The death of Len Evans (see post below) isn't the only topic members of the world wine community are talking about, but his passing certainly has grabbed their attention and prompted an outpouring of tributes.
Sacramento grocer Darrell Corti didn't learn of Evans's death until last night, but in a phone conversation this morning he talked admiringly of a man who not only made exceptional wines and wrote honestly of the Australian wine trade but was a marvelously skilled golfer, a generous and entertaining host, and a passionate artist who built his own kiln to fire the decorative ceramic tiles for his home - Loggerheads - in Australia's Hunter Valley.
Mike Rubin, a Healdsburg publicist who has worked closely with the Australian wine trade for years, recalled that Evans was known as a legendary spitter who could drill an arc of wine flawlessly into a spittoon 10 feet away. He was even better than that, said Corti, who had known Evans since 1975 and had last seen him about two years ago, when he stayed at Loggerheads. "He could spit wonderfully. From 20 feet away he could hit a spittoon, and it would be one stream. That was really remarkable," said Corti.
"He was 'Mr. Australia Wine,'" added Corti. "He was a great taster, and a great promoter of wine, Australian in particular, for which Australia owes him the greatest debt they never could repay."
His most significant legacy, said Corti, probably was a one-week tutorial in wine appreciation that he set up at Loggerheads to introduce younger wine enthusiasts to the whole world of wine. Candidates would compete to be selected, and the dozen or so of those who were chosen then got an intense education from a master of the subject, a schooling that included plenty of access to his private wine cellar, a massive converted water cistern.
Evans's last winery was Tower Estate, where he made wines from the best vineyards he could find in regions celebrated for particular varieties, such as semillon from the Hunter Valley, shiraz from the Barossa Valley and riesling from the Clare Valley. Corti Brothers in Sacramento is the only merchant in California to get those wines. This is the appropriate weekend for one final appropriate toast to Len Evans.