Update: Charles Banks never completed a deal for ownership in Evening Land Vineyards, he subsequently confirmed to Wine Spectator. Rajat Parr and Sashi Moorman are working in consulting roles for the winery.
Three high-profile figures in California wine have joined Evening Land, which has produced some of Oregon’s highest-rated Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays and also makes wine in Sonoma County and Burgundy. The majority owners, a Texas partnership led by venture capitalist Steve Webster, will remain, but CEO Greg Ralston is leaving after two years in charge, Wine Spectator has learned. Coming in as minority partners and taking over operations are Rajat Parr, Charles Banks and Sashi Moorman.
“We’re investing capital and taking over running of the business,” said Banks, a former partner in Screaming Eagle in Napa Valley, whose Terroir Capital owns and manages wineries in California and South Africa. “We can manage the infrastructure and the sales and marketing, and let the talent do what they do.”
Isabelle Meunier remains as winemaker in Oregon, and Burgundian vigneron Dominique Lafon remains consulting winemaker. Parr, longtime wine director for chef Michael Mina’s restaurants and founder of Sandhi Wines in Santa Barbara, said the focus will remain on the Seven Springs Vineyard, a 70-acre vineyard in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Seven Springs, acquired in 2007, is the jewel in Evening Land’s assets, having earned classic scores with both Chardonnay and Pinot in Wine Spectator tastings.
Banks partnered with Parr to found Sandhi, in California’s Sta. Rita Hills, in 2010, with Moorman making a racy style of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Terroir’s wine portfolio also includes Cultivate, in California, Chile, Argentina and Italy; Leviathan, Qupé and Wind Gap in California; Mulderbosch, Fable and Marvelous Wines in South Africa; and Maison L’Orée in France. In a separate partnership, Banks co-owns Napa Valley's Mayacamas.
“We’ve built up an organization and infrastructure so we can make acquisitions like this and plug them right in pretty easily,” said Banks, who pointed to a seamless transition after he bought Qupé last year. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to get the right situation up there in Oregon. It’s very exciting. I love the wines.”
The new partners plan no changes to Evening Land’s much-lauded Oregon wines, even if the company has yet to return a profit as a business, according to Ralston in an interview last year. “Part of what we’ll be doing is assessing how best to make it all work,” Parr said, “especially in California and Burgundy. We’re all excited about the possibilities.”