I’ve seen the pictures, and heard many of the stories, but it’s hard to truly imagine the realities that David Lett and the other pioneers who followed faced when they boldly ventured into the Willamette Valley with a few grapevines and a vision 50 years ago. Conventional wisdom at the time was that wine grapes could not be grown here, it was supposed to be too cold and too wet. (Yet another reminder to not rely too heavily on conventional wisdom!)
Everything great was probably started by someone who was told that whatever it is they wanted to do “could not work”. We owe a huge debt to the Letts, Eraths, Sokol-Blossers, Jim and Loie Maresh, Adelsheims, Ponzis and all who blazed the trail for us here. Then came the Drouhin family from Burgundy, who put Oregon on the world wine map and validated the potential for great wines from our hillsides.
That the Willamette Valley is now a known entity for world-class Pinot Noir is an amazing achievement in just 50 years. The many waves of vintners that came before us worked tirelessly, hell they still work tirelessly, to promote first and foremost “Brand Oregon”. We humbly acknowledge that we have been the fortunate beneficiaries of all of their hard work.
The trail was already blazed when we started 15 years ago. There were about 200 wineries in Oregon at that point. There are over 600 today. 600! That means 400 more dreamers started after we did, and the list keeps growing seemingly exponentially. We are proud to be part of the amazing Oregon wine community. Proud to have had the pleasure to know “Papa Pinot” himself, David Lett, and to have had the chance to buy grapes from one of his vineyards when we were starting out here.
And somehow it feels like we’re still at the beginning of something that will be even greater. All of the investment here from the big boys in California and France points to a very robust future indeed for Oregon wine as a whole. We’re looking forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of great wines in the Willamette Valley, and tasting some of those amazing bottles from the early days. Come check out our 2000 Cuvée Martha Pirrie as part of a special flight we’re pouring in Carlton on March 14th! (Of course conventional wisdom is that New World Pinot doesn’t age well, you know…)