The Eyrie Vineyards was founded by David Lett in 1965. He arrived convinced that the valley would offer Pinot noir its best home outside Burgundy, and planted the region’s first grapes in the modern era.
Jason Lett continues Eyrie’s innovative legacy today, introducing new varieties and creating what the Wine Advocate calls “some of the most fascinating wines on the planet.”
One of Pinot Noir's most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a continental climate moderated by the influence of the Pacific Ocean, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture and the production of elegant wines.
Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation vineyard sites.
The valley's three prominent soil types (volcanic, sedimentary and silty, loess) make it unique and create significant differences in wine styles among its vineyards and sub-AVAs. The iron-rich, basalt-based, Jory volcanic soils found commonly in the Dundee Hills are rich in clay and hold water well; the chalky, sedimentary soils of Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton and McMinnville encourage complex root systems as vines struggle to search for water and minerals. In the most southern stretch of the Willamette, the Eola-Amity Hills sub-AVA soils are mixed, shallow and well-drained. The Hills' close proximity to the Van Duzer Corridor (which became its own appellation as of 2019) also creates grapes with great concentration and firm acidity, leading to wines that perfectly express both power and grace.
Though Pinot noir enjoys the limelight here, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay also thrive in the Willamette. Increasing curiosity has risen recently in the potential of others like Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc and Gamay.
Almost exclusively used in the production of Champagne, Pinot Meunier is a late budding and early ripening red variety that was once planted extensively throughout northern France. When blended into Champagne’s eponymous sparkling wine, Pinot Meunier adds lively fruit. Chardonnay adds brightness and Pinot Noir is appreciated for structure and weight. Pinot Meunier has acidity levels higher than in Pinot Noir, making it a prized choice for Champagne growers. It thrives in cool north-facing vineyards and is able to withstand damp or frost-prone valleys. Somm Secret—Not surprisingly, it does well in Germany where it goes by Müllerrebe or confusingly, Schwarzriesling.