Willamette Valley – Strong Candidates for Aging
At the end of last year Jason Lett of Eyrie in the Willamette Valley and I sat down for lunch. He brought with him two bottles to taste, both a bit of a risk because of their age, but they were chosen partially for that reason. I’d told him I wanted to talk about the ageability of Willamette Valley wine so he selected two very old bottles.
Eyrie not only helped start the region’s wine industry. Founder David Lett famously saved an extensive stock of his Eyrie wine all the way back to the inaugural vintage of 1970. In 2009, just a year after David Lett died, his wife Diana and their son Jason hosted a retrospective tasting of Eyrie wines back to their first vintage to help show how well wines from the area age. (I have always envied Jancis being at the tasting, though we can revel together in her report on the event.) Then, for the fiftieth anniversary of Eyrie in 2015, they hosted this tasting with an admittedly smaller selection of wines from across their then four decades. I was able to attend that tasting. There was a flight for each decade that included successful examples of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris in each.
Jason has also created a means of checking and resealing these older vintages to ensure that any leaving the winery for sale are sound. As a result, if older Eyrie is seen on a restaurant wine list it can be enjoyed as it likely got there after being guaranteed. Through their diligence in preserving such an extensive library of wine, and making them available to taste, the Lett family has demonstrated not only the ageability of their own wines, but also their region. Ageability is one of the hallmarks of the world’s truly great wines.
For our lunch, Jason intentionally selected two wines he had not certified so we could share the uncertainty of opening an old bottle. He also chose a variety many claim is too delicate to age beyond a few years, and that had not been …
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