Lett grew up in Utah and studied dentistry in California. In 1966, against the advice of the professors at the University of California, Davis, he moved to Oregon and purchased hillside acreage near Dundee, a small city about 45 minutes south of Portland. He and his wife Diana planted the first vineyard and made their first Pinot noir in 1970. 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 and then in Burgundy the following year. 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. The winery itself is in McMinnville.
Lett died on October 9, 2008 of heart failure.
- Bonné, Jon (October 11, 2008). "David Lett 1939-2008". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 14, 2008.
- Teichgraeber, Tim (October 14, 2008). "David Lett, founder of Oregon Pinot Noir, dies". Decanter. Retrieved October 14, 2008.
- Colman, Tyler (October 13, 2008). "David Lett and an Eyrie Vineyards retrospective". Dr. Vino. Retrieved October 27, 2008.
- Asimov, Eric (October 13, 2008). "David Lett, Oregon Wine Pioneer, Dies at 69". The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2008.