It’s been such a sweet holiday weekend. Lots of down time with my honey and some “me time” too. We intentionally avoid the Black Friday and post-Thanksgiving weekend shopping frenzies every year and keep things cozy and relaxing. It’s hard to be thankful for all the blessings in our lives when we’re overwhelmed by all the sales ads and crush of shopping zombies in the stores on a mission to buy, buy, buy. So we avoided them like the plague.
I was also only online in small amounts here and there to send out a few warm holiday greetings and touch base with my friends near and far. Other than that, I intentionally stayed away. The sheer volume of ads with “oh my god, if you don’t buy this now you’ll DIE!” energy has become simply too much to take. So I abstained (and no, I didn’t die, thankyouverymuch).
Small indie magic
Our big outing of the holiday weekend was to attend the annual open house and wine tasting at Eyrie vineyard in McMinnville. This year’s event was even more special than usual as Eyrie is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It was a treat to be part of their festivities.
Grant and I have been attending Eyrie’s annual open houses since the Thanksgiving weekend in 2010 when we got engaged. That first year we went with Grant’s parents on the day after Grant proposed. We bought a special bottle of Eyrie’s Black Cap pinot noir, which we saved to drink on our honeymoon (it was swoon worthy). Every year but one since then we’ve gone to taste the new wines they’re releasing and it’s always such a treat.
We usually buy one fancy bottle of pinot noir (Black Cap or Daphne) to set back for our wedding anniversary in June and a couple nice bottles of pinot noir for Valentine’s Day and birthdays. Last year I was too sick to go to the open house and admit to pouting about it for weeks afterward. So we were doubly excited about going this year. Yesterday was a bright, crisp, sunny fall day, so we bundled up against the cold and went on our annual pilgrimage to Eyrie with huge smiles on our faces.
It isn’t just the wine
Eyrie is one of the first vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley to produce pinot noir wines and the first in the U.S. to produce pinot gris. In fact, David and Diana Lett, the founders of Eyrie, put the Willamette Valley on the map as a world class pinot noir producing region. The Lett’s story of turning their dream of a small organic winery into one that has a huge international standing in excellence is inspiring to say the least.
What we love about this winery isn’t just their amazing wines though (and they are amazing). I think even more endearing to us is that it retains the coziness and charm of a small family-run business. They’re creative in their lineup each year, always offering something unexpected to try. Jason, David and Diana’s son, took over as winemaker and vineyard manager in 2005 and his creative experimentation always makes for interesting and fun-to-try new wines. Sadly, David is no longer with us, but Diana and Jason are always at the open houses to welcome and chat with the visitors every year.
This year we learned that most of the watercolors on the walls of the tasting room and on many of the wine labels were painted by Jason himself. Apparently, he paints as a hobby and I love that bit of insight into his personality. The paintings aren’t high art, but how delightful to learn that part of what makes the tasting room so warm and charming (the quirky pieces of artwork) were from Jason’s own hand. Most vineyards with the international standing of Eyrie have expensive, overly manicured tasting rooms that are designed to impress the high rollers. Not Eyrie. And to me, that unpretentiousness is a big part of what sets them apart from most other winemakers in this area.
Grant and I got into a fun conversation with Jason one year about the Daphne pinot noir and how it evoked fairy rings of mushrooms, blankets of moss, and ancient growth forests for me. I told him the first sip made my eyes roll back and my knees buckle in enchantment. All that was missing was for a unicorn to come walking by. He loved it. He laughed and told us I should write their sales copy. Then he snuck behind the bar and gave us a secret tasting of one of their exclusive library wines. It was divine ~ and such a sweet thing to do.
So as you can see, it’s not just their excellent wines that brings us back again and again. It’s the Lett’s personal touch, clear passion for what they do, and genuine kindness.
Small and personal is (much) more impressive
As we were leaving Eyrie’s tasting room yesterday (with a cherished bottle of Daphne cradled lovingly in my arms), my thoughts turned, as they do each year, to how endearing Eyrie’s way of doing business is to me. I smiled as I realized that the Lett’s have influenced how I approach my own small business today. If I could summarize the Lett’s philosophy at Eyrie, it would be this:
- don’t be afraid to lead the way into new terrain (or terroir)
- be passionate about what you do (it’s contagious)
- keep experimenting to improve what you offer to the world
- let your joy and quirks shine
- stay true to your values and vision
- show up in a warm and genuine way
- and keep the scale small and personal
I think I have absorbed part of their philosophy in person and part of it by enjoying their wonderful wine when celebrating our special occasions. Like the stories that lie inside the old bottles in Joanne Harris’ book, Blackberry Wine, there’s magic there.
I am so glad we were able to make it back to Eyrie again this year for the reminder. Small and personal win every time.
Wishing you loads of magic and joy (and a zombie-free holiday season),