Eyrie Vineyard's David and Diana Lett established their winery in 1966, naming it for the red-tailed hawks that made their nest (EYE-ree) in the fir trees at the top of the vineyard. It was the first planting of Pinot noir and Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley, and the first Pinot gris in America.
Today Eyrie's winemaker and owner is Jason Lett, David and Diana's son.
More About Eyrie Vineyards
Winemaker Jason Lett's philosophy in his vineyards and winery is to interfere as little as possible with the processes of nature. Eyrie wines are made exclusively from own-rooted estate-grown grapes, intensively handmanaged without the use of irrigation, insecticides, herbicides, or systemic fungicides. Annual production is limited to 8,000-10,000 cases.
Lett's "gentle touch" philosophy carries from the vineyards into the winery. The grapes are picked at that elusive point of maturity where true varietal characteristics are at their peak. In the winery, great care is taken not to compromise these flavors. This gentle treatment creates wines which are very approachable when young but with legendary ageability.
Eyrie is best known for putting Oregon Pinot gris on the map, but their Chardonnay gained international recognition for Oregon. In 1964, David Lett hand-selected a remarkable collection of Chardonnay vine cuttings from the Draper Ranch in northern California. The clonal diversity of this collection (originally imported from Burgundy), and the cool Burgundian climate of the Willamette Valley, combine to produce Eyrie's unique and distinctly European-styled Chardonnay. The wines are subtly expressive, elegant, and long-lived, and have inspired Oregon's top winemakers to devote renewed energy to the grape.
at right, Jason Lett, with Avalon's own wonder dog, Buffy
In the image below, 29 vintages of Eyrie Chardonnay are about to be poured
"At a time when marketing expediencies and the quest to appeal to the lowest common denominator are rampant cultural diseases, it is heartening to find someone so steadfastly committed to substance, and courageous enough to follow an independent path. In Lett's case, it is more heartening still, when such a path has been so sublimely and emphatically validated." Ted Meredith, Northwest Wine, 4th Ed.
"The pioneering winery set up in the late 1960s by David Lett produces silken, sexy, ethereally beautiful Pinot noir." Decanter Magazine
"Where else . . . can you find wines which possess the transparency, the fragrance, the weightlessness of Eyrie's Pinot noir's? Answer: very few places indeed. This makes them revolutionary. David Lett is a trailblazer of the 'new elegance.'" Stuart Piggott, M.W.
"The Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnays are consistently the best produced in Oregon. Furthermore, their aging potential would embarrass virtually all of California's Chardonnays, as well as many of France's renowned white Burgundies." Robert Parker, Wine Advocate
"The Eyrie Vineyards are the superstars of U.S. cool-climate winemaking, having consistently produced Burgundian varietals of extreme finesse and depth." Robin Bradley, Wine Vintages of the West Coast, 2nd Ed.
"In a tasting of 20 vintages of Pinot noir . . . Mr. Lett showed he could produce exceptional Burgundy-style pinot noirs that equaled . . . or even surpassed Burgundy's best." Frank Prial, The New York Times
"Eyrie's David Lett had foresight 20/20 with Pinot gris, introducing it to Oregon (and the U.S.) in the mid-sixties . . . Eyrie still makes one of the best examples." Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator
"In a blind tasting of over 20 Oregon Pinot gris, Eyrie, the first commercially made Pinot gris in America, still sets the standard . . . and at value pricing." Steve Olson, Restaurant Business
On Pinot gris: " . . . Eyrie is widely regarded as the New World's top producer of this varietal." Richard Nalley, Copley News Service
Eyrie's 50 acres of non-irrigated vines are grown in the Red Hills of Dundee, about 30 miles southwest of Portland. The winery is in nearby McMinnville. The four estate vineyards, planted at varying altitudes, are:
The Eyrie Vineyard: The original planting. 15 acres, 220'- 400' elevation; Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Pinot Meunier, Muscat Ottonel. First planted in 1966.
Stonehedge Vineyard: 13 acres, 720'-820' elevation; Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Pinot Meunier. First planted in 1976.
Rolling Green Farm: 6 acres, 540'-720' elevation; Pinot noir, Pinot gris. First planted in 1988.
Three Sisters Vineyard: 16 acres, 200'-360' elevation; Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Pinot blanc. First planted in 1987.