The Oldest Pinot Noir Vines in the Willamette Valley

June 11, 2014; This post has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Dundee, Oregon. David Lett may not have single-handedly put Oregon wine on the world map, but he was certainly one of its earliest, most prescient, winemaking crusaders that helped establish the Oregon wine industry.

As Jason Lett said during the interview process of his late father who passed away in 2008:

“My father had a reputation for being a bit of a retro-grouch. Here was this forward thinking person who came and brought these grapes to a place where they had never been grown, that captured attention around the world in international competition, and yet at the same time, he was a real traditionalist. He believed that the less you monkeyed with the wine in the winery, and the more attention that you paid to the grapes in the vineyard, the better the wine would be”.

Even to this day, Jason went on to say, the philosophy of “natural winemaking” is still far from being the dominant mindset of the industry but it is slowly growing new adherents.

Oldest Pinot Noir Grapevines, Eyrie Vineyards

One of the Oldest Pinot Noir Grapevines on Eyrie Vineyards

In keeping with the tradition that his father and his mother, Diana, set, Jason Lett who took over Eyrie Vineyards in 2005, has begun growing an additional grape varietal—Trousseau— that comes from the foothills of the French Alps.

When I asked Mr. Lett about what he saw for the future of the Oregon wine industry, he responded, in part:

“Oregon, I think, only makes less than 1% of the country’s wine, but I think we are 2nd or 3rd in the country, in terms of the number of vineyards we have here. Simply because there are so many small artisan producers here, who are growing the grapes themselves, making the wine themselves, the wines have great personality and they have a great sense of place. I hope that Oregon continues to follow that model in the future. And, I have every confidence that it will.

Visit Yamhill Valley Wines for their “Wines of the Valley” series that features the history, quality and diversity of the Yamhill Valley’s flourishing wine industry. For the introductory video, along with the video series list, check out the first post on CUPS: The Yamhill Valley Wine Region of Oregon

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