What do an oil man, a private fund manager, a film producer, a star Burundian wine maker, a New York restaurateur and I all share in common ? Give up ? OK. It is ELV or Evening Land Vineyards, a start-up estate grown Pinot Noir producer with vineyards in California on the Sonoma Coast and in the Santa Rita Hills as well as in the Eola Hills of the Willamette Valley. Started in 2005 by Mark Tarlov, the Hollywood man, on two and a half acres in Occidental, this seemingly recreational project somehow got out of hand. As things do. The quest to discover ideal Pinot Noir terroir was on and Mark had little trouble in finding people wanting to be part of this project. I was lucky to be one of them.
The approach, while in essence is not unique, marks a change in focus in California and Oregon, as we seek to get the best out of carefully selected single vineyard plots that are ideally suited to producing the ultimate American Pinot Noir. Dominique Lafon, consultant oenologue for our Seven Springs Vineyard, has stressed the need for balance, focus and freshness in the wines, concentrating not on the sugar levels but simply on the taste of the grapes in the vineyard. I just KNOW you approve.
Production levels on all the wines are currently very small as the planting & replanting program is rolled out over the coming years. One of the vineyards that excited me greatly is The Looking Glass in the Santa Rita Hills which is currently barely in production. One acre to be precise. I found the 2007 vintage, made by the very talented Sachi Moorman who is winemaker for the Californian vineyards, when tasted in London in June and not yet in bottle, to have wonderful clarity with a seductive juicy tenderness and pure length. The flagship Occidental Vineyard 2007 showed a great energy and deapth, without unnecessary power or extraction. The Evening Coast cuvée, a village wine of which I managed to get a few cases of the 2006 for Willi s, has an impressive base in 2007, displaying promise, good varietal character and an attractive silkiness. It is bend of 55-45 California and Oregon in this vintage. Docs Ranch and Carl Meyers are two other stella plots currently producing about 100 cases each.
The much awaited wines from The Seven Springs Vineyard are simply delicious, again not bottled in June. 300 cases of The Source, an Eola-Amity Hills 2007 Chardonnay is stunningly elegant and pure, with firm acidity and balanced length. But I might be letting my French pallet influence my judgement. The Source Pinot Noir, only 220 cases, delivers a lovely fragrant classy Pinot nose with a hint of smokiness and is wrapped in fine tender juicy layers of fruit that Pinot Noir lovers will, er, appreciate.
An unusual sommelier program is also underway with partnership custom Pinot Noirs being made in collaboration with Daniel, Jean George, The French Laundry & Danny Meyer, who is also guilty of being involved in the ELV project. These restaurateurs, whom we all love, will it seems be receiving most of the production for a little time to come.