Sommelier Feature: Domaine de la Côte, Rajat Parr's American Burgundy

“These are some of the most viscerally thrilling Pinot Noirs being made in California today”
— -Antonio Galloni, Vinous, July 2014

We've heard it many times. 

"Our Pinot Noir is made like a red Burgundy", "It's Burgundian", "We're making an old-world style wine".

When we compare any new world pinot noir wine to Burgundy, it's a compliment to Burgundy. It is verity that this region is the benchmark of the greatest pinot noirs in the world. I've tasted a lot of Burgundy in my career and consider it one of my favorite wine region along with the Northern Rhône. It's not hard for me to say my favorite grapes are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, in that order. However, not all Burgundy is good.

Producers are good. Nature can grow grapes but winemakers make the wine. So if you're an experienced sommelier and have traveled to the region many times, walked the vineyards, visited the domaines and have become friends with the owners and winemakers, you begin to learn a lot. You also need to have a very good palate to differentiate every nuance of flavor, sense of structure and age-ability of grand vins, negotiate minuscule allocations of bottles for your restaurant group. 


I believe that no sommelier knows this better than Rajat Parr. He is an illustrious figure in the wine community, not only domestically but internationally. His experience running wine programs throughout the United States and as acting partner in the RN74 restaurants has kept him busy. When he decided to leave his position as Wine Director for the Michael Mina group, it was to devote more time to his acquired passion in winemaking. He continues to move the needle in the wine industry, serving on many panels and groups like the IPOB (In Pursuit of Balance) tours. 

We've know Raj for a while, particularly Ken Fredrickson who has been a longtime friend.

When we heard he was involved in a winery called Evening Land Vineyards, we were immediately  interested. Our first meeting in 2010 was a tasting of the different wines they make in Oregon, California, and Burgundy. Raj was onto something that he believed was being achieved, world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that could rival the best domaines in France.

He didn't want to make specific comparisons to villages, like "This tastes like Meursault", instead he compared to producers like "this is like Lafon or Roulot". We could interpret the style based on the wines made from these producers. Dry, mineral driven, precise, low in alcohol. Simple. 

It's not always easy to compare producer to producer, but Sashi Moorman, the then winemaker of Evening Land has a similar palate to Raj's. Consequently they decided to work on a project together and purchased one of the EVL vineyards in 2013. Sashi discovered the site and developed the vineyards with Chis King in 2007.

The site is planted entirely to California heritage selections at extremely high density, between 4000 to 7000 vines per acre.

Domaine de la Côte is a collection of six vineyards planted over 40 acres on the westernmost edge of the Sta. Rita Hills appellation:

  1. Memorious (3.5 acres)
  2. Bloom’s Field (7.5 acres)
  3. Siren’s Call (3 acres)
  4. Clos Juliet (1 acre)
  5. La Côte (9.5 acres)
  6. Sta. Rita Hills. appellation (5.5 acres)

       700’ elevation above the Santa Ynez River

       Seven miles from the Pacific Ocean

       Lies on a 25 million year old siliceous (silex) and diatomaceous seabed

       Farmed organically with the philosophy of “add nothing; take nothing away”

       All wines are produced and bottled at the winery, in the town of Lompoc in Santa Barbara County, three miles from the DDLC vineyards


Our first Sommelier Feature include two wines from DDLC.

Take advantage of these small production wines that are receiving praise from critics all over the world. 

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The Estate Sta Rita Hills Pinot Noir



“The 2012 appellation Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir comes predominately from 15 acres of vineyards planted at 200 feet above sea level in silty-clay loam; 25% of the vines are own-rooted at a vine density of over 4,000 vine/acre. Similar to last year’s wine, the 2012 is 50% whole bunches with 0% new oak used in the elevage. This wine has a brilliant red color and is perfumed, balanced and elegant. Currants, pomegranate and elderflowers fill the nose and hints of wild mushrooms and fresh garden herbs appear on the palate. The mouthfeel is round, but focused and finishes with savory tannins. We believe the wines will have a long life in the bottle if properly cellared and should develop aromas and flavors of great complexity over the next 5+ years.”


•2100 cases produced

•50% stem inclusion

•12.5% alcohol

Bloom's Field Pinot Noir


“The 2012 single vineyard Bloom’s Field is from a 7 1/2 acre parcel of iron laden clay loam over shale that lies on the western edge of Domaine. Bloom’s Field faces gently to the south but has a clear view west to the Pacific Ocean and therefore is unprotected from the marine influences of wind and fog. The environmental pressures have a profound impact on the growth of the vines, the morphology of the clusters and the textures, flavors and aromas of the wine. These unusually small clusters and berries produce a Pinot Noir of concentration and depth of flavor while the constant cooling winds preserve high levels of natural acidity that give the wines great energy. Aromas of fresh crushed rose petals, geraniums and alpine strawberries are matched with flavors of fresh game, cracked green peppercorns and hints of salt and nori. Bloom’s Field is always 100% whole bunches and aged in 0% new oak for 20 months. This wine will live a decade or longer and will continue to gain in complexity and sleekness.”


       500 cases produced

       100% stem inclusion

       12.5% alcohol