2009 Eyrie Vineyards, Original Vines Reserve Pinot Noir
There’s a picture on the Eyrie Vineyards website of a young David Lett holding two armloads of grape cuttings, newly arrived in Oregon at the age of 25 to chase a dream of making Pinot Noir. That was 1965. David went on to earn the respected nickname, “Papa Pinot,” for his lifelong work establishing Pinot Noir as not just a viable, but a premier grape for the Willamette Valley. Just over a decade after that photo was taken, Lett’s 1975 Oregon Pinot Noir placed in the top ten at the Wine Olympiad in Paris, and shortly after that, came in second at a subsequent wine competition in Beaune, placing Oregon firmly on the international wine map. And, while David sadly passed away in 2008, those vines, the first Pinot planted in the Willamette Valley, still thrive in their original site, and their fruit goes into Eyrie’s Original Vines Pinot Noir. The vines are grown on their own rootstock and reflect the complexity that can only come with vine age. Eyrie’s Original Vines Pinot is stylish and subtle, with great depth of character and a distinct sense of place. David turned the vineyard management and winemaking over to his son Jason in 2005, who has very ably continued the family legacy and preserved the “Eyrie style.” Eyrie wines are typically approachable when young, but also quite ageworthy, and always noted for their pure varietal flavors. The 2009 Original Vines Reserve Pinot is classic Eyrie: elegant, refined, and finessed. All this flavor, style, and history, for $62. Enjoy it with a special meal.
2009 J. Scott Cellars, Syrah
Jonathan Scott Oberlander’s career path is not atypical of many winemakers: get a degree and start a career in something else (in his case business); fall in love with wine and succumb to the lure of winemaking; abandon first career and start learning to make wine. That second chapter, too, generally follows a predictable path: get some academic training (in Jonathan’s case, a Master’s Degree in Enology from U.C. Davis); land first winemaking job (…at Bernardus Vineyards in Monterey); and rise through the ranks, perhaps to assistant winemaker. The final step: go to where your winemaking heart calls you—in his case, Eugene, Oregon, in the southern Willamette Valley. Which is where Jonathan arrived in 2005. By day, he is winemaker at Silvan Ridge, but his personal project is his own winery J. Scott Cellars. He and his wife Bonnie currently make wine from purchased fruit, while they wait for their estate vineyard, planted entirely to Pinot Noir, to develop fully. One of the wines they produce is this Syrah, which happens to be sourced from Rogue Valley fruit. The Rogue Valley, Oregon’s most southerly wine region, is perfectly suited to growing Rhône varietals, such as Syrah, and this one has great structure, without the heat and intensity Syrah can sometimes get when grown in hotter regions. With its excellent balance and minerality, this is a great food wine, especially for pork, or lighter meat dishes. It is $25 and ready to drink any time.