresh in the finish. 92/100. £36.95, Ten Acre Wines

Evening Land, Seven Springs Vineyard La Source Pinot Noir 2007, Oregon
A lovely pale crimson colour immediately suggests a different style of wine from the Evening Coast 2006, and indeed this Pinot from the Seven Springs vineyard's 25-year-old vines (planted on their own roots) is distinctly more Burgundian. The nose has delicate, lifted notes of rose-hip and orange, with some beetroot and sous bois, briar notes in the mix - though really the fruit does shine through with its red berry character. Like the Chardonnay, the first think to strike you about this wine is the decisive acidity and taut sense of precision. The overall effect is both wonderfully fresh and slightly lean, the edgy cherry and raspberry fruit starting to reassert on the mid-palate, and then more support arrives from the supple, rich tannins and softening, spicy, but moderate oak underpinnings. Another very singular, clearly conceived wine this that some might find too angular compared to the Evening Coast bottling, but which is remarkably precise and elegant. 93/100. £80.00, Ten Acre Wines

Evening Land, ONCE series 'The Table' Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, California
The product of a blending competition carried out by top sommeliers gathered at San Francisco's La Paulée restaurant, this Napa Cabernet has a deep but not opaque crimson colour, and a sonorous nose, laden with silky, creamy raspberry and cassis fruit, with a floral and mint uplift and some hints of chocolate - quite a smörgåsbord of aromas. The palate has lovely life and energy too. This is not the thick, dense face of Napa Cabernet, but rather a tannic but energetic interpretation, with lots of life to the fruit and a real edge to the acidity and tannins that kicks through to the finish where more chocolaty and plummy fruit and coffee-ish oak adds a spicy breadth. Delicious stuff, but has structure and staying power too. 92/100. £26.95, Ten Acre Wines