OWP Toasts a Legend: Papa Pinot

By Hilary Berg, Oregon Wine Press Managing Editor

Last January, Oregon Wine Press honored a Wine Person of the Year. We explored the possibilties from those who had made an impact in 2007; the staff agreed, it was Grape Escape’s Ralph Stinton.

But this year, the Wine Person of the Year would have to lapse. There was only one person we wanted to honor, and it didn’t seem right to recognize him for just 2008. It’s been his contributions for over 40 years that marks David Lett.

That’s why the staff decided on a memorial, honoring David and sharing with readers his story—told many times in the past four decades—and the sentiment that members of the industry hold for him.

When David died in October, harvest was just beginning and—as he probably would have wanted it—the memorial service was postponed until after harvest.

At the memorial, which was held at the McMinnville Community Center in early December, members of the industry, close friends and family gathered for a celebration of his life.

During the memorial, which was beautifully done with classical music played between each speaker, I was moved by what I heard in carefully crafted words and thought-provoking cello, piano, flute and violin.

People like David Adelsheim and Nick Peirano talked about David Lett’s devotion to his family, his legacy to Oregon winegrowing, his stewardship of the land, his friendships, his Border Collies, his sense of humor…

After the speeches concluded, as well as a photo slide show that tugged at everyone’s heartstrings, it was time for a toast by Jason. We raised our glasses and on a count of three, screamed, “Cheers!” The intention was to blow the roof off, so perhaps David could hear it from whatever vineyard he was tending. 

It was an honor to attend the service, during which I discovered what a treasure this man was to not only Oregon wine, but also the state and everyone he touched.

And so we celebrate David Lett. And thank him for his contributions, which without, this paper might not exist.

OWP is also grateful to Jason and Diana for helping us gather photos and letting writer Mark Stock interview them at such a tender time.

Cheers! to Papa Pinot! 

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