Four from Eyrie

Hello friends. I mentioned in our Brittan offering a few weeks ago that one of the joys of Oregon Pinot Camp was the joy of discovery. No less important, however, was the opportunity to strengthen bonds with several of the classic wineries of the Willamette Valley.

And it doesn’t get any more classic than The Eyrie Vineyards.

I have written about Eyrie often, and at length. Our inaugural Oregon offering was for Eyrie wines. Our final offering of 2011 was a thrilling dip into the Eyrie library caves. This is a special winery for anyone who cares deeply about Oregon wine and its history.

One of the real treats of OPC was getting to walk the original Eyrie Vineyard plantings with Jason Lett (see picture; I’m second from the left; Jason is dead center, back row, hat, shades, turquoise shirt; the tree from Eyrie’s iconic label, the one that hosted the eagle’s nest that gave the winery its name, is right behind us). Jason knows that piece of land the way a parent knows a child, and treats it with the same tenderness. He’s managing the near-impossible dual feat of carrying on a family tradition while carving out space for his own vision, and doing it with a preternatural sense of calm and equanimity.

Today we’re going to offer four Eyrie wines: two new releases from the high-quality, low-yield 2010 vintage, along with a two-year mini-vertical of the Reserve Chardonnay (more on that below):

2010 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris

By the time everyone realizes how beautiful the 2010 vintage was in Oregon, the best wines will be long-since sold out. The best of 2010 will be split between the birds, who decimated the late-hanging, cool-vintage grapes, and we humans who act decisively on low yields that the birds left us.

To that end, you’re going to see me jump in soon after release for some of the finer 2010s, and that’s certainly the case with Eyrie.

This Pinot Gris comes from those old vineyard rows we walked (here is another picture), and to sample vines this old at a tariff this low is an uncommon pleasure, especially in the new world. This drinks quite dry, with wonderful intensity and depth of character. Eyrie wines are never fruit bombs, and that’s the case here, marrying noteworthy minerality to more subtle fruits: pluot, melon, kiwi. This is a fine reminder that, of all the Pinots to pair with salmon, one can make a compelling argument that Gris is king of the heap, above even the more traditional Noir.

Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt): “($15); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

2010 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir

This hasn’t even arrived in Seattle yet. That’s how early I want to get in on it. But fear not: this is not a months-long pre-arrival. It should show up later this week, or maybe next.

Classicists like Jason Lett have to love a vintage like 2010. Even though there isn’t much to go around, the quality is outstanding. This was a cooler vintage rescued by a warm, sunny October. Grapes were able to hang on the vines forever, picking up terrific flavor at low-to-moderate Brix. The resulting wines (the best from the vintage, anyway) have a shimmering quality, a transparency to the red and black fruits, and a taut acid spine suggestive of a long, long aging curve ahead. A fascinating comparison in 10-15 years will be to look at the 2008s, whose structure is more tannin-based, and the 2010s (more acid-based). Pick your poison: both vintages are killing it.

You could certainly drink a wine like this now, for its fresh red Dundee Hills fruit, its minty freshness, its nervy acid. But each successive month, each successive year will yield untold glories for the patient. Immediate gratification or delayed gratification? Why choose? Grab enough bottles to try both.

The only publication to weigh in so far is Tanzer’s IWC. Please recall that these guys are ascetics when it comes to scoring, and focus on the content of the tasting note, which is lovely:

Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (Josh Raynolds): “($35); [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”
A quick note on these Chardonnays: Among the most incredible wines I tasted during Oregon Pinot Camp were older Eyrie Reserve Chardonnays. Pre-OPC, I had already tried the ’91, ’96, and ’01. At OPC, I had the chance to taste the ’89, and then on the last day, the ’83. Pushing 30 years old, it was still very much alive, a deep-golden hazelnut-mineral-earth nectar, one of the most compelling liquids to pass these lips.

All that to say: don’t drink these wines young. You can’t have it both ways as a winemaker. You can’t make a white to age 30 years and expect that it will offer much in its youth. That’s true here, and so this is the rare instance where I’m not going to provide tasting notes, because they’re meaningless. I don’t want anyone reading a tasting note and feeling any temptation to try these any time before 2020.

Similarly, I’m not going to include professional reviews, even though both vintages have positive notes. Eyrie Reserve Chardonnay is a leap of faith: trust in a multi-generational tradition of stewardship of a small piece of land, trust that these caterpillars will become butterflies if you let them sleep.

You’ll thank me later.

2008 Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay Original Vines Reserve

Generally considered a great vintage in Oregon, this has the potential to be among the longest-lived wines produced by Eyrie.

2009 Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay Original Vines Reserve

Generally considered a warmer vintage, this will have a plusher texture and should be more forgiving in its youth.

First come first served up to 12 bottles of the Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. The Chardonnays are available in much smaller quantities, so please limit order requests to 3 bottles of each, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. All the wines should arrive in the next week or two, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

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