With the 2019 release just around the corner, we wanted to share some insight into how the vintage went in our little pocket of the world. Note: all wines at Evening Land Vineyards are produced with fruit from the renowned Seven Springs Vineyard, located in Eola-Amity Hills. Many have deemed the site the most iconic, historic, and valued vineyards in all of Oregon (and although we may be biased, we couldn’t agree more).
To fully understand the 2019 vintage, we feel that it’s best to talk about it in the context of the 2018 growing season. 2018 was one of the driest years that Oregon has experienced in a very long time. Scorching days and minimal rainfall ultimately led to extremely concentrated berries with very thick skins, though very little juice was obtained. “We did a lot of declassification and produced less high-end and more entry-level wines,” Sashi explains, recalling his and Raj’s concern for the potential lack of balance and overall elegance in the wines; on the contrary, reviewers gravitated to the robust nature of the vintage, which earned many of the wines relatively high scores.
However, 2019 presented entirely different conditions. “We were really excited for 2019, because it was the opposite of 2018 – the vintage was cool and late, and the grapes had more delicate skins and a higher content of juice,” Sashi reveals. On the harvest front, picking was relatively easy and ideally spread out. “Cool vintages are great, as there’s no rush. You can get each block picked when it needs to be without compromising,” he says. According to the team, the 2019 vintage was one that winemaking teams simply wish to have more of.
In the Cellar
Sashi reveals that the powerful nature of the 2018 Pinot Noirs caused him and Raj to do some extensive “soul searching,” particularly with regards to what Oregon Pinot Noir meant to them. “One of the challenges we’ve found is that the wines can be quite tannic; there’s a rusticity to Oregon Pinot in general that can be charming, but it’s not what Raj and I generally gravitate towards,” Sashi explains. This led to considerable pondering – and ultimately, a new way of making Pinot Noir at Evening Land Vineyards.
For the first time ever, Raj and Sashi decided to implement the infusion method of fermentation on all of their 2019 Pinot Noir. Inspired by their love for the wines of Clos Rougeard, the pair believed that this delicate method of maceration would yield the highest-quality results. To execute the process, the majority of the fruit was destemmed and simply allowed to infuse with its skins. As always, no inoculation was used.
“By letting the grapes infuse with their juice and simply ferment, you allow the metabolic process of yeast fermentation to do the extraction, which is very gentle,” Sashi explains. He notes that the physical agitation of the must comes from fermentation and carbon dioxide being released, as well as the extractive properties of heat and alcohol. In short, these “natural tools” were used in place of “human tools,” as no punchdowns, pumpovers, or manipulation of the must were executed.
Evolution in the Cellar
While the 2018s are more concentrated and will likely age longer, Sashi and Raj feel that the 2019s are undeniably more elegant and refined. “When you make elegant wines, there’s always a moment of concern – thoughts like ‘should we have done more punch downs’ and so forth occur,” he says, noting that the variables are more sensitive in refined winemaking. “When you have heavier and concentrated wines, they can navigate through processes like SO2 addition and bottling,” he says. “With lighter wines, they can have moments of shutting down. But as Raj always says, you have to trust the wine.”
And thankfully, they did. Sashi recalls the exact moment when the red wines went fully dry. As fermentation slows down, the ability to see the final wine becomes clear. “I remember tasting the wines when they went dry, and oh man, it was just so, so good,” he laughs. The juice was so good, that Raj and Sashi ultimately decided to not use any press wine in their final cuvées. “We just loved the free run juice so much,” he says, citing great balance and poise. Today, the 2019s are showing just beautifully, marked by bright acidity, soft tannins, and high-toned aromatics that practically jump from the glass.
Due to the ideal conditions of the vintage, the 2019 lineup will also feature a Summum Pinot Noir cuvée, which has not been released in many years. (For reference, Summum cuvées are only made during the very best years at Evening Land Vineyards.) Fruit for this wine came from the top selection of grapes from the La Source plot. According to Sashi, deciphering outstanding vines / fruit within this plot is rather clear from a visual perspective, which can be done simply by looking at the health of the canopies. After walking through and selecting the very best plants, fruit from these vines were harvested and fermented separately to create Summum.
From a team perspective, 2019 was the last year that Evening Land Vineyards was able to welcome international interns to the winery (due to the pandemic). Since his very first vintage back in 2001, Sashi has always worked with foreign interns. “Working with interns from overseas really adds a lot of culture and dynamism to the process. I miss that, and I hope we can return to it,” he says. In conclusion, Sashi sums it up best, “2019 is the vintage that you want all wine to taste like. If 5 out of 10 vintages could be like 2019, that would be near perfect!”To browse our full selection of 2019 wines, click here. To receive future updates, news, and vintage reports, join our mailing list here. For further information on our Evening Land Vineyards Wine Club, click here.