Feb 18, 2015

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Willamette Valley Wineries Toast 50 Years of History

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Fifty years ago, David Lett, founder of The Eyrie Vineyards, planted the Willamette Valley’s first Pinot noir in February of 1965.  Others soon joined the quest, giving rise to an entire wine industry known for its award-winning quality and inviting hospitality.  In 2015, the
Willamette Valley Wineries Association (WVWA) celebrates the industry’s beginnings with 50th Anniversary events, coast-to-coast tastings, an interactive social media campaign and a 50-bottle wine giveaway.

1965 - David Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards christening first vines

1965 – David Lett of The Eyrie Vineyards christening first vines

From its modest beginnings, the Willamette Valley has earned its place in the wine world through countless accolades and the vintners’ collective desire to craft some of the best wine on the planet.  The Valley has grown from the unexpected source of head-turning wines that won prestigious blind tastings in Paris to what Wine Spectator in 2012 called “an American home for Pinot Noir.”  It now has more than 400 wineries and 18,000 acres of vineyards.

1978 Sokol Blossers building their original winery

1978 – Sokol Blossers building their original winery

Fifty years ago, most wine enthusiasts had to consult a map to locate Oregon between Washington and California.  Today, the region is recognized for outstanding wines, from the mainstay Pinot noir and Pinot gris to rising stars like Chardonnay and Riesling.  Despite producing less than one percent of the nation’s wine, the Willamette Valley continues to receive raves from around the world.

1983_Founding members of the Yamhill County Wineries Association_Courtesy Linfield College Archive

1983 – founding members of the Yamhill County Wineries Association | courtesy Linfield Archives

“It’s just as true now as it was 50 years ago: grape growing in the Willamette Valley is an adventure,” said Jason Lett, second- generation winemaker at The Eyrie Vineyards.  “Our climate constitutes the risk, but it’s also the reason for this adventure.  It’s incredibly exciting to see the continuing growth of our community of adventurer-winegrowers.  But it’s even more exciting to see that our growth is driven by a shared faith in the ability of this unique place to reward effort and stewardship with eloquent wines.”

rows of vines

50 years later, rows and rows of vines cover the rolling hills of the Willamette Valley

In the years since 1965, Willamette Valley wines have wowed critics, lured tourists and tempted winemakers to pack up and move to Oregon in their quest for perfect Pinot.  They have inspired renowned Burgundian producers to commence operations in the Valley and attracted the attention of some of the country’s best chefs and restaurants.  Willamette Valley wine is now the epicenter of Oregon’s multi-billion dollar per year wine industry. And in many ways, it’s just getting started.

For more information about the Willamette Valley and upcoming 50th Anniversary events, please visit: www.willamettewines.com/50- years.

**Press release provided by the Willamette Valley Wineries Association. 

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