Burgundy represents the gold standard of Pinot Noir. Some argue this point, but ultimately the wine world accepts the bar for Pinot Noir is set in Burgundy. Outside of Burgundy, high quality Pinot Noirs are produced in New Zealand, Chile, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, and other small areas along California’s central coast. However, next to Burgundy, Willamette Valley, Oregon is arguably the best Pinot Noir region in the world. Therefore, it makes sense one of Burgundy’s most recognized Pinot Noir producers would seek a second home in Willamette Valley.
Maison Joseph Drouhin began in Beaune in 1880. Joseph’s grandson Robert is credited with the winery’s modern day success. Robert expanded Maison Joseph Drouhin to include three wineries located in Beaune, Chablis, and the Dundee Hills of Willamette Valley. Today Maison Joseph Drouhin is a large enough negotiant/producer that their wines are readily available in restaurants and wine stores across the US. In fact, the US is their largest export market, with more than 25% of their wines sold here. Robert was ahead of his times in many aspects, he was one of the first to discontinue use of chemical fertilizers, he was one of the first in France to name a woman, Laurence Jobard, as oenologist/winemaker in 1976, and finally, he was the first Burgundian winery owner to purchase land and build a winery in Willamette Valley.
Robert Drouhin first discovered Oregon on a 1961 visit. He was once again presented with the high quality of Oregon wines while participating in a blind tasting of Pinot Noirs in Paris in 1979 and 1981. Robert felt Oregon, more so than California, contained the right soil and climate to “unlock the complexities of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the United States.” Willamette Valley sits on the same latitude as Burgundy so the climate does have many similarities. In 1986, Robert’s daughter Véronique came to WV after obtaining her Masters in Enology to work harvest with three of WV founding and iconic families. She was drawn to WV’s legendary deep sense of community. In 1987, Robert was invited to participate in the first International Pinot Noir celebration. He decided at that time to purchase land in the Dundee Hills that had previously been used to grow Christmas trees and wheat. As the first vineyards were planted in WV by Drouhin, Véronique was named winemaker and her brother Philippe took over the viticultural responsibilities. In 1989, Domaine Drouhin winery built a landmark four story gravity flow winery.
Today Véronique is a prominent winemaker at the helm of Domaine Drouhin Oregon, and Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy. Similarly, Philippe manages the family vineyards in Oregon, Chablis, and Beaune. DDO is home to a 225 acres estate that is fully sustainable, organic, and LIVE certified. The vines are all tended to by hand from planting to harvesting, they use indigenous yeast, and new and neutral Burgundy barrels to craft two Chardonnays and three Pinot Noirs at their Dundee Hills Estate. Drouhin also owns Roserock, “an extraordinary vineyard at the southern tip of Eola-Amity Hills…containing volcanic soils, an ideal elevation range, and the unique cooling effect of the Van Duzer corridor produce classic cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Roserock is also a LIVE certified vineyard. Finally, Véronique is the consulting wine maker on another WV project owned by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co. called Cloudline Cellars.
Here are three high quality Pinot Noirs at three different price points all representative of Domaine Drouhin:
2015 Cloudline Cellars Pinot Noir Willamette Valley USA ($19.99): Clear, pale ruby in the glass; medium – soft aromas of tart red fruit including cherries, strawberries, cranberries, and pomegranates, with violets, white tea, white mushrooms, nuts and milk chocolate; the delicate aromas gave way to a delicate mouth feel, medium – acidity and tannins were balanced in a juicy, clean, and elegant wine, light body with a medium tart juicy fruit finish; a lovely wine that tastes beyond its price range
2014 Roserock Pinot Noir Eola-Amity Hills USA ($34.00): Clear, medium ruby in the glass; medium aromas of black cherries, blackberries, cranberries, black tea, damp underbrush, black pepper, sweet spice notes, hint of chocolate; mouthwatering pronounced acidity balanced with youthful yet integrated tannins, rustically elegant on the palate with rich texture and finesse, medium body with a long, dusty earth finish; the volcanic soil of the vineyard is evident in this lovely wine.
2014 Domain Drouhin Pinot Noir Dundee Hills USA ($45): Clear medium ruby in the glass; a more intense wine with medium+ aromas of tart cherries, blueberries, currants, black tea, dried violets, touch of cola, dried herbal notes, soft spice notes, and a dusty minerality; pronounced acidity is balanced well with youthful yet integrated tannins, medium body offers elegance, texture, and refinement with a long tart finish; a truly lovely wine that again tastes much more expensive than its price point.
*Disclosure: These wines were provided to me as media samples, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Domaine Drouhin Oregon’s motto is French Soul, Oregon Soil, from what I have tasted I would say this is a great way to describe their wines.
My Song Selection: In honor of Véronique and the stunning Pinot Noirs that she crafts at all different price ranges…
Get your own bottle of Domaine Drouhin Oregon wines and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!