Perhaps like you, earlier this week I learned the father of Pinot Noir in Oregon, David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards, passed away at the young age of 69. If you're familiar with the book Judgement of Paris or recently caught the Indie Film "Bottle Shock" you know a few Americans in the '70s went "to the mattresses" to prove the quality of New World wines, as compared with those in the Old World. The story of their dramatic debut on the world's wine stage is noteworthy for many reasons. But first, in my mind, is what had to happen before they took their wines overseas. First they had to have the fire in the belly and the chutzpa to act: pioneers who took great risk in what Was Done and what was Not Done, to give birth to a much larger, global and hugely profitable industry.
David Lett was one of these men. In 1970 he and his wife planted the first Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir vines in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. (Today many of you appreciate the Willamette as the top Pinot Noir-producing region in the Pacific Northwest.) Just nine years later Lett showed his '75 South Block Reserve Pinot Noir in Paris at the Wine Olympiad, earning top praise and notoriety. The next year he did the same in Burgundy.
Today the rest is history, with 300 wineries in the Willamette alone producing tasty Pinot offerings. They pay homage to "Papa Pinot" Lett. And so should we all this sad week in particular. Appropriately, Mr. Lett's sons Jim and Jason (now lead in the fields and in the cellar) and his wife Diana plan to celebrate his life after the fall harvest.
What's your experience with Eyrie or Oregon Pinot? How are you taking this week's news?