Monday, October 13th, 2008
I sat down at my desk this morning with a million things to do. I began with a quick review of emails to check for overnight emergencies. And there I saw the headline "...Eyrie Founder David Lett Dies". "It can't be" was my first reaction. David Lett, the fun, curmudgeonly driving force behind Oregon wines, and producer of my favorite Oregon Pinot. He was only 69, which at my age, seems far too young to be called home. (Read the full story in the Oregonian)
For those unfamiliar with his history, it was David's third-place wine in the 1979 international competition that put Oregon Pinot on the map, and attracted the attention of Burgundian producers such as Joseph Drouhin, whose daughter now runs the family's Oregon winery.
David and I weren't friends, or even acquaintances. I like to think it was a potential friendship thwarted by geography rather than temperament or politics. I thoroughly enjoyed the Lett's and their wines during our two very brief encounters. Both took place at 'Society of Wine Educators' events held in Oregon, where photos and stories of the Letts seasoned many of the presentations by local vintners and growers. David was always memorable, as were his wines.
I met the Lett's during the mass tasting, humbly serving their wines, which stood out even among the impressive line-up. In the sea of increasingly sweet and extracted wine that is today's pinot noir market, Eyrie pinots remain elegant, food-friendly and Burgundian - a delightful departure from today's fad wines.
My sadness at today's news is because I admire what David accomplished, and the way that he did it. I'll miss the twinkle in his eye as he delivers a comment, wry and dry. He will be missed. I can only hope that his wines will continue.
I read that Eyrie Vineyards will continue under the direction of David's son, Jason (left). I send my condolences, warm regards and best wishes for his continued success. And, not to meddle or anything, but I also send my sincere hope that he continues to craft wines in the delightful and elegant style pioneered by his father.
For those who wish to help me pay tribute to David, I reprint here from his family's death notice:
"David cared deeply for the land and for his family. In lieu of flowers or gifts, David’s legacy can be memorialized through gifts to “1000 Friends of Oregon”, his favorite land-use advocacy organization, or “Families United”, a local non-profit that supports assisted living for adults with autism and other developmental disabilities."
"Diana asked me a couple of weeks ago, “What would you have done differently?” And the fact of the matter is, I would have done it the same way."
~ David Lett, Eyrie Vineyards (1939 - 2008)