Domaine Drouhin Oregon: Burgundy’s First Footprint in Oregon Still Leaves an Impression
Wine enthusiasts often eagerly seek out the newest “hot” producer of domestic Pinot Noir, hoping to be one of
the first to spread the word after experiencing the pubescent winery’s first wines. Real connoisseurs of Pinot
Noir know that proven wineries that have stood the test of time with consistently world-class Pinot Noir
production are ones to focus on. Domaine Drouhin Oregon (DDO), is a perfect example. DDO, owned by
Maison Joseph Drouhin, was the first Burgundy house to make wine outside of France in 1988, and continues
today as a significant Burgundy presence in Oregon and the New World.
Robert Drouhin, struck by the resemblance of the Willamette Valley to the Côte d’Or, and by David Lett’s 1975
The Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve Pinot Noir that placed second in a 1979 blind tasting of French
burgundies versus their American Pinot Noir counterparts in 1979, initiated the purchase by Maison Joseph
Drouhin of 100 acres in the Dundee Hills overlooking the town of Dundee.
Robert chose his daughter, Veronique, to direct the new project in Oregon. She oversaw the initial planting of
vineyards at DDO in 1988, and crafted the first three vintages, 1988-1990, from purchased grapes. More land
was acquired, and today there are 225 estate acres, 124 of which are densely planted to Pinot Noir and
Chardonnay. In 1989, a four-level gravity-fed winery was constructed, the first of its kind in Oregon.
Over the years, Veronique Boss-Drouhin, pictured below, also known as Vero by her friends, has been a long distance
winemaker, continuing to live in Beaune, and traveling periodically to Oregon to oversee DDO.
Because of the difference in harvest between the Côte d’Or and the Dundee Hills of Oregon, she can supervise
crush and fermentation in Beaune in September, overseeing 400,000 cases of Maison Joseph Drouhin wine
production, and then fly to Oregon in time for crush which usually arrives in late September or October. The on
site assistant winemaker at DDO since 2009, Aaron Bell, works in close association with Veronique.
The Pinot Noirs at DDO emphasize balance, finesse and elegance over robustness, and although they can be
charming upon release, they age magnificently. The grapes are hand-picked, usually all de-stemmed and
indigenous yeasts are employed in long fermentations. Oak character (new oak is at about 20%) is minimized.
The wines are aged from 9 to 15 months in French oak barrels custom made in Burgundy (the Cuvée Laurène
and Cuvée Louise receive the extra 2 months in barrel)é. Veronique likes to say that the DDO wines are
“Burgundian at heart, but with Northwest intensity.” The wines have more extraction and fruitiness than those
from Maison Joseph Drouhin, but often less extraction than many other Oregon Pinot Noirs.
There are three Pinot Noirs offered at DDO. The Domaine Drouhin Oregon Dundee Hills Pinot Noir (often
referred to as “Classique”) has been made from estate and purchased grapes but is now harvest entirely from
the Drouhin Family Estate in the Dundee Hills (10,000 cases and is readily accessible. This wine is released 2
years after the vintage. The Domaine Drouhin Oregon Cuvée Laurène Pinot Noir has been made since 1992
and is named after Veronique’s first daughter who was also born in 1992. It was the winery’s first bottling of
100% estate fruit. This has been referred to as the winery’s “flagship wine.” It is a barrel selection with more
structure, extraction and age ability (2,000 cases), and is released 3 years after the vintage. The Domaine
Drouhin Oregon Cuvée Louise Pinot Noir was first produced in 1999 and is named after Veronique’s youngest
daughter. This wine is a special selection of the winemaker’s favorite barrels and is extremely limited (200
cases), and primarily sold to winery club members. The Louise has a little less structure than the Laurène, with
more elegance and finesse.
Some have likened the three Pinot Noirs to their Burgundy counterparts: Estate = Village level, Cuvée Laurène
= Premier Cru level, and Cuvée Louise = Grand Cru level. This is not strictly the case, but rather more
Veronique’s stylistic choice. Veronique told me, “For Cuvée Laurène, I look for a wine with good volume, good
length, more structure than the Dundee Hills Cuvée, and above all, more aging potential. The goal for Cuvée
Louise would be like looking to produce my ‘Musigny,’ the ultimate level of elegance. So the Louise may or may
not be as structured as Laurène, but look for the best balance, length and finesse.” Certain blocks on the
estate are more appropriate to one or the other blend.
Veronique’s recommended drinking windows are as follows. For the Dundee Hills Cuvée, the average time to
drink from release is 8-10 years. The average time to drink Cuvée Laurène and Cuvée Louise is 5 to 25 years.
Approximate annual production of the three cuvées is 10,000 to 12,000 cases for Dundee Hills Cuvée, 2,500
cases for Cuvée Laurène and 400 cases for Cuvée Louise.
DDO expanded its reach and offerings starting in 2013 when they acquired the Roserock Vineyard, a 279-acre
property at the southern tip of the Eola-Amity Hills, with 122 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. DDO had
previously purchased grapes from this vineyard that includes vines dating to 2004. Three inaugural wines were
released from RoseRock Drouhin Oregon in 2016 from the 2014 vintage including the 2014 RoseRock
Vineyard Chardonnay ($35), the RoseRock Vineyard Pinot Noir ($35), and a deluxe Pinot Noir cuvée named
Zéphirine ($60). Zéphirine is a selection of the best barrels from the 2014 vintage chosen by Veronique to
express the excitement the winery feels for their new Estate. The wine was previewed in July at the
International Pinot Noir Celebration.
The Domaine Drouhin Oregon Tasting Room at the winery’s 225-acre estate winery is open daily from 11:00
a.m. to 4:00 p.m.. A tasting flight of five wines, including Chardonnay, is offered ($15). Tours are available
everyday except Wednesdays by reservation. For DDO wines, visit www.domainedrouhin.com. For RoseRock
Drouhin Oregon wines, visit www.roserockoregon.com.
All Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noirs reviewed here are from the Drouhin Family Estate in the Dundee
Hills, Dayton, Oregon. The RoseRock Drouhin Pinot Noir is from the estate Roserock Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills.
2014 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $45.
Moderate reddish purple
color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, dark raspberry, spice and nutty oak entice. Noticeable sap and
structure and in this warm vintage, yet the wine retains a comfortable demeanor. Mid weight flavors of black
cherry, black raspberry and spice carry through an expansive mid palate to a gratifying finish. Round and
smooth in the mouth with refined tannins make for easy drinking now.
2013 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Cuvée Laurène Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $70.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. A flirty nose reveals aromas of dusty rose and cherry. Less sap and
tannin than the 2012 vintage with a redder fruit profile. This wine has more approachability and more verve,
offering a mid weight essence of juicy dark red cherry fruit. The finish is sustained but more shallow than the
2012 version of this wine, yet is thirst quenching and pleasing. Both the 2012 and 2013 Lauréne Pinot Noirs
are still available from the winery and represent an ideal study in the differences in the two disparate vintages.
This wine should easily age another 5 to 10 years.
2012 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Cuvée Laurène Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $70.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, blueberry and raw beef pick
up interest over time in the glass. Juicy and alert on the palate, with a mid weight plus sappy core of
blueberry and black cherry fruits framed by a firm, supportive tannic spine. Plenty to like about this
wine with an impressively long, dark berry fueled finish. This wine releases its charms progressively
with each sip. It can be enjoyed now with decanting, but has the balance to age magnificently for
another 5 to 15 years. When tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle,
there was more fruit talking and the wine had taken on a seductively smooth personality.
2011 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Cuvée Louise Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
light reddish purple color in the glass. Very pleasant aromas of dark pie cherry, Cremini mushroom and subtle
oak. Mid weight flavors of dark red berries and black cherries have a vibrant and juicy tone. Substantial tannins
tend to outweigh the modest sap and creep up on the finish that nevertheless has good length of fruit
goodness. The oak overlay tends to bring more attention to the wine than is desirable. Overall, a satisfying
wine that honestly reflects the cool vintage. Drink or hold until 2020.
2009 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Cuvée Louise Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
dark reddish purple color in the glass. A moody nose offers scents of black fruits, oak and mushroom. Fullbodied,
with a rich endowment of purple and black berry flavors. Noticeable tannins, yet very charming, with a
velvety mouthfeel and a silky finish. A mouthful of well ripened fruit is reflective of this warm vintage. Drink or
hold until 2025.
2006 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Cuvée Louise Dundee Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
dark reddish purple color in the glass. Charming aromas of black cherry, spice, sous-bois and even a touch of
barnyard. Engaging and velvety on entry with a discreet concentration of dark fruits accented with hints of tar,
black tea, raisin and nutty oak. The fruit ripeness reflects the warm vintage, yet the wine is quite elegant. The
finish is gratifyingly long, but a hint of alcoholic warmth shows up. Blessed with a modest aged patina, this wine
will still hold until 2021 or beyond.
2014 Domaine Drouhin Oregon RoseRock Zéphirine Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $60. Volcanic
soils, cool temperatures and ideal elevation at this certified sustainable (LIVE) vineyard site named after the
Drouhin variety of climbing rose known for its fragrance and beauty. A barrel selection revealing the best
expression of the site.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. The nose offers good depth and
intensity of dark fruit aromas. Mid to full-bodied on the palate, with generous and charming flavors of
blackberry, cassis and black raspberry backed by conspicuously firm tannins. Silky in texture with a generous
follow through on the finish. A departure from the DDO Dundee Hills Pinot Noirs and that is a good thing. When
tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, the tannins had become more
enmeshed and I believe this wine will continue to assimilate with a few years in bottle.