Thursday, July 26, 2012

Domaine Drouhin Oregon – A Taste of France in Dayton, Oregon

On the fifth and final day of my adventure through the Oregon wine country I returned to the community of wineries in the Dundee Hills. My first stop was at Domaine Drouhin Oregon (DDO), a French owned winery that produces great Pinot Noir from the best of the New and Old Worlds – Burgundy and Oregon. 

Domaine Drouhin is a daughter-winery of Maison Joseph Drouhin, a French wine producer based in Burgundy that was founded in 1880. The estate owns vineyards in Chablis, the Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune and Côte Chalonnaise, as well as in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Drouhin is also one of the major négociants of Burgundy, and produces wines made from purchased grapes grown in different parts of Burgundy. Today both Maison Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Drouhin Oregon are owned and operated by the great grandchildren of Joseph Drouhin.

Domaine Drouhin Oregon (DDO), a gravity-fed winery, is in the Red Hills of Dundee AVA. It was built in 1988 for $10,000,000 by Maison Joseph Drouhin and it is the first four-level gravity-flow winery built in Oregon. 

At the very heart of their 225-acre estate are the 85 acres of high density vineyards; 70 planted with Pinot Noir and 13.5 acres with Chardonnay. They also source grapes from other growers grown on the Hill’s Red Jory Clay, as well as on the Willakenzie soils of the flatter areas. Another 50 acres of the Drouhin property remain to be planted and are destined for more Pinot Noir. These vineyards share a nearly identical climate, latitude, and aspect with their counterparts in France.

The fourth generation of Drouhins now works in Beaune and Oregon:  Frédéric is General Manager of Maison Joseph Drouhin (, Philippe manages the estates in Burgundy and Oregon, Laurent is a regional commercial director, and since its first vintage in 1988 Véronique Drouhin has continued the family tradition as the head winemaker of both Maison Joseph Drouhin and Domaine Drouhin Oregon. Véronique travels frequently between her home on the estate in Oregon and her home in Beaune. She and her husband have three young children, for whom the wines Arthur, Laurène and Louise are named. The fifth generation of Drouhins is still quite young, but there is no doubt that Joseph Drouhin’s great-great grandchildren will one day take their place in the family business.

Visiting Domaine Drouhin Oregon is a truly unique wine tasting experience. When you taste one of their Pinots from Oregon and another from Burgundy you are receiving a very unique and special wine education – the opportunity to experience the differences and similarities of the terroir of an old and new world wine made by the same winemaker. They produces three Pinot Noirs which have Burgundian counterparts: the first is the Willamette Valley Cuvée (Village level), the second is the Cuvée Laurène (Premier Cru level), named after Veronique’s first daughter, and the third Cuvée Louise (Grand Cru level), named after Véronique’s youngest daughter.

While visiting I sampled the following wines:

My first pour was the 2010 Arthur Chardonnay. On the nose I picked up aromas of freshly cut apples, citrus and lemon zest with a subtle underlying floral component. On the palate the wine is tart and tangy with pronounced (medium ++) acidity and a lengthy finish. It seems a bit austere to me, definitely not your California-style Chard. This wine sells for $30 a bottle.

The second sample was a French Chardonnay, the 2008 Chablis Premier-Cru. This wine is a blend of various Premier Cru parcels from the Joseph Drouhin Domaine in Chablis (Roncières, Mont de Milieu, Montée de Tonnerre, Moireins). They are located on either side of the Serein River, harvested and vinified separately, then assembled. On the nose I picked up dried pineapple, ginger, lemon meringue, a faint hint of butter, toasted nuts, some green vegetal notes and orange peel with a hint of wet stone on the tail end.  On the palate this wine is similar to the previous one but with more complexity and it is silkier in texture with a longer finish. This wine sells for $32 a bottle and if I were in the market to buy a Chardonnay I’d pay the extra $2 and buy this one.

The third sample was the 2011 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Edition Rosé. Made in the saignée method, this wine is salmon pink in color and displays fresh aromas of pink grapefruit, sour cherries and melon. On the palate the wine is dry and somewhat tart, very crisp and vibrant with a very long (medium +) length finish. This wine sells for $20 a bottle.

The fourth pour was the 2010 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley. This wines exudes floral aromas of dried roses followed by black cherries, vibrant cherries, a hint of cedar and spice. On the palate it has medium acidity and a medium (+) length. This wine could easily be mistaken for a California Russian River Pinot Noir. A really nice wine but it wasn’t what I was looking for in Oregon. This wine sells for $40 a bottle.

The fifth wine was the 2009 Joseph Drouhin Santenay (Pinot Noir), Grand Vins De Bourgogne AOC. Santenay is a charming village, at the southern end of the Côte de Beaune, below the Mont de Sène. On the nose this wine displays what you expect to find in a Burgundian Pinot – black fruit, black cherries, pomegranate followed by earth, mushrooms and a hint of barnyard. The tannins are soft and the acidity is vibrant (medium +) and it has a prolonged finish. This wine sells for $27 a bottle and I brought two of them home to do a Burgundy/Oregon wine side-by-side comparison with friends.

The sixth and final pour was 2008 Laurène Cuvee Pinot Noir. Named after Véronique Drouhin's elder daughter, Laurène this is DDO’s flagship wine, and is produced entirely from Pinot Noir grown the estate in the Dundee Hills. The wine is absolutely superb and is the treasure that Pinot hunters are looking for in Oregon. The wine exudes black cherries, spice, smoke and bacon and a fresh earthiness that can’t be found in California. On the palate it is rich and sensuous with supple tannins, vibrant acidity (medium +) and a prolonged finish. This wine is a bit pricy at $65 a bottle but I had to bring at least one home to share with friends.

To see more pictures of Domaine Drouhin Oregon, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Domaine Drouhin Oregon
6750 Breyman Orchards Rd.
Dayton, Oregon 97114
Phone:  1-503-864-2700

For details on their French wines:

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