Evening Shade is crafted by O'Neill Vintners, founded in 2004 by Jeff O'Neill after creating another successful wine venture, Associated Vintners. His winemaking roots go back to Prohibition, so it's no secret that he can craft wine for many of the world's leading beverage alcohol companies. Today, O'Neill Vintners is the 8th largest U.S. winery and is one of the premier custom producers in California.
Winemaker, Mark Rasmussen, has been with O'Neill for decades. He is now well-versed in their tremendous operation, with three wine processing facilities as well as thousands of acres of grapes. Mark is the reason we can get a quality Pinot Noir from grapes grown in Paso Robles and Lodi. Pinot Noir is a cool-climate grape and even though these areas are considered not cool enough, in the right winemaker's hands, great Pinot Noir can be produced from there.
Pinot Noir means "black pine" in French. It is so named because its color is very dark and, unlike most other grapes, its bunches are purposely formed like a pine cone, with a large top, tapering off to a narrow bottom. Most grapes you see in the grocery stores, however, are just as they are, a free-form bunch.
This uniqueness of Pinot Noir is not a blessing. Because of its shape, the clusters are tighter, which means that when exposed to moisture they can attract mold. It's a constant concern, but when properly handled, we get this beauty loaded with cotton candy and cherry flavors, finishing with a flourish and ready for poached salmon or rack of lamb.