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Eyrie Pinot Meunier 1997
Today, his son Jason manages the The Eyrie Vineyards. The philosophy and style have not changed. The vineyards are farmed organic, vines are old, yields kept low, yeasts are native, alcohols low, acids balanced, winemaking non-interventist, new oak very minimal to non-existant. The achievement is ageworthy, characterful wines of finesse, elegance and food friendliness. The Eyrie Vineyards was named for the home (eye-ree) of red-tailed hawks that share the Lett's vineyard land in the Dundee Hills.
One of Pinot Noir’s most successful New World outposts, the Willamette Valley is the largest and most important AVA in Oregon. With a temperate climate moderated by a Pacific Ocean influence, it is perfect for cool-climate viticulture—warm and dry summers allow for steady, even ripening, and frost is rarely a risk during spring and even winter. Mountain ranges bordering three sides of the valley, particularly the Chehalem Mountains, provide the option for higher-elevation, cooler vineyard sites. The three prominent soil types here create significant differences in wine styles between 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. The silty loess found in the Chehalem Mountains, somewhere in between the other two in texture, is fertile and well-draining but erodes easily, creating challenges for growers but necessitating careful vineyard management.
The celebrated Pinot Noir of the Willamette Valley typically offers supple red fruit, especially cranberry, without the powerful punch often packed by its California counterparts. Elegance is paramount here, and fruit flavors are balanced by forest floor, wild mushroom, and dried herbs—much more in line with Burgundian examples of the variety. Chardonnay too takes its inspiration from the French motherland, focusing on tart, crisp fruit and minerality, rarely relying upon heavy new oak. Pinot Gris here is fleshy and bright, and Riesling is dry, aromatic, and citrus-focused.
This late budding and early ripening red variety, while once planted extensively throughout northern France, is today almost exclusively used in Champagne, France. In Champagne’s two or three varietal blend, 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. Not surprisingly, it does well in Germany where it goes by Müllerrebe or confusingly, Schwarzriesling. You can also find it in other cooler climate wine zones such as the German-speaking Switzerland, Austria, and even Victoria, Australia.
Though we don’t often see it bottled on its own, there are a handful of California and French producers—pretty much anywhere sparkling wine is made—who do. As a red wine, it is light bodied and light in color, but with a bold nose of cocoa, espresso, black cherry and smoke. Sweet spice and red berry fruit back up the firm structure in a Pinot Meunier.