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Real Burgundy, and Wallet-Friendly
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Feb 12, 2013
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Evening Land Vineyards Bourgogne (France) Pinot Noir “Blue Label” 2010 ($25, imported by The Evening Land Vineyards):  Lately it seems that everywhere the talk is about Burgundy.  A great tasting of 2011 new releases by a major importer, an article in the NY Times about 2010 red Burgundies, a blog post exalting the unpredictable pleasures of great Burgundies, an annual Burgundy extravaganza on the calendar.  All this Burgundy chatter has inspired me to review a red Burgundy.  Because when was the last time I did that? (Almost three years ago, if I must confess.)

The standard wisdom in buying Burgundy is to select a reliable producer, such as a respected grower or one of the few top-end negociants.  That advice leaves this 2010 Bourgogne Rouge out in the cold.  It’s a Burgundy with an American brand, produced by and for a company based in California that makes Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Oregon, the Sonoma Coast and Santa Barbara.  If you had not heard of Evening Land before, you might be suspicious.  But in its brief existence, The Evening Land Vineyards has earned a fine reputation for its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays not only from the West Coast but also from Burgundy itself.

The Evening Land Vineyards is a collection of wineries and wines that began in 2005 and today encompasses 13 estate wines from more than 120 acres of vineyards in classic terroirs for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The winemaking team includes Isabelle Meunier in Oregon, Christophe Vial in Burgundy and Sashi Moorman in California, with Dominique Lafon as a consultant.  The wines are mainly small-production bottlings from organically-farmed properties.  The price structure is simple: Blue Label wines are the least expensive, about $25; Silver Label and Gold Label wines form the next two price tiers, about $40 to $60, and a handful of White Label wines top the price pyramid.

The 2010 Evening Land Bourgogne Rouge is a better wine, in my experience, than the typical Bourgogne Rouge because it has more character, complexity and nuance than you tend to find in this generic level of red Burgundy.  The wine’s aroma suggests rich black cherry, with contrasting notes of tart red berries and a gentle floral note.  In your mouth, the wine is dry and medium-bodied with vivid flavors of fresh red and black berries, and an underlying mineral note. I ts slightly raspy tannins collaborate with vibrant acidity to create a structure that’s lean and fresh, a knife-edge that’s softened by the wine’s concentrated fruit character.

In tasting Bourgogne Rouge, I find that it’s always fun to imagine where in Burgundy the grapes might have grown, as suggested by the taste of the wine.  For this wine I guessed the style to be rather Cote de Nuits because of the leanness and precision of the wine.  In fact, the heart of the blend comes from Marsannay, the northernmost wine village of the Cote de Nuits, where finesse trumps power. Another key part of the blend comes from Savigny-les-Beaunes in the Cote de Beaune -- which rings true to me in the wine’s sappy tannins.  The total production of this wine is 950 cases.

This is a young Bourgogne that’s great now, especially if you give it a bit of air or serve it in a large glass. It should continue to drink beautifully for several years.  Stylistically, it’s made for food; I would choose a grilled paillard of veal or chicken, broiled salmon or other fish with a black-peppery sauce, or ratatouille -- but the possibilities are many, apart from very flavorful or heavy dishes.  At just $25, we can all afford to experiment with genuine Burgundy.

91 Points