An Oregon Take on Burgundy’s “Secret” Value

Today’s Story: Evening Land Vineyards

Evening Land Vineyards is a producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay located in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon. Though the label was “officially” established in 2005, their historic and world-class Seven Springs Vineyard dates back to 1984 when it was planted by Al MacDonald. Though the winery has changed hands a number of times, labels have been updated, and fruit sources have changed, sommelier Rajat Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman joined in 2014 and remain involved to this day. With their Seven Springs estate vineyard, which has been dry-farmed since inception and shifted to biodynamic viticulture in 2007, Parr and Moorman oversee significant Pinot Noir plantings followed by Chardonnay and then smaller amounts of Gamay. The Pinot clones include Calera, Pommard, Swan, and Mt. Eden, and they have produced some of the greatest wines in Oregon winemaking history with the vineyard in its earlier days a source for many highly-regarded wineries.

I previously wrote about the 2018 Seven Springs Pinot Noir from Evening Land.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Seven Springs Passetoutgrain

Co-ferment of Pinot Noir and Gamay; 12% ABV

The 2019 Seven Springs Passetoutgrain is deep purple in color with ruby hues. Given some time to open up in the glass, this blossoms into a rather complex wine for its youth. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of cherry, raspberry, mulberry compote, blueberry, rose petal, rosemary, pine, and finely crushed rock. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of blackberry, cranberry, white cherry, mulberry, blueberry, savory garden herbs, black olive, and stony mineral. This dry red is light-bodied with high acidity, low tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. 595 cases produced.

Price: $35. I think this is pretty fairly priced given the balance, length, and complexity though there are probably better values if you look to Beaujolais for carbonic Gamay. I haven’t had any Bourgogne Passetoutgrain to compare this to, so I found my next tasting task.

Budget-Friendly Pinot Noir From Trader Joe’s

Today’s Story: Cotillion (Trader Joe’s)

Out of curiosity and at the urging of a friend, I decided to try a few wines from Trader Joe’s and this is one of them. It’s a light day background-wise, as this seems to be one of the many bottlings made for Trader Joe’s specifically and I cannot gather much information beyond the back label. The wine I’m reviewing today is a Pinot Noir vinted and bottled by Ashford Court in American Canyon within Napa County, though the fruit comes from Monterey County (56%), Sonoma County (33%), and Santa Barbara County (11%).

Today’s Wine: 2018 Cotillion Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.8% ABV (seems like it could be higher)

The 2018 Cotillion Pinot Noir is pale ruby in color and rather transparent. Given some time in the glass, the aromas blossom with medium (+) intensity and the nose showcases notes of black cherry, black raspberry, blood orange rind, leather, cola, baking spice, a hint of vanilla, and oak. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of strawberry, raspberry, red cherry, sweet tobacco, licorice, charred green herbs, and vanilla. Though the profile is exactly what I was expecting (fruity and with more oak influence than my personal preferred taste) this is better than I expected given the price. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, high alcohol, and a medium-length finish.

Price: $10. Though not a wine I’d personally buy again, I think this is actually quite good given the accessible price-point. It has broad consumer appeal and offers better complexity and balance than many wines in the same ballpark. It seems to be pretty good quality overall as well.

Young but Complex Oregon Pinot Noir From the Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Today’s Story: Big Table Farm

Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded.

Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.

I recently wrote about the 2020 Laughing Pig Rosé from Big Table Farm, though I previously reviewed the 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay and 2019 The Wild Bee Chardonnay as well.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.5% ABV

The 2018 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir is pale ruby in color with purple hues. I let this open up in the glass for about 45 minutes and the wine needed every second given its youth. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blueberry, blackberry, spiced plum, black raspberry, violet, leather, black olive, pine, crushed rock, and cedar. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate displays notes of raspberry, dried strawberry, black cherry, blueberry, blackberry, violet, dried tobacco, cola, and underbrush. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. 234 cases produced.

Price: $62. I think this is in the arena of very fairly priced to offering great value. I love the BTF Willamette Valley Pinot Noir at a lower price-point, but this Yamhill-Carlton bottling is certainly above and beyond. The intensity, complexity, and length in this Pinot are all profound and this is a bigger wine that certainly needs a few more years of age.

Fun Oregon Rosé That Differs From the Crisp Porch Pounders

Today’s Story: Big Table Farm

Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded.

Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.

I previously wrote about the 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay and 2019 The Wild Bee Chardonnay from Big Table Farm.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Laughing Pig Rosé

100% Pinot Noir; 13.8% ABV

The 2020 Laughing Pig Rosé is deep salmon/pink in color. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of strawberry, raspberry, blood orange rind, rose petal, and dried green herbs. There’s some characteristic of meatiness there as well. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of tart red cherry, wild strawberry, pomegranate, raspberry, red rose, stony mineral, and mild white peppery spice. This dry rosé is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, very low tannins, medium (+) alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. 680 cases produced.

Price: $32. This is a fun and “different” rosé in that there’s more body here and it differs significantly from the crisp and light porch pounders we are typically used to. The wine is very well balanced, offers nice complexity, and is versatile which culminate into my opinion that this is certainly worth trying for the price. 

Great Value Pinot Noir to Stand Up to the Cult Wineries of the Russian River Valley

Today’s Story: Little Boat

Little Boat is a very small wine producer based out of Sonoma, California and it was established out of passion for wine and a father’s love for his son. I first learned of Little Boat when I met proprietor José Ignacio Cuenca at a Los Angeles restaurant, where we struck up a friendly conversation about family, wine, and other topics. I also had the pleasure of meeting his son Mateo, who created the artwork on the Little Boat labels. Little Boat is a group effort, and José works with Brad Alper, William Knuttel, Mike Miller, and the Treyzon family to craft these wines. They also receive help from sommeliers Harley Carbery, Phillip Dunn, Lucas Payá, and Robert Smith MS. Little Boat produces a range of wines including most notably a Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and a Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. (I previously wrote about the Pinot and Cab). There is also a rosé, very limited quantities of a reserve Pinot Noir, and a Rioja! Placement of these wines is highly selective, and they are generally found in high-end hotels and restaurants or highly curated wine stores.

I previously wrote about the 2018 Little Boat Pinot Noir and 2016 Little Boat Cabernet Sauvignon, so I’m excited to review the 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve today.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve

100% Pinot Noir; 13.7% ABV

The 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve is pale ruby in color. Aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, black raspberry, red plum, violet, leather, cracked pepper, and cedar. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity and the palate showcases notes of strawberry, red cherry, dried red licorice, tobacco, underbrush, charred green herbs, and mild baking spice. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. This wine can stand up to any of the “big names” of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and it’s certainly a treat to taste.

Price: $45. This offers considerable value for Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, particularly given its intensity, complexity, and balance at this young age. As I tasted this and the “cult” RRV winery names popped into my mind, I was truly impressed by this Little Boat bottling.

Fun Natural Red Blend From a Relatively New California Producer

Today’s Story: Lo-Fi Wines

Lo-Fi Wines was established in 2014 by lifelong friends Mike Roth and Craig Winchester. Centered in a belief wines should be honest and transparent representations of their vintage and variety, Lo-Fi wines are meant to be consumed as everyday drinkers to pair with a broad range of foods and not locked away in the cellar. Through minimal intervention winemaking, Lo-Fi wines ferment naturally with native yeasts and see minimal to zero sulfur additions and no pH adjustments. The wines age in neutral oak barrels and are mostly bottled unfiltered, with the final product an easy-drinking and low alcohol wine. A number of the wines also see whole cluster fermentation and carbonic maceration, including the wine I am reviewing today.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Gamay / Pinot Noir

72% Gamay, 28% Pinot Noir; 12% ABV

The 2020 Gamay / Pinot Noir is pale garnet in color and it almost has hues of deep salmon. This is unfiltered so there is some sediment as well. A bit funky right out of the bottle, I decided to let this open up in the glass for about 45 minutes and it was singing. The aromas are of medium intensity, though the nose is gorgeous with aromas of bright red cherry, strawberry, cranberry, gamey red meat, hibiscus, white pepper, and stony mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of cherry, wild raspberry, freshly picked strawberry, rose, violet, white pepper, and savory green herbs. This dry red blend is light-bodied with medium (+) acidity, low tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. 710 cases produced.

Price: $22. I think this offers very solid value, particularly given its high quality, balance, and drinkability. While this could be more intense or longer on the finish, I don’t think that’s necessarily a focal point as these are meant to be consumed young and enjoyed by all.

Terroir-Driven Oregon Pinot Noir for a Great Price

Today’s Story: Evening Land Vineyards

Evening Land Vineyards is a highly-regarded producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay located in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon. Though the label was “officially” established in 2005, their historic and world-class Seven Springs Vineyard dates back to 1984 when it was planted by Al MacDonald. Though the winery has changed hands a number of times, labels have been updated, and fruit sources have changed, sommelier Rajat Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman joined in 2014 and remain involved to this day. With their Seven Springs estate vineyard, which has been dry-farmed since inception and shifted to biodynamic viticulture in 2007, Parr and Moorman oversee significant Pinot Noir plantings followed by Chardonnay and then smaller amounts of Gamay. The Pinot clones include Calera, Pommard, Swan, and Mt. Eden, and they have produced some of the greatest wines in Oregon winemaking history with the vineyard in its earlier days a source for many highly-regarded wineries.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Seven Springs Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2018 Seven Springs Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color and rather opaque. Given how young this is, I poured it into the glass and let it open up for about an hour and a half before drinking. The aromas are of medium intensity, however the nose is rather complex and offers gorgeous aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, blackberry, dried violet, forest floor, mushroom, asphalt, and savory green herbs. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of black cherry, blackberry, a touch of anise, tobacco, purple florals, charred green herbs, a hint of smoke, and crushed rock. This dry red is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $35. I think this offers very strong value, particularly given the complexity and terroir-driven nature of the wine at a young age. This is also already beautifully balanced, and certainly benefits from lengthy air time at this stage.

Fresh, Elegant, and Budget-Friendly Red Burgundy

Today’s Story: Marchand-Tawse

Marchand-Tawse is a Burgundian négociant created through a collaboration between Pascal Marchand and Moray Tawse. Both Pascal and Moray are French Canadians, making their success in Burgundy somewhat unusual.

Pascal Marchand comes from a background in wine (after working a few years as a merchant sailor on freighters in the Great Lakes), having taken over Clos des Epeneaux in Pommard in 1985 at the age of 22. Pascal was one of the early adopters of organic and biodynamic viticulture in Burgundy, bringing heightened quality to Clos des Epeneaux and world renown to its name. Jean-Charles Boisset later approached Pascal to run his family’s Domaine de la Vougeraie in 1999, and he remained there until 2006 when desiring more freedom in his ventures. Pascal took over at Domaine Jean Fery, all the while setting the stage for his own label that would eventually become Marchand-Tawse.

Moray Tawse, on the other hand, has a background in finance and co-founded First National in Canada which focuses on real estate lending. He has had a long-standing love of wine, however, which led him to establish Tawse Winery which is one of Canada’s leading wineries. Thanks to his love of Burgundy, Moray approached Pascal in 2010 and the two established their partnership.

Marchand-Tawse sources fruit from a great number of vineyards, most of which are either organically or biodynamically farmed. The négociant produces a wide range of wines, spanning appellation and village bottlings up to some of the greatest Grand Crus. Pascal’s winemaking style is rather traditional, seeking to have the fruit and terroir express themselves in a most honest and transparent form. Much of the fruit is left 100% whole cluster and not destemmed before fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Furthermore, aging for many of the wines occurs in minimal or even 0% new French oak barrels and there is no fining or filtration before bottling.

I previously reviewed the 2016 Coteaux Bourguignons from Marchand-Tawse, which is a lovely Gamay offering exceptional value.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Côte de Nuits Villages

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2017 Côte de Nuits Villages is pale ruby in color. This needs about 45 minutes to open up at this point, but once it does you find an elegant, fresh, and vibrant expression of Pinot Noir. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of cherry, strawberry, red rose, cured meat, dried gravel, underbrush, and white pepper. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of black raspberry, cherry, strawberry, red licorice, dried tobacco, dried green herbs, and crushed rock minerality. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. 133 cases produced.

Price: $40. This is a red Burgundy that offers very, very good value. It’s incredibly difficult nowadays to find quality red Burgundy for this price-point, and the expression of variety and terroir here is very well done. This is no doubt young, but the elegance and vibrancy are already hard to resist.

Small Production Pinot Noir in a People-Pleasing Style

Today’s Story: Little Boat

Little Boat is a very small winery in Sonoma, California, however there isn’t much information about them that I could find. They did come onto my radar last year though, when I happened to meet proprietor José Ignacio Cuenca at a Los Angeles restaurant and we struck up a friendly conversation and discussed his wines. I also had the pleasure of meeting his son Mateo, who created the artwork on the Little Boat labels. Little Boat is a group effort, and José works with winegrower Brad Alper, winemaker William Knuttel, Mike Miller, and the Treyzon family. They also receive help from sommeliers Harley Carbery, Phillip Dunn, Lucas Payá, and Robert Smith MS. Little Boat produces a range of wines including most notably a Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and a Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. There is also a rosé and very limited quantities of a reserve Pinot Noir. Placement of these wines is highly selective, and they are generally found in high-end hotels and restaurants or highly curated and boutique wine stores.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.5% ABV

The 2018 Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color. Straight out of the bottle, I wasn’t getting much on this besides some heat from the alcohol so I let this open up in the glass for about 45 minutes to an hour. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, plum, licorice, leather, baking spice, vanilla, and toasted oak. The heat never really blows off. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of strawberry, black cherry, red plum, leather, green herbs, chocolate, and baking spice. Alcoholic heat carries over to the palate as well. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, high alcohol, and a medium length finish. While not my preferred style at this stage, hopefully it becomes better integrated and more complex with a few more years in the bottle.

Price: $36. At this price-point I think the wine offers solid value but it still needs some time to come together in the bottle. For me, even though this is young I find it somewhat jammy and it seems heavy-handed in the winemaking process. Personally I prefer very terroir-driven Pinot Noir made in a minimally invasive style, though I think this wine could have broad appeal. The alcohol is a bit too high for me as well, so I’ll be looking for it to integrate.

Remarkable Expression of Terroir in an Incredibly Ageworthy Red Burgundy

Today’s Story: Domaine Armand Rousseau

Domaine Armand Rousseau is one of the most highly-regarded wine producers in all of Burgundy, established during the very early 1900s by Armand Rousseau in Gevrey-Chambertin of the Côte de Nuits. Rousseau inherited several plots of vines at the beginning of the 20th century, however he was able to expand his vineyard holdings, build a winery and cellar, and sell the wines following his marriage in 1909. Rousseau continued acquiring top quality vineyards, including several Grand Crus, up until the time his son Charles joined the family business in 1945. In 1959, Charles took full control over the family’s domain following the unfortunate death of Armand in a car accident. Charles was instrumental in adding additional vineyard sites to the family holdings mainly in Grand Crus, and he also further built out their export markets to include Britain, Germany, and Switzerland before ultimately reaching Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia by the 1970s. Charles’ son Eric joined the business in 1982, beginning in the vineyards by instituting green harvesting, leaf stripping, and avoidance of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Eric was instrumental in steering the estate toward organic viticulture, and since 2014 he has been joined by his daughter Cyrielle who will ultimately carry on the family legacy one day.

Domaine Armand Rousseau consists of about 15 hectares (37 acres) of vineyards in some of the choicest plots in the Côte de Nuits. Dedicated entirely to Pinot Noir, Rousseau produces 11 wines from Gevrey Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Mazy-Chambertin, Ruchottes-Chambertin, and Chambertin. Of the 11 wines, they do however produce one from the Grand Cru of Clos de la Roche located in Morey-Saint-Denis. These wines are made in a very traditional style and are meant to be elegant expressions of each unique terroir, with minimal use of new oak depending on wine and vintage. Total production is around 63,000 bottles per vintage, with about 75% being exported to some 30 countries.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques is medium ruby in color. I normally don’t decant red Burgundy or Pinot Noir in general for that matter, however given how young this wine is we decanted it for about an hour. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, black raspberry, licorice, rose petal, gravel, sun-dried earth, sandalwood, and mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity and the palate displays notes of cherry, strawberry, blackberry, eucalyptus, rose, mild baking spice, and stony mineral. This dry red is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Very precise and already gorgeous, but I would wait probably 5 more years and then drink this over the following decades.

Price: $600. It’s difficult to address value at this price-point because there are so many better “values” out there and pricing on Burgundy is sky-high. There’s no doubt this is one of the greatest red Burgundies I’ve had though, and since me and my tasting companions had never tried Armand Rousseau before we were incredibly glad for the experience.