-7-① ③ ④②  ⑤⑥ David Lett (1999)② Jason Lett③ Picking a bucket of grapes ④ Transferring grapes to the bin⑤ Punch down with everyone⑥ Jason Lett (back, third from the left) with the Mexican team (I am front right) All photos: Yoshiji SatoGrapes harvested early in the morning are destemmed, crushed and the juice transferred into tanks in the winery within 2 hours. Early morning in late September it is under 10°C ‒ it is freezing cold. The family harvest at an incredible speed, running with a full bucket of grapes in each hand to the tractor which is towing a trailer loaded with large harvest bins (at Eyrie they are wooden boxes lined with rubber to prevent bruising of the fruit). Every time you empty a bucket into the bin it is recorded, and each worker is paid by the number of buckets they pick. The work is very physical with only a short break until lunchtime.In the cellar, the winemaking family is joking and laughing all the time. Because of their strong characters, I felt being in the winery was like entering into a Hayao Miyazaki animation world. Everyone seemed like a character from Spirited Away, so working in the cellar was like being in a fairytale country, and I was happy every day just being with them.Uncle in charge of the destemmer, the always laughing Martin on the press machine, handsome Luis in charge of filtration, Julio on the forklift, the lively Jose and Aurelio in the barrel room, and muscular Javier driving the grape tractor and trailer between the vineyards and winery. I was impressed by the way every one worked and was always thinking about the others ‒ there was always someone to give help when it was needed. It was brilliant.Jason, on the other hand, trusts their work and doesn’t get involved unless there is a problem. At the start of each day he shared the work plan in Spanish, and later received confirmation of the arrival of the grapes, analysis of the juice, fermentation control management and other data inputs, allowing him to focus on major harvest decisions. It is a relationship of trust between the boss and cellar workers that continues from David’s time.The old wooden winery building and winemaking equipment are also reminiscent of a Miyazaki animation. They are making outstanding wines using simple, old-fashioned equipment such as the German basket press machines from the 1970s, old barrels that have been in use since the 1970s, repurposed milk tanks and more, and I was impressed with their approach and confidence.Everybody contributes to the work of picking the grapes, delivering them to the winery, destemming, crushing and putting the grapes into the fermentation tanks for the red wine. Once the grapes have settled, all the fermenters are punched down (pigeage) several times. Late in the afternoon, everyone cleans and washes the winery using special tools for specific jobs so not one grape seed is left.◆ Filling the cellar with tantalizing aromasEyrie’s Pinot Noir is all naturally fermented, with just the addition of a little sulphur dioxide when the grapes are put in the fermentation tanks and waiting for the fermentation to begin at its own pace. The fermentation temperature is recorded every day, but from the beginning until the finish, there is no mechanical temperature control.In one type of open fermenter made of plastic called ‘Macro Bin’ which holds about 1200 kg of fruit, the fermentation temperature does not rise much due to its small size and the low exterior temperature in autumn. As the temperature registrar I noted that while every fermenter showed a change in fermentation temperature which looks like a Mt. Fuji shaped curve, the temperature never exceeded 30°C. A little volatile acid (ethyl acetate) is emitted in the early stages of fermentation when various non-cerevisiae yeasts are active, after which the saccharomyces cerevisiae yeasts which lead to the formation of alcohol begin to dominate. Jason sees this as a positive process that contributes to the complexity of the wines.When everyone is vigorously engaged in punching down, the whole cellar is filled with beautiful flower and fruit aromas. The fragrance is vivid, with beautiful red flower and fruit aromas of the Wedensville clone, and the powerful purple flower and cassis aromas of the Pommard clone. It is a moment when I felt the grapes were turning into a great Oregon Pinot Noir.Healthy natural fermentation by wild yeast means that there are no odd odours ‒ rather the winery is filled with the beautiful fragrance of grapes. When the fermentation is completed, post-maceration is avoided and the wine is pressed quickly, put in a barrel, and undergoes malolactic fermentation. Eyrie’s approach is that the long time spent at low temperatures in the early stages of natural fermentation enables the necessary colour and soft tannins to be eluted.◆ The three elements of Eyrie’s life forceDifferent estate vineyards each with a distinctive personality. Working with the same Mexican family in the vineyards and winery over two generations.A leader who controls the overall direction (David Lett → Jason Lett).Combining the three, I came to understand The Eyrie Vineyard’s life force is a fragile, loving ecosystem of three elements in exquisite balance, established by David Lett and continued by Jason. If one of the three breaks down, so will the uniqueness of Eyrie wines. ◆ Mature vineyards produce an outstanding Pinot GrisAlthough space is short, I’d like to write a little about the Pinot Gris. David Lett and Eyrie pioneered Pinot Gris in New World wine countries, and so today they have fruit from very old Pinot Gris vines. The winemaking process for the base cuvee is simple, but its management is detail focused. The grapes are destemmed, crushed, and pressed, and the juice left to settle for a day. It is then transferred to a larger closed tank and a commercial yeast added, and the temperature watched closely every day.Jason has followed the classic Pinot Gris style established by David, with firm acid, apricot aromas and flavours, and a pleasant bitterness from the pericarp. In the United States, cheaper mass-produced Pinot Gris is sometimes too sweet, and has a deteriorating image with consumers which makes it a hard sell. Eyrie’s Pinot Gris on the other hand, is an excellent food wine that complements various ingredients. I recommend drinking it with salt seasoned vegetable tempura, sashimi or shellfish.

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