Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 54

Meanwhile, in what was once considered the remote
south, Mark Vlossak founded St. Innocent Winery
in 1988 with a focus on white wines. He had apprenticed at Arterberry, where Fred Arterberry, Jr., developed the first sparkling wines in Willamette Valley,
so Vlossak was used to looking for fruit with high

In 2011, Pahlow and Landon made wine from two small
parcels of chardonnay. Quiet enthusiasm was just
beginning to circle the variety in the region. "That
year we got two completely different blocks of chardonnay," says Landon, one from mature vines in the
Chehalem Mountains, the other from the Bieze Vine-

Erica Landon and Ken Pahlow

"There is great
acid retention here
from the wind
and the diurnal
shift. It's a perfect
storm to create
wines that have
more tension and
precision."
-Erica Landon,
Walter Scott
Wines

54

WINE & SPIRITS

OCTOBER 2017

Photo by Easton Richmond PhotographyPhotography

Bergström had already been producing highly
regarded chardonnay with finesse and energizing
minerality from the northern Willamette. In fact, the
variety was among the region's first plantings in the
mid-1960s, and producers like Eyrie, Bethel Heights,
Cameron and, in the 1980s, Arterberry, made siteexpressive wines driven by fresh acidity. But none
had received the kind of national attention and critical acclaim of Evening Land's La Source. Chardonnay in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s was
dominated by the California trend of rich, creamy
flavors cloaked under new oak. Many producers in
Oregon paralleled that style but the fruit didn't support that approach. The region had yet to articulate
a clear Willamette signature for chardonnay.
With its proximity to Portland, the northern Willamette Valley had ushered in the first of the region's
vines. It was also the focus of the growth and turnover
that came in the 1990s, when many growers pulled
out their old chardonnay vines or grafted them to
Dijon clones as a rush of newer sites were established.
But the newer clones did little to change the market's
impression of Willamette Valley chardonnay, and
plantings began to decline. In 1998, the Willamette
Valley had more than 9,000 planted acres, including 1,600 planted to chardonnay. By 2008, chardonnay's total acreage had been reduced by half, while
overall vineyards in the region had grown to more
than 14,000 acres. A few older chardonnay blocks
remained, most tended by ardent farmers who were
loathe to pull older vines, others in outlying rural
districts that were slow to change.

natural acidity. With his early
commitment to white wines,
Vlossak managed to convince
Al MacDonald, a grower in the
cool, windy Eola-Amity Hills, to
replant his chardonnay at Seven
Springs Vineyard with new plant
material from Dijon. Funding
the effort himself, Vlossak got
his wish, along with a gentleman's agreement that he would
get the fruit.
Seven Springs was a hillside
MacDonald and his then-wife,
Joni Weatherspoon, first planted
in 1982, establishing 32 acres in
equal portions of chardonnay
and pinot noir. At the time there
were a mere 1,812 total planted
acres in the entire valley.
Seven Springs quickly became a coveted fruit
source, especially for pinot noir, supplying wineries
such as neighboring Cristom and Bethel Heights, as
well as Domaine Drouhin, Adelsheim and Patricia
Green. Within a decade, Seven Springs had expanded
to more than 82 acres; the newer plantings were all
pinot, but for a small block of gamay noir.
Meanwhile, at St. Innocent, Vlossak was expanding production, and, in the process, the balance
shifted predominantly to pinot noir. Still, he persisted with chardonnay, even as Oregon chardonnay continued to languish and the variety's acreage
began to decline. Working with fruit from Seven
Springs' two chardonnay blocks, La Source and Summum, he produced wines that captured the concentration and mineral drive that would come to define
the vineyard, richly flavored wines resplendent with
fresh acidity.
When, in 2007, Evening Land secured a lease on
the entire Seven Springs Vineyard, Vlossak lost his
Seven Springs chardonnay. The La Source and Summum blocks became part of the Evening Land program. The new team shifted to organic farming. They
also began picking earlier, and focused on showcasing the site's innate concentration and mineral drive
without imposing richness in the cellar. Winemakers Dominique Lafon and Isabelle Meunier almost
immediately grabbed national attention for their
efforts. The combination of outside perspective from
Lafon and Meunier, and the marketing acumen of
Evening Land founder Mark Tarlov, brought a newfound interest in the variety.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wine & Spirits - October 2017

Contents
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover1
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover2
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 1
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 2
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 3
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 4
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Contents
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 6
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 7
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 8
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 9
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 10
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Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover3
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