Raj Parr’s Vision for Chenin Blanc from Oregon

A few years back, our very own Rajat Parr came across a bottle of Bethel Heights Vineyard Chenin Blanc from the mid-1980s and was eager to see if, three-and-a-half decades later, our similarly situated property on the eastern slopes of the Eola-Amity Hills would be a suitable home for Chenin Blanc. ⁣

In the winter of 2016, we top-grafted just one acre of old-vines Wadenswil clone Pinot Noir to Chenin Blanc. Raj sourced cuttings from his friend Tegan Passalacqua's (@ownrooted) Kirschenmann Vineyard in Lodi, CA. Planted along the vineyard's southern border and nestled up against the forest, these rich clay soils are perfect for a textural white grape like Chenin Blanc. Like all plots at Evening Land Vineyards, this site is farmed using organic and biodynamic principles. 

2019 marks our third vintage. After a cool, even, and long growing season, the Chenin ripened gradually, developing into just the kind of textural, food-friendly white wine we thought this site is capable of producing.

In terms of style, this Chenin Blanc was inspired by the bone dry wines from Anjou in France’s Loire Valley. There, one can find examples of Chenin Blanc grown in volcanic soils that yield flinty, taut, and fresh wines with the ability to age for a very long time. ⁣

Although Oregon may be better known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, this bottle truly exemplifies the untapped potential for ripe-yet-restrained Chenin Blanc in the state’s unique mosaic of soils. Our Chenin Blanc is whole cluster pressed into large 500L neutral barrels (puncheons). The wine undergoes a native primary fermentation and completes malolactic fermentation. Before going to bottle, the 2019 Chenin Blanc spends a few months in tank. This shift from the more open environment of a barrel to the more closed environment of the tank preserves that freshness, tension, and energy we prize in all of our wines. 

We can’t think of a better time to welcome a new vintage release of this wine than during the early days of summer. The refreshing and fruit-driven qualities of the wine promise relief from the afternoon sun, and its supple-yet-versatile palate provides a beautiful transition from daytime glass to pairing with appetizers or light dinner fare. Although the wine shines well with a handful of seasonal delights, we’ve particularly enjoyed it with grilled scallops, fresh summer salads, and various Asian-inspired dishes.