Thursday, October 26, 2017

win again!

This post is dedicated to the memory of David Lett-

David Lett (1939 – October 9, 2008) was the founder and winemaker for The Eyrie Vineyards in the U.S. state of Oregon. He was a pioneer in the Oregon wine industry.

Lett grew up in Utah and studied dentistry in California. Against the advice of viticultural professors at the University of California, Davis, Lett and his wife, Diana, moved to Oregon to plant Pinot noir. They founded Eyrie Vineyards in 1965, and their first vintage was 1970. The hillside acreage was near Dundee, a small city about 45 minutes south of Portland.  He was the first to cultivate both Pinot noir and Pinot gris in Oregon, a pioneering effort which earned him the nickname "Papa Pinot".

The Eyrie Vineyards 1975 South Block Reserve Pinot Noir shocked much of the wine world when it showed very well in the Wine Olympiad ("Wine Olympics"), first in Paris in 1979.  Burgundy winemaker Robert Drouhin organized a re-match at Maison Joseph Drouhin in France. The 1975 Eyrie Vineyards Reserve won second place, losing to Drouhin's 1959 Chambolle-Musigny by only two tenths of a point. Drouhin later purchased land in Oregon and built Domaine Drouhin Oregon.

Over the years, David Lett ("Papa Pinot") maintained a light-handed style of Pinot noir that did not follow the trend toward greater flavor, tannin, and color extraction, believing color not to be an indicator of quality in Pinot noir. This put him at odds with some of the wine critics.

In a retirement farewell to David Lett, this wine and every other reserve pinot noir were poured in a special vertical tasting at the winery in July 2008. Lett died on October 9, 2008 of heart failure. David's son Jason Lett is now the head winemaker for the winery. (wikipedia)

all photos of David Lett came off the internet

Last night, with a gift of the 1983 Eyrie Pinot Noir from our cellar-mate Neil, we headed to Oriole (TWO Michelin starred again for 2018!) for dinner.  We had four bottles of wine to accompany the amazing food of Noah Sandoval and Genie Kwon but the 1983 Eyrie was hands down the winner of the evening.  And here's how it went down.

the wines in the order we liked best- the Oregon pinot from 1983 - then the 1975 Bordeaux - then our current vintage of the white Beaune Clos des Mouches (2009) and finally the Sine Qua non Covert Fingers pinot noir from 2004....

Here is the NYT obit for David Lett-

David Lett, who planted the first commercial pinot noir vineyard in Oregon, opening the way for what became a thriving pinot noir industry, died Thursday at his home in Dundee, Ore. He was 69.

There was no wine commerce in Oregon back in 1965 when Mr. Lett arrived in the Willamette Valley, armed with 3,000 vine cuttings and a theory that the best wines come from places where the grapes have to struggle to ripen. He and his wife, Diana, planted 13 acres of vines in 1966 in an old prune orchard in the Dundee Hills, which they named the Eyrie Vineyard. Their vines foreshadowed the future of Oregon winemaking. Today, the state has more than 10,000 acres of pinot noir.

In 1970 he produced his first vintage of Eyrie pinot noir. He found it so disappointing that he refused to call it pinot noir, selling it instead as Spring Wine. He soon found his stride, and in 1979 his 1975 Eyrie pinot noir became the first American pinot noir to compete successfully with Burgundies in a blind tasting in Paris.

The Eyrie pinot noirs are graceful and elegant with complex aromas. They are pale ruby in color, and against many of today’s inky dark pinot noirs, which strive for power and weight.   “He always felt deeply appreciated by culinary types who understood that wine was made to go with food,” Jason Lett said. “I do think he felt regret for the misrepresentation of power as terroir.”

David Lett was born in Chicago in 1939, and he graduated from the University of Utah in 1961. After a stint in the Coast Guard Reserve, he planned to attend dental school at the University of California, Davis. On his way to Davis for an interview, he made a detour through the pastoral Napa Valley, where he stopped at Chateau Souverain, the leading Napa winery of the time, run by Lee Stewart.

“He was absolutely floored by what Lee was doing,” Jason Lett recalled, “and he asked Lee for a job right there.”  His parents were not so thrilled, but agreed that if he returned to school for a professional degree, he could pursue winemaking. He did attend Davis, and emerged in 1963 with a degree in viticulture.

After traveling through Europe visiting wine regions, he returned to the United States in love with the pinot noir grape, with the conviction that it could succeed only in a marginal environment. A taste of some particularly good strawberries grown in the Willamette Valley convinced him that it was the place for pinot noir. He moved there in 1965.

While searching for the right site for a vineyard, Mr. Lett supported himself by selling college textbooks. The job permitted him to drive around the state, and whenever he saw a likely area, Jason Lett said, he would pull over to take soil samples. In the summer of 1966 he found his vineyard, and he also found a wife. David and Diana Lett spent their honeymoon planting grape vines, Jason Lett said.  Jason Lett took over as winemaker at Eyrie in 2005.

While pinot noir was his passion, Mr. Lett was also the first winemaker in the United States to produce pinot gris, now the second leading grape in Oregon, after pinot noir. 

Although Mr. Lett at first derided his 1970 vintage of pinot noir, he decided later that he had been mistaken. With time, the wine he thought thin and wan turned complex and delicious.  “We had a bottle with Christmas dinner last year,” Jason Lett said, “and it was fabulous.”

This man was a GIANT in the Oregon wine industry and we were lucky enough to have a tiny bit of his expertise in our 34 year old bottle of Eyrie last night!

Each of the other wines could have been WOE on some other night but not last night - the "other" wines are shown in the order of faor (rated by us LOL the ones who drank them!)

the menu for the night - a number of new courses and some old favorites

dishes follow the order of the menu-

this has two items - the oyster and the jamon -

a brand new course - the pork rib- with cumin flavors - really good!

our first dessert course- new as well - grapefruit replaced the cucumber flavored one from the last couple of visits -

these next items are ones that showcase the Esquire Pastry Chef of the Year - Genie Kwon!

 and our take home gift of pie!

and David, thanks for the great wine and all you did to build the Oregon wine industry - thank god you didn't pay attention to the noise!

 David Lett

What a spectacular surprise! (and thanks Neil for passing it along!) Next up tonight's concert by Jeff Daniels (unfortunately "venued" at City Winery one of my least favorite places to hear music)  We carry on.... so stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

it wasn't us!

LOL - so I just this very morning read this blog post from someone else - on Georgia and here are some hilarious (to me) quotes -

The Blog is called the Travel Tramp and the author is Richard Collett


This former Soviet Nation might only have a population of just 4 million people, but they’ll welcome any traveller adventurous enough to visit with steaming plates of dumplings, heart attack inducing feasts and an infamously extreme level of hospitality.
Georgia might not yet be on the tourism radar, but that’s soon to change. Travellers will find it impossible to ignore all that this Caucus nation has to offer. Georgia’s culture and cuisine- at the cross road of east and west- will leave you fascinated and over indulged, while the scenery will leave you reeling and breathless.
The time to visit Georgia is now, prepare your body for more food and drink than any person should even attempt to consume and catch the first flight to the capital city of Tbilisi before everyone else gets there first.
Among his list of top things to do in Georgia these sounded very very familiar- 


Georgians know how to cook, and they know how to eat. Dining out turns into huge feasts of local dishes, from hot plates of dumplings- Khinkhalis- to the renowned Khachapuri, a huge loaf of bread covered in cheese, butter and eggs. And of course washed down with beer and wine.


Georgian wine has been fermented for centuries, and over the years they’ve refined it into an art. You might not find their bottles on many Western supermarket shelves- yet- but the local wines are up there with the best that the rest of the world has to offer. Take a trip to the wine regions of Telavi, not far from Tbilisi, and indulge yourself in some new flavours and tastes from this little visited country.
what he actually meant to say was millennia--- 
so it wasn't that we had an unusual trip there - we were just enjoying typical Georgian hospitality LOL....

above a view from the bus window as we waited for five minutes of the cows surrounding us as they returned home for the evening's milking and bed for the night- 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

now that we are done

with the blog posts on the trip I can catch you up with our lives since returning from Georgia-  maybe you will see why it takes so long to get stuff done ....

The day after we returned we took the day off from eating and drinking LOL- Then we had the following schedule for the week post trip-

Somerset with Todd & Evelyn on Tuesday - Kiki's Bistro with Shari & Kevin on Wednesday and on Thursday Phil went with Zack to watch the Cubs playoff game 5 for the pennant (which they lost) Friday night we had dinner at mfk. with John & Stephanie....

Sadly (for Phil) his Saturday night concert at WFMT was canceled but luckily all his FolkStage friends had future plans with him so he will get to see them all before heading south-

Sunday (the seventh night after our return) we had dinner with Ron & Mary at L. Woods Tap and Monday with Neil at The Bristol.  Tuesday we had a lecture at Northwestern by a lead counsel at the ACLU

This is as far on the schedule as we have actually gotten before this is posted - but Wednesday night a return to Oriole before we leave and Thursday night, a concert by Jeff Daniels at City Winery....

So while you might think that since we are retired we have nothing to do LOL we actually have plenty!!! 

I fly to SRQ on Saturday morning to open up the condo for the winter and to attend the first ballet of the season - returning on Monday so we can do our final week of farewells. 

Seeing Mike on Tuesday at Cafe Marbella and Sheila & Mary at Osteria Langhe on Thursday with a condo board meeting on Wednesday night (aaaaccck budget for next year).  Finally, I have a play and Phil a concert on Friday.  Then Lucy and I leave early early Saturday morning with the winter's wine supplies - two days driving to our time in the sun...

a few photos - some pulled from the Internet as we have been dining and socializing - not keeping up with the photos LOL... forgive me...

Somerset - the chicken that Phil ate for two days --- LOL (their websites' photo not mine)

Kiki's Bistro- the escargot were the number one choice but I did not get a photo LOL so I found one on yelp!

mfk. - albondigas!

L.Woods Tap- Phil went for the fried chicken! (again from yelp!)

The Brtistol-  the endive and manchego salad

Oriole (which will have its own post of course but in this recap one photo will represent the meal LOL it is also one my recurring faves...)

Cafe Marbella- the fab avocado salad-

Osteria Langhe- the plin!- we always order for the table LOL-

so tomorrow we are off to our final 2017 Oriole dinner - look for that and then the entertainment for the remainder of the week at the Jeff Daniels concert and the ballet season opener- and I might get a few more in before I leave but now the focus is on "getting out of Dodge" (where it has been in the 40s and raining the past two days and I have been questioning my timing...) more to follow!

farewell day

So after our brief time out we headed back to meet the group in Signagi via a hired car... we met them at lunch in the Pheasant's Tears vineyard along with winemaker John Wurdeman.

we have a few bites (Phil isn't really eating and we did have a light lunch before we left Tbilisi)  We check into the hotel and shortly thereafter we are off to dinner - the farewell dinner at the Pheasant's Tears restaurant in Signagi - Much feasting and rejoicing and toasting and singing etc...

so here are the last dinner photos!

we saw a bread baking demo before going off to the dining room-

the evening's entertainment - singing and playing and some dancing as well- a video follows os you can hear the porcine instrument he is playing-

The next day we headed back to Tbilisi but had one last wine stop and one more church stop - Oh and I failed to mention the last lunch stop as well...LOL

Signagi is lovely when not overrun by weekend tourism...

the church of the morning

and one more winery - French guys making sparkling wine but not in methode champenoise- 

and finally a late lunch on the outskirts of Tbilisi - excellent food - good kebabs and amazing mushrooms and a wonderful profiterole dessert...

we arrived in town while it was still daylight! a miracle! so not hungry - packed and showered and got ready for our 2 AM pickup for our 4 AM flight to Warsaw and the seven hour layover before the flight to Chicago - we arrived Sunday night a 8PM and headed home as worn out from this trip as we have ever been!  But by the second day home we were out again - as you will shortly read LOL! Stay tuned.