Harry Peterson-Nedry Archives - Please The Palate
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I have the good fortune of meeting lots of winemakers. I have met some of the icons in the industry, people who helped establish their regions and set trends. But, when I was in the Willamette Valley as part of the Wine Writers Educational Tour, we attended a seminar with the Willamette Valley wine pioneers. This was not just a discussion of the people or a tasting of their wines but they, the original wine pioneers of the Willamette Valley, were there. It was not lost on me how legendary this panel was. These are the people who built the Willamette Valley and they shared their stories which I wrote about in the Napa Valley Register and you can read here. “It takes a village to raise a child. This is my village and I am the kid,” declared Jason Lett as he welcomed a group of wine writers to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Jason’s father, David Lett, first saw the potential of Pinot Noir in Oregon.
A Utah native, David Lett moved to San Francisco for dental school in 1963 and was introduced to Napa Valley. He decided instead to study viticulture at UC Davis and after graduating, he moved to Oregon. According to Willamette Valley Wine, Pinot Noir was the first post-Prohibition vitis vinifera variety planted in the north Willamette Valley and the reason Lett came to Oregon. After studying the geography and climate of western Oregon, he had an idea of what would do well in the cool climate. Lett planted his vines in the Dundee Hills, establishing the Eyrie Vineyard, and produced his first wine in 1970.
As Jason spoke about his father, he sat alongside Richard and Nancy Ponzi, David Adelsheim, Harry Peterson-Nedry and Susan Sokol-Blosser.
I traveled to the Willamette Valley in Oregon this past week for my first time. I have been to Portland but had never explored the neighboring wine region until now. But, my first trip there already has me planning my next trip. I tasted so many delicious wines, met so many winemakers and heard so many stories. And throughout it all, I felt welcomed and at home with the warm community and that is why the people and the wines of Willamette Valley are the Please The Palate pick of the week. I am blessed to travel to wine regions around the world and meet winemakers. Every where I go, I meet friendly people who are driven by passion. But there was something palpable in the sense of community among the winemakers of Willamette Valley. The Willamette Valley is more than 100 miles long and spans 60 miles at its widest point. It is located between Oregon's Cascade Mountains and the Coastal Range. There are approximately 3,438,000 acres of vines planted and more than 500 wineries. As the Willamette Valley has grown, it has become difficult for winemakers to all know each other. Of course, they all feel that the source of their grapes is the ideal location but they share a general love and respect for the entire region. And despite not knowing each other, there is admiration and respect for each other and a sense of community and pride. Throughout the week, I was struck by some of the thoughts shared by the winemakers I met. There is Stephen Hagen of Antiquum Farm who feels his wines are "intense expressions of who we are and where we are."