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Classic Oregon Pinot Noir Vineyards Lost to California

As reported recently in the Oregon Wine Press, Mark Tarlov, managing partner of California winery The Evening Lands (TEL) acquired a long-term lease for the Seven Springs and Anden Vineyards, with an offer to purchase the vineyards. TEL plans to produce Pinot Noir from its two vineyards in California - one in Santa Rita hills, the other the Occidental Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast (previously sourced by Kistler for it’s Cuvee Elizabeth), and the Seven Springs Vineyard in Oregon. TEL is a business partnership between French partners who own a domaine in Burgundy, a restaurateur from New York, sommeliers and Dorothy Cann Hamilton, founder and CEO of the James Bead Foundation.

Seven Springs Vineyard was planted in 1982-1989 and was owned by husband and wife Al MacDonald and Joni Witherspoon until their divorce in 2001. In the past prominent Oregon wineries made vineyard designate Pinot Noir from this vineyard including Bethel heights, St. Innocent, and Evesham Wood. They will be sold little or no grapes in the future. Cristom’s contract for grapes runs out in 2008. St. Innocent was known for its Seven Springs Vineyard bottling and purchased over one-third of the fruit from this vineyard, along with fruit from Anden Vineyard. St. Innocent and others will now have to develop more of their own vineyards or look to other fruit sources such as the vineyards of Premier Pacific, which will have thousands of acres reaching maturity in the coming years.

Acquisition of prime Pinot Noir vineyards by corporate and partnership entities will continue at a heightened pace in the future. Many small boutique Pinot Noir producers lacking vineyards of their own are at the mercy of handshake agreements which will often not stand up to the grower’s economic pressures and the acquisition machine. The scramble for prime Pinot Noir grapes will only intensify in the near future.

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