Tag Archives: Eyrie Vineyards

Mrs. Scatter’s day of whine and roses


Report from the wine-tasting front:

David Lett. Photo: Ron Zimmerman/2005Yes, the large, smelly boys bickered in the backseat.
No, we won’t take them again.
Yes, we will lock them in the dungeon next time.
Yes, the dungeon has an escape hatch.
Yes, I typed that to avoid the scrutiny of child protective services.
Yes, in the valley, the people at the next picnic table ate watermelon and Twinkies.
Yes, we spotted Twinkies again at Eyrie Vineyards.
Yes, Benjamin Franklin came up three times on the trip.
No, I can’t explain these mysterious patterns.
Yes, we left the large, smelly boys in the van while we sipped wine.
Yes, we left the windows cracked.
Yes, I typed that to avoid the scrutiny of child protective services.
Yes, the 2007 Eyrie Chardonnay Reserve is worth the drive.
Yes, only time will tell how the 2007 pinot noirs measure up.
No, my wine palate is not sophisticated enough to predict squat.
Yes, we heard a lovely story from Jason Lett, winemaker of Eyrie Vineyards since the 2005 vintage and son of Eyrie founder and Oregon winemaking legend David Lett, who died last October:

Jason was in a Portland wine store when the guy told him he had a bunch of wines he needed to unload. They turned out to be a cache of Sokol Blosser wines from the mid-1980s, including the legendary 1985 vintage. He took them all and took them to Susan Sokol Blosser, who nearly cried because much of Sokol Blosser’s wine library had been depleted.

Ben Franklin in fur hat, 1777/Wikimedia CommonsNo, a wine library isn’t where you get a special card to check out what you want.
Yes, it is a catalog of sorts of a winemaker’s wines.
No, it isn’t available to the public and doesn’t come with large, solid lions on the front steps.
Yes, tasting the 2002, 2003 and 2004 vintages of Eyrie pinor noir was worth the drive.
Yes, those are the last vintages that David Lett … um … made?
Yes, a trio of those wines in a special box will set you back $210.
No, Mr. Scatter should not be in charge of buying wine.
No, Mrs. Scatter should not be in charge of buying wine.
No, funeral homes should not have Welcome signs (truly sighted).

Yes, herewith, a prized behind-the-scenes peek at an in-depth editing discussion between Mr. and Mrs. Scatter:

Mr. Scatter: Are you sure you don’t want to say “stinky?”
Mrs. Scatter: No, I like, “smelly.”
Mr. Scatter: You do like “smelly,” don’t you?

— Laura Grimes

A toast to loved ones, here and beyond

Dionysus, Roman, second century/Prado, Madrid. Wikimedia Commons


Mrs. Scatter, concerned for her blog-overburdened husband (always nameless), offers a relief pitch …

It’s Memorial Day weekend. Let us toast the memory of our dearly departed by sipping wine in the gorgeous Willamette Valley, where wineries en masse open their doors and uncork their bottles for just a few days. It’s a rare opportunity to glimpse the cellars of many small producers.

Mr. Scatter and I used to jump at the chance on this holiday weekend to head to McMinnville and Eyrie Vineyards, which used to be open only Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends. Now, to our delighted surprise, Eyrie has a tasting room that’s open noon-5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. This weekend Eyrie will pour several wines from 2007 without Oregon winemaking pioneer David Lett, also known as Papa Pinot, who died last October. Eyrie winemaker Jason Lett, David’s son, says 2007 is a vintage that, if harvested just right, will be similar to the epic vintages of the 1970s, the ones that put Oregon pinot noir on the world stage. Time will tell. We might have to taste them for ourselves, while they’re young and we knew them when.

How to deal with our own young, though?
I am growing increasingly convinced that all my childcare needs could be satisfied if only I had an ex-husband. A friend is in the valley for the weekend sipping wine. Another friend regularly flies to San Francisco. What to do with their grade-schoolers? Oh, that’s right, they have exes. My current first husband (nameless) says that’s what starter marriages are for. You know, breed and bail. I somehow missed that trend. Wine-tasting and scenic rolling hills just don’t have the same romantic appeal with large, smelly boys bickering in the backseat.

But this is a weekend to remember loved ones, here and gone. Perhaps the promise of a picnic and some flying football will be the ticket to wine country. Happy Memorial weekend. Toast and be merry.

— Laura Grimes

Farewell to Papa Pinot: An Oregon legend dies

I remember David Lett a lot of ways, and not nearly as many as I wish I did: Here was a man, I always felt, I’d really like to know well. I didn’t. Although I’ve drunk a fair amount of his wine (again, not nearly as much as I’d like to have) we didn’t move in the same circles. Our paths crossed infrequently, and mostly anonymously — that is, I knew who he was, but he didn’t know who I was.

This morning’s Oregonian arrives with the news that Lett, founder of the pioneering Eyrie Vineyards, died late Thursday at his Dundee home. He was 69. The Associated Press filed this report, and gave the cause of death as heart failure.

Lett had passed the winemaking duties at Eyrie Vineyards to his son Jason three years ago, but it’s always been David’s spirit that’s defined the place. And what a place: a true slice of Oregon grit, a pioneering venture with a global impact, a place that knew what it wanted to do and stuck to its guns. Lett and Eyrie produced Oregon’s first commercial pinot noir in 1970, and to this day, despite the winery’s international acclaim, it’s still a little, musky-smelling, no-nonsense small-manufacturing joint in an old turkey-slaughtering plant across the railroad tracks in the McMinnville flats — in short, a glorious place to visit. No shimmering hillside chateau for David Lett: For him, it was all about the wine.

Lett had at least a couple of public images, and I suspect both had their measure of the truth. One was Papa Pinot, the genial elder statesman of the Oregon wine industry, a twinkling, silver-streaked Santa Claus of a man. The other was David Lett the irascible iconoclast, the fierce defender of making wines his way, which was, he believed, in the true traditional French manner. This David Lett believed in subtle, elegant, understated, long-lived wines that revealed their secrets in a whisper and were meant to blossom in companionship with food, not to stand out in a long line of gut-busters in a marathon tasting. He had little patience for younger winemakers who built high-alcohol fruit bombs and priced them through the roof, and he was outspoken about it, which didn’t endear him in some circles. I suspect he was proud of that. At heart he was a farmer and a chemist and a small manufacturer and an artist, and although he could be smooth, these are also identities that encourage a certain bluntness.

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