The pinnacle of the range from Erica Landon and Ken Pahlow of Walter Scott rests with their X Novo and Seven Springs Vineyard Chardonnays, though the 2019 Pinot Noirs are also among the best in America today. These are Grand Cru-level expressions of Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay and Pinot Noir!
Most of the 1983-planted Seven Springs Vineyard was devastated by phylloxera, until 2007, when Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman of Evening Land leased and revitalized the vineyard. Walter Scott is one of the few wineries with access to this site, sourcing less than two acres of Chardonnay from the south ridge.
Pahlow's annual harvest visits to work alongside Dominique Lafon must have left a mark, as his Chardonnays elicit Burgundy's precise form of noble reduction and filigree that I've come to obsess over. Notes of crushed oyster shell, lemon zest, and mouth-watering salinity are at the forefront, but like Comtes Lafon's brilliant whites, these are all about fine-grained texture and balance.
If Walter Scott's Chardonnays are a master-class in tension and balance, then the Pinot Noirs stand out for their silken tannin structure and full-bodied, concentrated style. The suave frame and harmony of fruit and earth meld perfectly with the slight whole cluster addition (15%) and modest application of new oak (35%).
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Very few offers have received glowing reviews from customers equaling that of Evening Land's Seven Springs Vineyard Gamay over the past years. Enthusiastic would be selling it short, as this was the symbolic American head-turner for devoted Francophiles.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2019 Evening Land Seven Springs Passetoutgrain.
This collaborative project of Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr answers an intriguing question: What happens when the two people most familiar with the natural approach of Yvon Métras and Jean Foillard tackle the Passetoutgrain Gamay/Pinot Noir blend from their home, volcanic turf?
The Seven Springs Vineyard in Willamette Valley's Eola-Amity Hills is often called Oregon's prime slope. An October visit really confirmed the historical significance of the wines produced here. They are testaments to the heights achieved in Oregon winemaking today, but the Passetoutgrains may be the real star in the lineup.
While I'm not shy about my obsession with Cru Beaujolais benchmarks, Passetoutgrain is a much slimmer category. Gamay comprises less than 2.5% of Burgundy plantings.
Note: I highly recommend this terrific Punch Drink piece on Passetoutgrain.
If there were a hierarchy within Burgundian Passetoutgrain, you would surely find some familiar names at the top of the heap: D'Angerville, Lafarge, Chevillon, to name a few. Sashi and Raj's regular visits and familiarity with these producers have clearly left a significant impression. However, impressions are one thing. Execution is something entirely different.
There are fine-grained, just perceptible tannins, followed by an array of red and blue fruit that's simply unrelenting. The duo employs the same method of fermentation used by the great aforementioned traditionalists. Compounded with organic and biodynamic farming, the breathtaking result in bottle shouldn't come as a surprise.
A small-production gem like this is exactly the kind of wine I get so excited about introducing people to. I highly recommend you take the opportunity to familiarize yourself with one of Oregon's most treasured estates and its rarest wine.