Posted by Contributing Writer, Steve Gross
This week, Cellar 17, a wine bar in Houston, hosted a tasting of wines from Evening Land Vineyards. Owned by Larry Stone (who is, trust me, a big deal in the wine world), Evening Land owns property in Oregon, California, and Burgundy, France. Since great Pinot Noir is grown and bottled in each location, this tasting allowed a wonderful chance to appreciate the varying styles and presentations of the Pinot Noir grape.
Natalie Vaclavik is Evening Land’s sales rep, and she enthusiastically opened and shared two Chardonnays to get us started. Her outgoing and relaxed demeanor helped everyone relax and get the clear idea that this would be a fun evening. One Chardonnay was from California and the other from France. This made sense at a Pinot Noir tasting, given that the two major wines made in the Burgundy region of France are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The styles of the two Chardonnays were somewhat similar, but each had its own distinct presentation. It was a nice start.
We then tasted a Beaujolais-Villages from France ($20 on Evening Land’s website), next to a Bourgogne Rouge (Red Burgundy) from Evening Land’s vineyard in France (price not listed). This gave a real sense of the differences between the Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes (Beaujolais is made from the Gamay grape). The Beaujolais was brighter, juicier, and very drinkable. The Pinot was very floral on the nose, subtly flavored and light-bodied.
After that came several Pinots from the Santa Rita Hills of California, first head-to-head with the Oregon, then by themselves (both Blue Label Pinots, $25). Natalie described how the Santa Rita Hills wines were graded (the grading showed in the wines’ complexity and in their price). The Silver Label wine was made from grapes in a certain part of their vineyard. The Tempest, which was the choice wine of the night, in my view, came from an even more select portion of the vineyard. This parcel is marked by nearly topsoil-less volcanic rock that takes up one small area of the property. The stress caused by the stark growing conditions, according to Natalie, makes these grapes truly unique and special.
If stress is ever good, it’s proven by the Tempest Pinot Noir ($60 on website). This was a delectable wine, rich, concentrated, and beautiful wine. When I taste a high-quality wine, I tend not to focus on the individual aromas and flavors, since they’re so well integrated. I simply sit back and enjoy what I’m tasting. I feel that it’s the experience that truly counts here, and it’s a rare thing to have four or five people sitting around, “Mmmming” and “Oooohhhhing” or merely sitting dumbly by, struck by the remarkable Eden where their senses find themselves. Why overthink it?
You might have guessed that I picked up a bottle of the Tempest ($72 at Cellar 17). I split the cost with my friend, Barbara, who had accompanied me that night. The wine will be delivered in a few days, so we still have the work week to wait until we’re able to re-experience the sublime aromas and flavors of this special wine. Something tells me we’ll open it next Friday after work, having eagerly anticipated the chance all week.
Have you enjoyed Evening Land Pinot Noirs?