Archive for the 'Les Wine and Food' Category

Remembering David Lett

Last night, my wife and I were lucky to be two of more than 700 people packed the McMinnville Community Center to honor David Lett, the Oregon wine pioneer who died in early October on the verge of what would have been his 38th Oregon wine harvest. (As with all things in the winemaking world, everything gets put on hold until the wines are safely in barrel. Thus the two month delay in scheduling the event — even David would have skipped his memorial if it had happened during harvest.)

A number of speakers remembered the man, including former Governor Barbara Roberts, winemaker David Adelsheim, and restauranteur Nick Peirano, the latter nearly choking up a number of times as he recalled his old friend. But most touching was his son Jason (pictured above), who led the crowd in a toast asking us to shout “‘Cheers’ loud enough for [his] father to hear in whatever vineyard he’s now tending.” Oh yes, I think he heard. So many lives have been touched by Lett, his irascibility, his generosity, his tenaciousness and his charm, it was — well, inspirational, I can’t think of a better word — to feel so many people bound to one another through him. In fact, probably half the people in the room would be grinding it out in different careers right now were it not for his 1965 “theory” that Pinot Noir would flourish in the soggy hills of northern Oregon.

In 2001, I was lucky enough to spend some time with him when I was completing Life in Vine, and I have about 45 minutes of an interview I did as we walked through his historic vineyard. I’m starting to cut together something out of it, but last night, as images from his life floated by on an overhead screen, I remembered one exchange in particular (embedded at right) that summed up so much about him for me.

As I begin to ask what possessed him to plant Pinot Noir, watch that grin spread across his face: He’s heard that question a thousand times before, and you can tell he’s got a witty, well-practiced response in his pocket, ready to go whenever I stop talking and let him unload it. But something happens in the course of delivering the line: its essential truth overtakes him. For Lett, Pinot Noir truly was a princess, and with all his soul, every fall for nearly four decades, he vied for her hand, more than once even winning it.

If that doesn’t make him a prince, to say nothing of a king, then I don’t know what would. Cheers, David.


David Lett 1939-2008

Sad news marking the end of an era: David Lett died Thursday of heart failure at home in Dundee.

Lett earned the nickname ‘Papa Pinot’ for introducing Pinot Noir to Oregon, for introducing Pinot Gris to the United States and, some say, for his resemblance to ‘Papa’ Ernest Hemingway, whom he resembled not just physically but also in his tough, terse, no-nonsense style.

Read more

No comments

Reprint: Crush Time

One more chance to make the perfect wine

[ Since we’re in a harvest mood, I thought I’d reprint this article I originally wrote for Imbibe Magazine in 2006. It’s a decent introduction to all the decisions winemakers need to make leading up to harvest. Whether we’ll make the same ones — or as well — remains to be seen, of course… ]

Maybe today is the day.

It’s mid-morning in Oregon, late in September, and winemaker John Paul is winding his beat-up van down a familiar dirt road through hillside vineyards, wondering how the grapes will taste today. At the edge of autumn, the sun still low in the sky, the leaves on the vines are a blaze of vermillion and gold. Outside the window, the air feels warm and clean on his hand, but there’s a brittle edge to it that only confirms the seasons are changing and harvest is near.

Like an expectant parent, Paul been feeling these and other faint contractions for weeks as the grapes arc toward ripeness. He knows the labor of crush could start any day.

Maybe today is that day. The day crush begins.

Read the rest of the article: Read more

No comments

The View from Oracle

Oracle VineyardLooking west from the lower, still-to-be-planted part of Westrey‘s Oracle Vineyard

No comments

Just Sip It

[ In honor of the new NBA World Champions, here’s a reprint of a column I wrote back in the Jordan era about basketball and wine. Check out the stars I mention — now that’s old school, baby! ]

A dark arena surrounding a gauzy, spotlit court. Everything seems slow, supercharged and saturated, almost dreamlike. Michael Jordan, lean and crouched, is facing off against some hapless guard as the ref tosses the ball skyward. Cut to a tight shot of the ball rising to the height of its arc until Jordan is just about to touch the ball. There’s the woody sound of a cork being coaxed out of a bottle, and then freeze-frame and echoy silence — maybe the distant clink-clink of full bottles — as everything stops, hanging for a moment.

Just as we can’t stand it anymore, one last squeak explodes to the intercut sound and visual of a cork popping as Jordan smacks both the ball and the camera pace into motion. Music starts — maybe Hendrix singing Dylan’s line about businessmen drinking his wine — and Jordan flows up the court and takes to the air, all grace and knowledge, super-imposed with red wine poured super slow-mo, roiling into a glass as the camera tracks a 360 around it. As Jordan nears the rim a third image of a lowering bottle of wine is superimposed, touching the ground as the ball snaps the net. Fade all but the dramatically lit bottle, and super text:

“Domaine Dunquage. Red, white, and beyond…”

Didn’t see that one during the playoffs? Neither did we, but as we wandered into sports bars, asking after their corkage fee, we began to wonder why. What is it about sports in America that has made it so inhospitable for wine, and yet so welcoming for beer and other beverages?
Read more

No comments

An idle threat

American Blog Awards voting ends at midnight tonight (March 28th), so if you’ve enjoyed reading our scrappy little blog, please consider throwing a vote toward our quixotic quest for “Best Overall Wine Blog.”

Do it, or we’ll drink this wine. Oh. Okay, do it or we’ll drink this other wine. Uh…

Here’s the ballot. Thanks!

No comments

Wining Children

Asimov posts this week on how, when, and whether to introduce minors to wine. Could it be that, as a place to learn about drinking, the family home beats the frat house?

“The best evidence shows that teaching kids to drink responsibly is better than shutting them off entirely from it,” he told me. “You want to introduce your kids to it, and get across the point that that this is to be enjoyed but not abused.”

He said that the most dangerous day of a young person’s life is the 21st birthday, when legality is celebrated all too fervently. Introducing wine as a part of a meal, he said, was a significant protection against bingeing behavior.

What is the evidence? In 1983, Dr. George E. Vaillant, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, published “The Natural History of Alcoholism,” a landmark work that drew on a 40-year survey of hundreds of men in Boston and Cambridge.

Dr. Vaillant compared 136 men who were alcoholics with men who were not. Those who grew up in families where alcohol was forbidden at the table, but was consumed away from the home, apart from food, were seven times more likely to be alcoholics that those who came from families where wine was served with meals but drunkenness was not tolerated.

Put that way, it seems obvious, but the post is thought-provoking, and I’m not the only reader who thinks so. The Pour normally sees 30 or fewer comments per post; this one had over 300 in a day. Among them are plenty of anecdotes and arguments pro and con, including not a few sobering perspectives from alcoholics. This being the Interwebs, there’s also plenty of sanctimony, hysteria, anger, inapt analogies and rhetorical overreach—the Human Comedy as it plays out in comment threads.

Puritanism and hedonism are the yin and yang of the American Way, so drinking, and thinking about drinking, will always be good blog fodder. But reasonable people such as ourselves can draw a couple of modest conclusions from this particular go-round: to the extent that parents can influence teenage drinking by providing a model of appreciation over intoxication, they should; and—it is delightful to report—adolescents who develop discriminating palates are more likely to turn up their noses at rotgut. Turn your kids into wine snobs, people. It’s the responsible thing to do.

The McQ household is a few years away from universal wine consumption, though Siobhán, one of our five-year-olds, will sneak a taste if given the opportunity, and proclaim it good. Smelling is permitted without restriction, however, and I am pleased that my daughters’ noses are keen. Offered a whiff of a 2005 Mission View Zinfandel, a full-bodied wine redolent of overripe red fruit, Siobhán noted that it smelled “like a thousand rotten strawberries.” That’s my girl.

(Photo nicked from here)

No comments

« Previous PageNext Page »