Larry Stone, who stepped away from the Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning Rubicon restaurant when Francis Ford Coppola made him managing director of Rubicon Estate in 2006, starts a new job next week. He is to be the general manager of Evening Land, which makes wines from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, California’s Sonoma Coast and Santa Rita Hills and, more recently, Burgundy. (For more on Evening Land, read Bruce Sanderson's blog on his recent visit to Willamette Valley.)
Looks like a good fit, as lots of sommeliers have been involved with Evening Land, which earned a spot on the Wine Spectator Top 100 last year with a wine from its first vintage in Oregon, 2007. Though they don’t make the wine, somms Rajat Parr of Michael Mina and RN74, Daniel Johnnes of Restaurant Daniel and Bernie Sun of Jean-Georges are advisors and influence other sommeliers to pay attention to the wines. Another somm, Andréa Fulton-Higgins, who manages the wines at the annual Wine Spectator Wine Experience and was at one time with the Sardine Factory in Monterey, welcomed me to the Oregon winery when I first visited in 2008.
Ironically, Stone is going from a wine company owned by a film director to one owned by a film producer. Proprietor Mark Tarlov worked with such directors as John Carpenter, Sidney Lumet and John Waters. His films include Christine, Carpenter’s early film about an evil car, Copycat, starring Sigourney Weaver, and The Man Who Knew Too Little with Bill Murray.
At Evening Land, he will be general manager for the entire company. He told me that he is especially excited about working with famed Burgundy winemaker Dominique Lafon, the consultant for the Oregon wines and producer of the Evening Land wines in Burgundy.
As a sommelier, Stone ran numerous wine programs in restaurants that won Grand Awards for their wine lists: Four Seasons Olympic and Canlis in his hometown of Seattle, Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago and Rubicon in San Francisco, where he was also a minority partner. Coppola, a major partner in the restaurant Rubicon, hired Stone to run his winery of the same name two years before the restaurant closed in 2008.
Larry Stone is taking over as general manager at Evening Land winery.
Stone sold his wine label, Sirita, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot brand which he started in 1997.
Tarlov used Stone, whom he has known for nearly 17 years, as a sounding board for his ideas about the company. Now the ex-sommelier looks forward to reestablishing professional relationships with the sommeliers and restaurateurs that were his friends when he was one of them.
“Getting to work more closely with all of them will be like a homecoming,” he said.
“[Stone] was born in the Pacific Northwest,” Tarlov said. “He taught me about California wine, Washington wine and Oregon wine when his colleagues on the East Coast would only talk about French wine. And yet he schooled many of us of Jayer and Rayas right alongside [those wines]."
“He is also a very nice person, and he can carry off a bow tie,” Tarlov added.