When I traveled to Portland, Oregon last summer for the Society of Wine Educators conference, I was sure to find loads of Pinot Noir that I found interesting and even some Pinot Gris. What I hadn’t expected was how much of the Chardonnay I would like. Today’s Wine Wednesday is about one of those wines made with Chardonnay that I found surprising and delicious from the Eyrie Vineyards winery. This winery was founded by the pioneer of the Oregon wine industry, David Lett.
In February 1965, some 53 years ago, Lett rented a temporary nursery plot near Corvallis, and planted the 3000 vinifera grape cuttings he gathered from UC Davis. These were the first plantings of Pinot noir and Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley.
After much exploration, Lett decided that Dundee Hills had the right combination of soils and climate for his grapes with the correct exposition and altitude. In 1966, they planted the first vines. This vineyard is one of the winery’s five estate vineyards today.
Jason Lett is the winemaker and the son of the founder. He considers himself a steward of the land and the wines certainly show that level of care. The one I tasted was the Chardonnay Original Vines 2014. The vines are not-irrigated and have no herbicides, systemic chemicals or insecticides. When harvested, the grapes are gently destemmed, crushed and pressed in slow cycles. The wine ferments in mostly neutral French oak barrels and ages in their cellar for one year on the lees.
The wine ferments on its natural yeasts. It was a beautiful example of a chardonnay with creamy apple notes, brioche and toast. It also had ripe apple and pear and floral undertones on the nose and palate. Despite the fact that 2014 was one of the hottest years on record, the wine was nicely balanced and fresh. It had enough acidity to keep it from becoming flabby and a very long and beautiful finish. Definitely a keeper, I wish I had a bottle with me right now.