a taste of history from Eyrie
Storyteller Wine Company
I have never tasted a wine quite like this. It's extraordinary, compelling juice and I am sincerely concerned that whatever I type here will not do it justice. It's not a wine that should exist in the Willamette Valley. Instead it's the kind of wine I'd expect to find in a dank, dark cellar in some obscure mountain village in northern Italy or the Jura. And there's only one winery in America that could pull this off: Eyrie.

2011 The Eyrie Vineyards Original Vine Pinot Gris (32.00)

Back in the mid 1960's David and Diana Lett plunked down 450.00 and purchased 20 acres of land in the Red Hills of Dundee. Today that may look like an outrageously low amount of money to pay for 40 acres of land but it was probably a sobering sum to a traveling text book salesman with a wife and two baby boys. After the hillside was stripped of scrub brush and poison oak, the land was named The Eyrie Vineyards because of two red tailed hawks that would float overhead as David and Diana planted grape vines. Amongst all the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, David decided to plant a small plot of Pinot Gris vines. The year was 1967 and by 1970 David Lett introduced the very first bottle of Pinot Gris ever produced in America. This is the first time an Eyrie cuvée made solely with grapes from those original vines has ever been released to the public.

According to Jason Lett, his dad used to experiment with making different cuvées made with grapes from the original Pinot Gris vines. They would be shared with friends and family but they were never released to the public as a separate bottling. As Jason Lett described to wine writer Elaine Brown (Hawk Wakawaka Wine reviews), these cuvées were "delicious." So when Jason was trying to come up with a way to pay tribute to the original Eyrie Pinot Gris vines he came up with the idea to make this wine. Trust me, this is not your average Pinot Gris*.

Jason didn't want anything to come between your palate and the flavor of the grapes from those 46-year old vines. So this wine was given the traditional Eyrie Pinot Gris treatment of all stainless steel with the wine resting on the lees until was bottled. The twist is he decided to go sans soufre and not add any sulfur to the wine. I don't want to get into a discussion of natural winemaking here, I instead prefer to dwell on the awesomeness of this particular wine. It is as if the essence of Pinot Gris has been captured and distilled in a bottle and I have literally been up most of the night thinking about this wine. This wine is for all those folks I hear talking about how they think Willamette Valley Pinot Gris is uniform and boring. If anybody tells me they think this wine is boring I am going to (a) check their pulse and (b) if they are actually alive I will then slap them upside the head.

When I sat down to taste this wine I was expecting an oxidative style, something similar to a lot of white wines I've had from the Jura region of France, northern Italy and Slovenia. And sure, there's the slightest trace of that on the nose but this is no "orange wine." The color of the wine is as golden as a moonbeam and the nose shows off exotic notes of white peach, Mirabelle plum, a mild saline "sea breeze" kind of note and a something that reminded me of the esters from an amazing wheat beer. But what really stood out to me was the icy citrus character of the wine's aromatics. There's a laser beam of lemon peel on the nose and the thing that immediately popped into my head when I took my first sniff was "icy citrus." I've never used the word "icy" before when describing a wine's aromatics but boy does that capture what it's like to smell this wine. "Pinot granita" is what I wrote down in my tasting notes. It's a cold, crisp kind of sensation, the aromatic equivalent of dipping your feet into a cold mountain stream on a hot summer day. The only time I have ever smelled anything remotely like this wine is when a friend smuggled a distilled spirit made with yellow Mirabelle plums to me from Germany. 

My head was reeling after 20 minutes of swirling this wine in a glass and chatting with a few colleagues about all the things we could pick up on its nose. But then came the first few sips and everybody got very quiet. The yellow fruit aromas repeat on the palate in a big way, along with that fresh, crisp sea breeze effect and a touch of lemon verbena. But there was something else going on here and I couldn't quite pin it down. It was chalky and definitely mineral related, but it was also very familiar. Then I got back to my office and I read Elaine Brown's tasting note for this wine. She wrote "(t)he palate moves as well. There is a stimulating vitamin buzz through the mouth carrying into a long soil and saline finish."  Remember those chewable vitamins you loved to eat as a kid? If the folks at Bayer had ever made a B-12 Flintstone's chewable, that's what I would be tasting here. The 2011 The Eyrie Vineyards Original Vines Pinot Gris is profound juice, and I don't use that word in a newsletter very often. 

Jason Lett only made about 150 or so cases of this wine and there are 45 cases allocated for all the restaurants and wine shops in the entire state of Oregon to fight over.  As much as I hate to do this kind of thing, it means I have to place a six-bottle limit on any orders for this wine. But I will make you the following offer: if you order a six-pack of this truly "one of a kind" wine the price will be 180.00 for six bottles. If you are interested in discovering how pure and amazing Willamette Valley Pinot Gris can get, you will not want to miss out on ordering this wine. And if you are one of those folks who steers clear of Oregon Pinot Gris, this one bottle could be your "game changer." There's only one way to find out for sure though.

Friday Night Wine Tasting, April 19th, 6:00-9:00PM: Georgia (and Lapierre and Pinks) on My Mind!

This Friday promises to dazzle even the most jaded palate. First off, we will have two new wines from the Republic of Georgia and neither of them are from Pheasant's Tears. Nothing wrong with the pheasant wines but I'm excited because these two wines are brand spanking new to us. In addition to the Georgian entries, there will be a very nice French rosé (also a new arrival), the Eyrie wine mentioned in this newsletter and the return of the prodigal pink, the 2012 Ameztoi "Rubentis" Rosé Getariako Txakolina. This Basque pink is always a favorite and our allocation is sure to be gone by the end of the evening. The "super pour" (for a modest 5.00 fee) will be the 2011 Lapierre Morgon "Cuvee Marcel." The rest of the tasting, however, will be free of charge.

Saturday Wine Events, April 20th, 10:00AM-5:00PM

We will be open this Saturday to chat and sell wine. Heck, I'm sure we will have some tasty leftovers from Friday night's tasting for you to sip on while you shop. So forget the garden for an hour or so and come on down!

Wine Dinner April 29th, 7:00PM start time  the West Coast All Stars!

On April 29th there will be a wine dinner and all out party at Sauvage. That's right, a Monday night wine dinner. Who is crazy enough to put on a wine dinner on a Monday night? We are. And why aren't we worried? Because it's an all-star lineup of three of our favorite West Coast winemakers: Steve Edmunds of Edmunds St. John, Scott Frank of Bow & Arrow and Jesse Skiles of Fausse Piste.

And boy does this dinner promise to over deliver. For a mere 50.00 per ticket (all inclusive) you get 4 courses and 11 wines. That's right, 11 dynamite wines and four courses at Sauvage. For fifty bucks. Heck, when you walk in the door you are going to get to try Steve Edmunds' latest vintage of Bone Jolly Rosé (Gamay Noir) side-by-side with Scott's first vintage ever of Gamay Noir Rosé and Jesse Skiles' brand new Fausse Piste Rosé.

If you would like to attend this dinner merely respond to this email or give us a call to reserve seats.

Michael Alberty
Head Storyteller   

* Local sommelier Jeff Vejr (Sauvage) tasted this wine yesterday and wrote the following note to me on Facebook: "I had the pleasure of tasting this wine yesterday. It is unlike any other PG that I have ever had from Oregon. More in common with the "Clos de Sacres" from Joly in the Loire." Yes folks, this wine is that good! 

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