Eric Lemelson came to the wine business relatively late in life after a previous career as an environmental lawyer. While in law school Lemelson had bought a farm on the eastern edge of Oregon wine country with a dream to one day pursue a more rural way of life in the peaceful Willamette Valley. In the mid 1990s he became curious about the exceptional quality of pinot noir coming out of Oregon and set about contacting nearby producers to learn for himself about viticulture. Given the entrepreneurial spirit in the Lemelson family (Eric’s father Jerome Lemelson 1923-1997 was one of the most prolific inventors in American history with his inventions part or wholly behind technologies including cordless telephones, fax machines and camcorders) it was no surprise that Eric Lemelson soon realised the potential of his farm for vine-growing with its south-east facing slopes and volcanic soils.
Since the first pinot noir vines were planted in 1995 Lemelson’s labour of love has blossomed to include some 120 acres and a unique state-of-the-art winery. The vineyards have been farmed along environmentally friendly lines from the beginning, given Lemelson’s environmental background and belief that grapes develop their full flavour potential without the use of synthetic chemicals. Adding to their own carefully controlled yields, some grapes are bought in from selected growers in Willamette who also follow the same practices. The Lemelson winery too is built from sustainable natural materials, uses natural lighting as much as possible and processes the grapes using energy efficient gravity flow methods.
Eric Lemelson describes himself as being ‘fanatical’ about pinot noir. Small quantities of pinot gris, chardonnay and riesling are also produced although Lemelson remains known for its world-class pinot noir. The Society is a regular follower of several of these: The Six Vineyards bottling is an approachable plump, fruit-driven blend, originally the brainchild of Society buyer Pierre Mansour who spotted the potential of its component wines; Thea’s Selection is a fine, feminine expression of with soft, supple tannin; the Stermer Vineyard pinot is described as the "Beaune" in the range is firmer in style yet with its floral elegance.