Home Oregon Willamette Wine 3: Domaine Drouhin

Willamette Wine 3: Domaine Drouhin


Eyrie Vineyards was the first to plant Pinot Noir in Willamette Valley, establishing their vines in 1965, with 1970 as their first vintage. In 1979 an event affectionately known as The Wine Olympics was staged with 330 wines from 33 countries were evaluated blind by experts from ten different countries. The 1975 vintage of Eyrie Vineyards Reserve finished in the top ten. With that, Oregon wine gained notice.

In 1980, Robert Drouhin of Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy organized a rematch, again with blind judges. There the same Eyrie 1975 Reserve placed second, losing to a 1959 Chambolle-Musigny Drouhin wine by only 2/10s of a point.

By 1980, Willamette Valley was already producing world class wine. Eyrie was the winery to garner this particular Olympics attention, but others in the area were established and producing good quality Pinot Noir, helping to establish the quality of the region as well.

After the results of the Wine Olympcs, and already familiar with Oregon from a tourist perspective, Robert Drouhin began visiting the wine regions of the state more readily, becoming friends with David Lett of Eyrie, David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard, and others. In 1987, the Drouhin family purchased land at the top of the Dundee Hills, above the Original Willamette plantings established by the Letts, and near other already established vineyards as well. The land purchased by Drouhin, however, was not planted with vines at the time. The site became Domaine Drouhin.

Visiting Domaine Drouhin

the Domaine Drouhin winery was built into the hillside to take advantage of both the natural insulative qualities offered for helping to keep the cellars cool, but also to effectively design a four story (three winery stories plus fourth hosting level) gravity fed winery. In the late 1980s, when the facility was built, it was one of the first gravity fed wineries in the United States.

Filling barrels on the cellar level (third from the top)

aging Willamette Pinot

The Drouhin family emphasizes the quality of the wine that was already begun in the Willamette Valley before their arrival. Visiting Oregon, they appreciated the family owned and run business element of the valley, a perspective shared with Burgundy. In choosing to invest in the area, they wanted to continue to rely on the techniques they already understood from their wine making in Burgundy. One of the choices made in the vineyard as a result is to plant rows closer together (with special ‘over-row’ style tractors being required–I wish I’d gotten a picture, these things are ridiculously cool).

In purchasing undeveloped land, it’s impossible to know how well it will host vines. As Véronique Drouhin, the Domaine Drouhin head wine maker, describes it, only time will tell you what you have. But the site was so beautiful, she said they just had to try. The site was purchased in 1987, and planted in 1988. That first year the Drouhin’s purchased fruit to make wine and see what it was like. 1988 is known as a good vintage for Willamette. From a Burgundian perspective, the now-20 year old vines of Domaine Drouhin are still young.

There is a clear house style visible in both the Oregon and French wines of Drouhin with over arching viticulture and wine making decisions in both places being overseen by the same people

Domaine Drouhin offers side-by-side tastings with wines from the wineries in France.

The 2008 Chablis Premier Cru offers focused acidity, with an ultra clean presentation, touches of chalk, and citrus powder primarily offering lemon, with touches of white grapefruit. This wine has medium alcohol, medium+ acidity, and a medium+ finish. (for some reason I also noted “not funny” on this wine. I really wish I remembered WHY I wrote that there. I enjoyed this wine, so I’m not sure the reference but it made me laugh to find the comment later.)

The 2010 Arthur Dundee Hills Chardonnay carries a softer mouth feel, but with still persistent acidity carrying the more vibrant but still focused fruit flavors through to a medium+ finish. The tart flavor is softer here, white also paired with well-integrated white pepper, and touches of chalk.

The 2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir offers a nose of dried rose and leaf, with touches of rose oil, a smooth mouth feel and palate of dried rose petal, and light grapefruit zest. This wine shows quenching acidity, and a medium+ finish.

The 2009 Savigny les Beaune Clos des Godeaux has a vibrant berry nose, with an ultra clean presentation of berry and cooked green and dried herbs. There is a nice balance of lifted aromatics with rich earth belly and fresh movement through the palate here.

The 2010 Pinot Noir from Domaine Drouhin stood out here as my favorite over the tasting, with a berry, and lightly dried berry nose, followed by a juicy dried berry, light bramble rose bush, and well integrated pepper palate. There is a pleasant combination of drying finish with juicy acidity, and a medium+ finish.

The Laurène blend is always aged 3 years, and made from barrels selected after fermentation. The 2008 offers nice high notes with a rounder aromatics than the Willamette Valley Pinot. There is an earthy undercurrent that carries hints of smoke and no heaviness. The palate offers a nice tannin traction, with plenty of berry and dried berry driven movement.

it’s been a good year in Willamette for bumble bees. They were dancing about with the lavender outside the winery.

Thank you very much to David Millman.

Thank you to Ashley Bell.

Thank you to Dan Fredman, and to Lisa Shara Hall.

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