Q. You came back to The Eyrie Vineyards full time in 2005?The first vintage I remember was 1973, but I was quite young at the time. I worked with my father all the way until I was 17. That summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to go to France and be with Becky Wasserman for a month, and also to spend time with the Drouhin family and work in their cellars. After I came back, as a teenager I was ready to move on to other things, and I moved away from the family domaine for 10 years. I came back in 1997, very much because the vines felt like siblings, and I missed my family. My father and I kind of danced around for years, and it wasn’t until 2005 when I was finally handed the keys and told that ‒ there’s only one decision in winemaking that’s worth making ‒ I could decide when to pick, and I date my tenure here as Eyrie’s caretaker.Q. And so you see your role as a caretaker in a generational view?Yes, you know my father was a pioneer, and that takes a special kind of energy. He had the whole world to choose from, and looked all over for where to plant Pinot Noir. When I came on the vines were planted, so my energies and the energies of the people I work with in this generation are much more geared towards how do we keep the domaine moving forward? How do we evolve what’s here? How do we caretake the land and the people who work here in the most responsible way possible?I had three major things to do in order to continue the legacy of Eyrie Vineyards before I could retire. I started late, I was 35, so I only have 25 years to do them and that’s not a lot in the scale of a wine business. The first was, my father left behind a library of really delightful wines, but really no way to sell them because of cork issues, determining which bottles are going to be good to sell. That was a big technical hurdle to overcome, and I feel like we’re very close. The new closures we are using are working superbly, and we’ve already started releasing library wines and they’re aging really well.The second challenge is all of our vines are franc de pied, which means they’re ungrafted and on their own roots. That was a fine decision in the mid-1960s when my father came here and phylloxera wasn’t present in Western Oregon. By the time I came on, we were starting to see phylloxera in the vineyards. While the spread has been slow because of our approach to vineyard management, it’s something we need to work with. We’re doing extensive testing with rootstock, and as we plant new acreage each planting becomes a little laboratory where we’re trying to find out which rootstocks conform best to the way we like to farm. My preference would be to plant on original roots, so I’m trying to find rootstocks that most closely mimic the relationship with the environment that franc de pied vines have. I’d like to replace 4% per year but it’s been difficult to find the time to get those vines in.The logo on the wineryThe third is the winery was built in the late 1940s, and never really intended to be a winery and contain 90% humidity, decade after decade. It is a bit too small for us, and I’m worried structurally whether we can continue to make wine here for another 50 years, so I need to build a new winery. My plan was to break ground on a new tasting room to help fund the new winery in March 2020. With COVID, that’s on hold for now.One day in the Eyrie Vineyard Why did you introduce single vineyard Pinots?We make about the same amount of wine as we did in my father’s day, which is about 9,000 cases a year. The difference is my father made 7 wines, and I make 22. First, I wanted to introduce new varieties he never made like Trousseau, Melon de Bourgogne and Chasselas. I wanted to try new techniques, for example we have a sparkling wine now. In the past we used to blend all our Pinot Noir together to make an estate Pinot Noir, plus two single vineyard Pinot Noirs from The Eyrie. However, once these other wines were bottled I lost the ability to understand how those sites aged, what was so special about each site over time, how they respond to challenges like phylloxera and climate, so I had to bottle single vineyards just for myself. And it was such an interesting exercise I thought others might enjoy it as well. It’s a small project of a couple of hundred cases from each vineyard with the exception of The Eyrie and The Sisters which are about 400 cases a year.Map of The Eyrie VineyardsQ. Can you briefly run through the different expressions of your 5 vineyards for Pinot Noir.3 things happen as you go up in elevation in the Dundee Hills. The soil changes. It gets windier the higher we go, and it gets colder. At about 80 meters of elevation is where you are able to start growing fine Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley. Below 80 meters and you’ll find rich soils recently deposited in the glacial era, the vines are beautifully lush and high yielding, but not very flavourful.Sisters Vineyard （map①）is at 80 meters elevation vineyard, a mixture of the native Dundee Hills volcanic soil with a thin layer of glacial sedimentary soil on top, and is ‘the most Pinotesque expression of Pinot’. Because it really doesn’t have a huge character of its own, it’s a great place to express very small differences in things like rootstock, which is why I do my rootstock trials at Sisters. So Sisters is just a beautiful, pure expression of Pinot Noir. The Eyrie （map②）is the next highest vineyard at about 100 meters, moving a little further off the glacial soils, and it’s where the 52 and 57 year old vines are.Right next to The Eyrie is Outcrop Vineyard（map③）, with the same elevation and soil mixtures, but it is only 25 years old, so the comparison between the two is really fascinating to understand what older vines bring to the mix.Moving up, Roland Green Farm Vineyard map④）is at 200 meters elevation, in 100 per cent volcanic soil, and quite muscular. It is impacted by the afternoon winds from the coast, cooler than the lower vineyards, with moderate yields.Finally, at the very highest elevation of 280 meters, Daphne Vineyard （map⑤）is almost like a bonsai vineyard. It is so wind affected ‒ bud break, bloom and harvest all come 10 days later than any of the other sites ‒ the soil is quite thin, the vines small in stature, the clusters small, and the fruit expression is really intense, with very high acidities but also very high extract.To me it is fascinating to guide people through a tasting of the single vineyards, and go from the very suave and elegant Sisters Vineyard which is so expressive of Pinot Noir, to look at the difference between old vines and young vines in the Outcrop/Eyrie interface, and then start exploring what happens when you go up on the volcanic soils, finally ending at Daphne which is such a particular place and expression.The Eyrie VineyardsQ. Do you have a special approach to Pinot Gris?Pinot Gris responds well to the same things as Pinot Noir. It doesn’t want to be heavily yielded, irrigated, or over-fertilized. Once it comes into the winery, our approach is very straight-forward, we always let the fermentation curve be natural and get as warm as it wants, 23, 25, 27°C. But we do something unique, which is after fermentation the wine is left to age on lees for 11 months. In the same way that Pinot Noir appreciates more time in the barrel, Pinot Gris appreciates its aging vessel, which in our case is a small stainless steel tank.Q. What is your approach to Chardonnay, which is one of your original wines?I love to make Chardonnay, it’s a fascinating grape, and more malleable than Pinot Noir ‒ it allows itself to be made. Unfortunately too many Chardonnays bear the heavy thumbprint of the winemaker - residual sugar, too much oak, and emulsified textures. Chardonnay achieves the highest expression when it’s left to express itself, which is what I try to do. I continue to work with Chardonnay vines from the 1960s, and augmented them with a planting in the Sisters Vineyard from 2013. The older vines have a real elegance and a depth of expression. They are not shy in any way, even though their alcohols are low and acidity is fairly high. They have a presence, fleshiness and opulence in the expression of the grape. Whereas the Estate expression is a bit more lively, not as dimensionally complex, and more refreshing.Q. Have you got room to expand on a long-term basis?We have 50 hectares of land in total, but only 25 is planted. Leaving the forest intact, that leaves 15 hectares I can plant. My plan is not to get bigger, but to plant the new land to replace what we lose as phylloxera goes through the older vines, so that we stay at the 9,000 ‒ 10,000 case level every year.Q. Where would you like to see The Eyrie Vineyards heading in the future?I’d like to see The Eyrie continue to be what it has been and is now, which is always willing to assume risk, to try new things and explore new territory, but at the same time really focusing on the quality and making sure every expression of every variety we grow is classic in its way.Q. Do you have another generation coming on?I have children, three daughters, and like me they make pocket money working in the winery. And like me they are all very eager to get off the farm and explore the world. And who knows, like me they might come back.Celebrating the 48th harvest of 2017A YouTube video “The pioneer of Oregon” introduces the journey which The Eyrie Vineyards and the Lett’s have been on in Willamette Valley (Japanese subtitles only)《From Village Cellars》The Eyrie Vineyards have been with us since when we started importing US wines in 2003. When we first visited the winery, it reminded us of Yarra Valley’s Yarra Yering and Hunter Valley’s Lakes Folley. All wine pioneers seem to share the same special ambience.