PinotFile's Princely Pinot Selection - June 2011
by Rusty Gaffney, PinotFile, Expert on Pinot noir and Avalon Wine Guest Columnist
David Lett, affectionately known by his peers as "Papa Pinot," remained faithful to a consistent theme of classically styled Pinot Noir that aged exceptional well throughout his career spanning almost 40 commercial vintages. His son, Jason, who took over the vineyard management and winemaking reigns at The Eyrie Vineyards beginning with the 2005 vintage, is committed to preserving the "Eyrie Style" at The Eyrie Vineyards.
Jason did not embark on a winemaking career initially. He did travel to France at the age of 17 and worked for a time at Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy. The French his age were more knowledgeable abouwinemaking and intimidated him, causing him initially to be disinterested in pursuing winemaking. He obtained a degree in plant ecology from the University of New Mexico and then became a research assistant at Oregon State University, studying the farming of berries in the Willamette Valley. An opportunity to make wine at Bernard Machado Wines spurred a renewed interest in winegrowing and winemaking, and he resolved to carry on the tradition that his father established through many years of dedicated work.
Since 2005, Jason has maintained the David's approach at The Eyrie Vineyards with few changes, and like his father, remains the only full-time employee of the winery. Over the years, a yeast culture has developed in the cellar and Jason has revisited the use of feral or indigenous fermentations now, something his father was unsuccessful with initially, leading him to utilize inoculated yeast fermentations throughout his career. New oak treatment remains extremely low.
I recently sampled The Eyrie Vineyards Estate and "Original Vines" Reserve Pinot Noirs from the 2009 vintage, released in April 2011. These are remarkable expressions of classic Pinot Noir that "Papa Pinot" would have been very proud to pour. The Estate bottling comes from all four estate vineyards while the Reserve is sourced from the 16-acre original 1966 plantings at The Eyrie Vineyard. The wines in this vintage are more approachable early than those from 2008.
2009 The Eyrie Vineyards Estate "Original Vines" Reserve Pinot Noir $58.45/$52.61
Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Enticing aromas of strawberries, raspberries and melon. Perfectly balanced with a charming array of Pinot fruits showing more restraint than the Estate bottling, but offering more long-term potential. The epitome of the Eyrie style with a sexy silkiness, elegance and touch of terroir-driven dried herbs on the finish. Showing oak vanillin now due to its young age. The harmony predicts a long cellar life. A stunning wine. 13.5% alc.
PinotFile's Princely Pinot Selection for June 2011:
Eyrie Vineyards Estate Pinot noir 09
by Rusty Gaffney
Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Reserved, but attractive perfume of raspberries and black cherries. A well-crafted wine that is refined and supple in the mouth, offering a vivid explosion of raspberry fruit that lingers until the next sip. The fruit seems "alive." Outstanding. 13.5% alc.