Dominique Lafon in Oregon
A European Superstar for Evening Land Vineyards
By Christina Kelly
Evening Land Vineyards is embarked on ambitious plans to import wines from France made under the Evening Land umbrella to bring better consumer access to wines unavailable except through gray market channels. These wines will be made by Lafon for the Evening Land portfolio... ..... Continued
The Evening Lands
Mark Tarlov, wine entrepreneur and genius behind Evening Land Vineyards, brought famed winemaker Dominique Lafon to Oregon. A passionate foodie who has eaten in some of the best restaurants across the U.S., Tarlov had initially asked Lafon, whom he met through his sommelier connections, to make his Evening Land California pinots, when the two ran into each other at a Burgundy tasting in London in 2007. However, Lafon said he was more interested in making Pinot Noir from Oregon, which he says is closer to the style made in Burgundy.
When Lafon said yes, Tarlov realized he had someone with a Burgundian sensibility who was willing to travel to Oregon several times per year and spoke very good English. “That is not easy to find,” says Tarlov.
For Lafon, coming to Oregon was a chance to see old friend and fellow Burgundian Veronique Drouhin (of Domaine Drouhin in Oregon) and other winemakers such as Dick Ponzi, whom he met in Oregon in 1981.
“I have tasted Oregon Pinot Noir, and while it is not the same as wines in Burgundy, Oregon is closer in style to what we do,” said Lafon, on a recent trip to Oregon. “For me, it is about elegance, purity and silkiness, not about alcohol and overripe fruit.”
Well known for his beautifully-crafted Chardonnay, Lafon says he has been making more than 100 barrels of red wine for more than 20 years in the Volnay and Monthélie regions. Lafon owns 36 acres from which he makes Mâcon under the Les Heritiers des Comtes Lafon label.
“I believe in the spirit of the Côte de Beaune—it is in me,” said Lafon, who has managed his family’s estate, Domaine des Comtes Lafon in Meursault since 1987. “With Seven Springs, we work with the land and the soils in the traditional way, looking to create the right balance in the glass.”
In addition to Pinot Noir, Evening Land Vineyards produces small lots of Gamay Noir made from a three-acre plot on Seven Springs, and a Chardonnay (on four acres) that showcases Lafon’s talent for bringing out a beautiful flavors, acid balance and soft mouthfeel of the varietal. Wine industry insiders believe his take on Oregon Chardonnay could change opinions about the less-than-journeyman status of Oregon Chardonnay—and he is willing to share his techniques and ideas with other Oregon winemakers, often joining tasting groups when he is in town.
Isabelle Meunier landed at Seven Springs in July, of 2007, just before harvest and autumn rains. The Quebec native met Lafon in Burgundy, where she trained before moving to Niagara to work in the Canadian wine industry. Starting off with a great vineyard, a mentor in Lafon and a winery owner (Tarlov) who was dedicated to terroir and producing the best wine possible, Meunier says she could not have landed in a more perfect spot.. When Lafon is in town, the two can often be seen with their heads together, speaking in French, hands flying to emphasize points of view, but in the end, frequently laughing. The Seven Springs location and Evening Land operation suits both of them, and each has indicated how fortunate they feel to be a part of the winery team.