- Rating: 95 out of 100
- Tasting Fee: $20-$40, depending on flight choice
- Accepts Reservations: Yes
- Reservation Required: true
Dundee, OR 97115
I strongly prefer tasting bottles at the winery rather than at in-town tasting rooms. Unfortunately, I was in a bit of a rush, so I gladly made an exception here because when I think of Oregon Chardonnay, I think of Evening Springs. If you’ve had a bottle of wine from Oregon (specifically around the Willamette Valley), chances are it was a Pinot Noir. There are several other varietals grown in the region, but none are known for being as good a fit with the terroir as Pinot Noir. However, once you taste the La Source here, you’ll be adding Chardonnay to that list. I would confidently put La Source in a blind tasting against the best that America has to offer and it’s not even their best bottling (Summum). I don’t care if you visit the tasting facility or not; just make sure to try these wines!
One of the first things you’ll notice when looking up Evening Springs is that they migrated up to Eola Amity Hills from Sonoma in 2007. The fact that both locations both produce similar varietals (e.g. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay) gives you confidence that they know what they are doing, even if they were officially established only 10+ years ago. And even for a winery so young, all of the grapes for their wines come from their Seven Springs Vineyards. Though, not all of the grapes are up to their desired quality level, so they maintain a secondary label (Salem Wine Company) for their declassified grapes. I respect wineries that are picky about their grapes and the quality of their wines.
If you have a subscription to Wine Spectator, you may recognize the Evening Land label. After all, the 2012 La Source Pinot Noir scored 98 points and landed as #3 on Wine Spectator’s World Top 100 wines in 2015. And not criticize, but the two wines that ranked higher both received a lower score than the La Source and were more expensive than the La Source. So in my book and maybe others’, the 2012 La Source was the best wine in 2015 according to Wine Spectator. They don’t quite have the cult following, and therefore the high prices, of other wineries. So this is your chance to get excellent quality wine at reasonable prices.
As you can see from the pictures and my descriptions, I really liked their tasting room. Clean, classic, good color scheme, and good background music choices. As we started chatting with the wine ambassador, we learned that the winemaker felt the 2016s were the best chardonnays he has ever made. That is a powerful statement and just made me thirstier. Before we get to the tasting notes below, I do want to clarify that to have your tasting at their winery, you need to pay a $65 tasting fee per person and agree to a suggested 6-bottle purchase. If someone does take the winery tour and enjoy it, please let me know and I may need to return!
To the wines!
- 2018 Seven Springs Rose of Pinot Noir ($28)
- Made from younger vines in Eola Amity Hills. Beautiful, clear pink color. The nose is filled with aromas of unripe peaches, plum, and green apple. The alcohol is present and blended with granny-smith apples as well as pink fruit on the palate. The medium(+) acid provides structure and gradually builds on the palate. Medium length finish of pink fruit with minerality and the acid providing a mouthwatering effect. It’s what you look for in a rose.
- 2016 La Source Pinot Noir ($75)
- Pinot Noir from top of the vineyard hillside (350-650 ft in elevation). Up there at the highest point, vines are stressed from the wind and the thin, rocky soil. Because of the reduced yields, they produce only 350 cases of this wine a year. 30% Whole Cluster Fermentation, and 40% new French oak. The nose is rich with strawberry and cranberry dominating, but also raspberry and cedar present. Soft and smooth medium tannin, medium(+) acid, and medium(+) intensity of fresh, red fruit (ripe cranberry, lighter cherry). You can feel the green on the palate from the whole cluster fermentation that also adds some complexity and depth on the finish. Medium(-) body, but it has good medium(+) length. A nice, lighter styled Pinot.
- 2017 Seven Springs Vineyard, Gamay Noir ($35)
- The first cuttings of Gamay came over in the 1980s and were planted at Seven Springs in 2003. They are aiming for the Cru Beaujolais style with this wine, though there are only 2 acres left due to phylloxera in the older vines. Cranberry in color, the nose has notes of bright, unripe cranberry and some hints of terroir+funk, but the palate is more brooding in style with white pepper, wet earth, dried cranberry, and toast. Medium(+) acidity balances the brooding style and makes this a very interesting wine.
- 2016 Seven Springs Chardonnay ($35)
- Chardonnay is 1/3 of their production. They might even tell you that it’s their focus - they want to get their planting to 50/50 with Pinot Noir. This wine is from 2013 vines, a young block. Seven Springs aims for more acidity by picking grapes early, based on their acidity level. For this wine, they use once-used barrels, 5L puncheons, MLF, and some lees aging with 1000 cases produced. On the nose, yellow apple, brioche, cream, and butter leap out with pronounced intensity. On the medium-bodied palate, that intensity continues with some popcorn and yellow pear also coming through with beautiful medium(+) acid that continues through the finish. 13.5% ABV, but provides some warmth on exhale. This is a beautiful chardonnay that could be mistaken with Burgundy if there was a bit more minerality and length (it only makes it to the mid-palate). But very impressive from vines so young.
- 2015 Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Chardonnay ($65)
- This Blanc de Blanc spent 33-36 months in tirage with no dosage in a Brut Nature style. Pronounced nose of yellow apple and pear with medium(+) acidity, but not biting or tight at all – it’s actually rather soft. They have a single foudre going that has different vintages in it and may eventually move to a Solera-like styled system. I really liked the texture of the wine and bubbles, though this was opened yesterday, so that may have added to the softness. The winemaker also wants the staff to start serving this after decanting as it changes the wine a lot. Only 170 cases made.
- 2016 La Source Chardonnay ($75)
- From near the top of the vineyard, the La Source Chardonnay comes from just below the Summum Chardonnay vines. Up there, the grapes are very different, so the winemaker creates two different wines by tasting the grapes as they come in. Once he’s sees a change in the character, that marks the cutoff for La Source. The wine spends 12 months in 100% new Austrian puncheons that have a light toast. Compared to the Seven Springs Chardonnay, this wine has a bit more reduction going on and a depth to the MLF/lees/toast notes. You can spend minutes on the aromatics of this wine. The reduction taps down any overbearing/unctuous fruit notes, but only works if the wines are less ripe and not overpowering already. This wine was so impressive to me that I had to buy a bottle to bring back, along with the Seven Spring Chardonnay for comparison.
I brought back both a bottle of the La Source Chardonnay and the Seven Springs Chardonnay. The La Source I want to blind taste with some more expensive bottles and friends. The Seven Spring Chardonnay is a potential QPR darling. But you may find that the La Source Pinot Noir is the crown jewel and that a case needs to go home with you. The only way to tell is to visit yourself!
So the next time you visit Willamette and find yourself in the town of Dundee, make sure to visit before grabbing that meal in town. Cheers!!
Rating: 95 out of 100