David and Dianna Lett First vineyards in Willamette Valley

1966 - David and Dianna Lett First vineyards in Willamette Valley

David Lett and his wife Diana planted 13 acres of vines in the Eyrie Vineyard, a former prune orchard in the Dundee Hills. David Lett was in San Francisco awaiting the start of dental school when a road trip to the Napa Valley wine region resulted in a realization that would change his life. Lett was raised on a farm in Utah and received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Utah in 1961. David went to Souverain Cellars, one of the few California vineyards at the time making high-quality still dry wines. He was so moved by J. Leland “Lee” Stewart, the company’s founder and winemaker, that he would later say, “I turned winewards.” He was given the opportunity to work at the winery, but because of his parents’ encouragement, he decided to enroll in a two-year enology and viticulture school at the University of California, Davis.

When David was a student at Davis, he discovered Pinot Noir, a grape variety that was almost entirely farmed in the Burgundy region of northern France at the time. At that time, nearly no one in America had ever heard of it. Despite this, he remained committed to exploring possibilities for cultivating and producing Pinot Noir and came to believe that the peculiar climate of Oregon’s Willamette Valley may be suited for doing so. Despite the widespread belief at the time that Oregon was unsuitable for the successful production of European wine grapes, this decision was made.

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