In Yamhill Valley, the names found on wine labels are often the same as the people who are running the crush. Winemaking and running the business is passing to the second generation, which is operating in a wine world vastly different from the one in which they grew up.
At Eyrie, Jason Lett, son of David Lett, a founding father of the Oregon wine industry, has been working the crush since he was three, although he has missed a few vintages when he was out of state. Coming back from a climatically different New Mexico, he remembers being out in the vineyard in a downpour and wondering why anybody would want to be any place else.
“What’s really interesting is how little has actually changed,” Lett says of winemaking in the valley, despite many changes in the region. “Every time we decide there’s no way the district can support any more, then more industry people move in.”
Alex Sokol Blosser, co-president with his sister of the winery his parents created, started out in the fields at about age nine. He recalls, “When you grow up doing it, you don’t realize how special it is.” Of the decades since, he remembers a major shift when Domaine Drouhin bought Yamhill Valley land in the 1980s, and the world started streaming in for the Oregon Pinot Noir celebration.
Other wineries such as Stoller Family Estate and WillaKenzie Estate also have deep family involvement in their valley vineyards. When wine people in the valley talk about roots, they’re not just talking vines.