Santa Barbara's cool-climate wines have growingly become one of my obsessions. For me, the most integral name in the array of labels is Sashi Moorman. His Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay are among my favorites, but his first label, Piedrasassi, offers downright delicious and complex reflections of Syrah.
Piedrasassi harnesses savory, bright, and superior aromatics while never shying away from the innately luscious qualities that define California Syrah. These wines nail the roasted meat, violet, and black pepper trifecta at each price point. Though, the single vineyard-designate bottlings from Bien Nacido and Rim Rock best exemplify how California Syrah can continually develop `in the bottle over many years.
Sashi vinifies and ages as naturally as possible, excluding sulfur at fermentation and only utilizing native yeasts. Whole cluster inclusion and aging in larger 500-liter barrels ensure the lively, crushed rock virtues that make Northern Rhone Syrah so unique aren't lost here in Santa Barbara.
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.