Episode 478 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features Jason Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Jason is both a co-owner and the winemaker at The Eyrie Vineyards.
David Lett was the first person to plant Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley, a move that would eventually transform that region and bring worldwide acclaim to the winemaking there. But convincing the world of something new is one thing. Convincing your teenage son of the same thing is another. Jason Lett is open in this interview about the difficulty that he and his father faced over the years in bridging a communication gap, and what that has meant for the business at Eyrie. “Business is hard,” says Jason, “family is hard. And when you put business and family together, it is really hard.” There is plenty of discussion in this interview about the difficulties of following a famous father, but there is also, and this is the unsual and capivating aspect of the conversation, a repeated emphasis on the topic of what makes a good winemaker. What are the qualities that a good winemaker should possess? Clearly this is a question that has lingered in Jason’s mind, and one that he frequently returns to. To some extent he has probably observed other winemakers in the search for inspiration, and in another sense he has perhaps wondered at times if he himself measures up to his own yardstick for a good winemaker. The result in this discussion is a sensitive characterization of the important qualities in the wine life. Not the supposed important ones, but the real qualities that see a winemaker and a farmer through the difficulties of one season and into the next. “That’s the one thing that you learn from Biology,” states Jason, “is that if something isn’t changing, it’s dying.” If you have ever wondered how an engagement with wine can profoundly change someone’s life, this interview is for you.
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I’ll Drink to That is the world’s most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @leviopenswine