Mark Tarlov, who produced movies for directors like John Carpenter, Sidney Lumet and John Waters before founding Evening Land and other wineries in Oregon's Willamette Valley and Central California, died July 31 at his home in New York after battling cancer. He was 69.
"He was brilliant and inspiring and a visionary," said Larry Stone, who consulted with and later worked for Tarlov at Evening Land before starting his own winery, Lingua Franca. "And like most visionaries, he was often misunderstood."
Isabelle Meunier, Evening Land's original winemaker and now a partner in Lavinea, agreed. "Mark had an amazing ability to reach out and connect with people of incredibly diverse background to create a unique 'cast' within the wine projects he was involved with," she said. "He was constantly thinking out of the box, and those unique sets of ideas were inspiring to witness."
Born in Norwalk, Conn., in 1952, Tarlov was still in college when he started writing speeches for Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger. After graduating from Columbia Law School, he worked as a prosecutor in Washington, D.C., and as a lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Tarlov switched to the entertainment business and in 1983 produced his first film, Christine, based on the Stephen King novel about a homicidal 1958 Plymouth Fury. It was a moderate success. He later produced Power, Copycat, Serial Mom and Cecil B. Demented, among others.
Tarlov picked up a taste for wine while working in Hollywood. At the time, movie production budgets were overstuffed with excess cash, allowing him to drink the best wines of Europe, he told Wine Spectator in a 2017 interview. Not satisfied with just collecting, Tarlov decided to make wine. While Copycat was filming in San Francisco in the mid-1990s, he frequented Rubicon restaurant, where Stone worked as a sommelier. Tarlov often ordered expensive Burgundies, and Stone steered him toward Pinots from cool-climate regions of California and Oregon.
Those wines struck a chord with Tarlov, and for the next decade Stone and Tarlov exchanged ideas. Eventually, Tarlov bought or leased vineyards in California’s Sta. Rita Hills, the Sonoma Coast and, finally, Seven Springs in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which quickly became the focus of Tarlov's first winery, Evening Land. With Burgundy's Dominique Lafon consulting and Meunier handling the day-to-day, the debut 2007 vintage hit the market with a splash.
But soon the winery appeared to be pulled in too many directions. "He was not really a businessman. He didn't care about the money part," Stone said. "He was just a dreamer and he kept dreaming dreams." Eventually, his investors grew impatient. Tarlov was forced out of Evening Land in 2012.
He quickly launched another brand, Chapter 24, with Burgundy's Louis-Michel Liger-Belair as a consultant. Another label, Rose & Arrow, soon followed. Tarlov came to believe that Pinot Noir is all about rock—volcanic rock, specifically. He set about searching for vineyards in Willamette that had the soil profile he was after and released seven different Rose & Arrow Pinots in the debut release, 2016.
Tarlov's profile lowered in recent years as his health issues grew more complicated. "Nothing in terms of money ever worked out for him," Stone said. "But it turned out wonderfully for making great wine."
Tarlov is survived by his wife, Judith, daughters Jessica and Molly and grandson Harry.
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