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Evening Land Vineyards

When word got out that Dominque Lafon had started making Pinot Noir in Oregon, it created quite a buzz. He has signed on as the consulting winemaker for Evening Land Vineyards (ELV), a wine label started by former attorney and producer and director in Hollywood, Mark Tarlov, along with partners Danny Meyer (Union Square Hospitality Group), the Prieur family of Domaine Jacques Prieur, and Dorothy Cann Hamilton, founder of the French Culinary Institute in New York City and CEO of the James Beard Foundation.

Evening Land Vineyards owns two vineyards in California, Occidental Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast (the source of Kistler’s Cuvee Elizabeth before it was acquired by ELV) and Odyssey Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills. Pinot Noir from these two sites is crafted by veteran winemaker Sashi Moorman (Stolpman Vineyards). Lafon declined to make Pinot Noir from California, claiming the wines were too extracted and high in alcohol.

As widely reported in the wine press last year, Tarlov and his investment group signed a long term lease of Seven Springs Vineyard, a revered 65-acre Pinot Noir vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills appellation. Tarlov had been attempting to purchase the vineyard outright since 2004 without success. Seven Springs Vineyard was split by a divorce of the original owners of Seven Springs Vineyard in 2001 into Anden Vineyard, owned by Al McDonald, and Seven Springs Vineyard, owned by his former spouse, Joni Weatherspoon. When Joni died in 2003, her children took over ownership. The vineyard has been rechristened and unified as Seven Springs Vineyard under the ELV lease. Seven Springs Vineyard has been the source for Pinot Noir from several esteemed producers including Adelsheim, Bethel Heights, Cristom, Domaine Drouhin, Evasham Wood, Penner-Ash, Rex Hill, and St. Innocent. None of these wineries will continue to receive fruit after the 2008 vintage. St. Innocent will be the most affected as they source about a third of the fruit originating from Seven Springs Vineyard. Considerable investment by ELV is being directed at enlarging and improving the vineyard which has some phylloxera-damaged vines over twenty-five years old.

The full-time winemaker in Oregon for Evening Land Vineyards will be Isabelle Meunier who previously worked at Le Clos Jordanne in Niagara, Canada, with former Oregon winemaker, Thomas Bachelder. According to www.winebus.com (12/04/07), the winery plans to release 5,000 cases annually of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gamay Noir. The first wine, labeled ELV Celebration, is a Gamay Noir released in 2008. Two 2007 ELV Seven Springs Vineyard Pinot Noirs (said to cost $50 and $100) will follow in 2009. I have seen conflicting reports in the wine press about the eventual winery site, some reporting that ELV will move into the expanded quarters at Carlton Winemaker’s Studio, and other sources stating that a new winery is being built in Salem, Oregon.

This new venture also features a partnership between several sommeliers and restaurant groups and ELV. Some of the sommeliers will work with Dominque Lafon to produce special cuvees for their restaurants, including Daniel Bouloud’s Dinex Group and Jean-Georges Management in New York. Other sommeliers will partner with other winemakers of their choosing.

To sign up for the mailing list, visit the website at www.elvwines.com. The phone is 707-320-9372. It is unclear how much of the wine will be allocated directly to consumers.

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