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Oregon wine country, part 14
Domaine Drouhin Oregon

Website: www.domainedrouhin.com 

The next stop was Domaine Drouhin Oregon, or DDO, as it is more commonly known. It’s the west coast output of Burgundy’s top-performing negociant, Joseph Drouhin.  I met with MD David Millman and cellarmaster Arron Bell. This was certainly one of the most laid back winery visits I’ve ever had. After a chat in the vineyard, we had a casual lunch (home-made BLT sandwiches) in the winery with a few glasses of wine.

Arron and David

Robert Drouhin’s head had been turned by the remarkable performance in a blind Pinot Noir tasting of the 1975 Eyrie Vineyards South Block – a result that brought the attention of the world to this relatively new wine region.

Then, in 1986 Robert's daughter Véronique did vintage with Adelsheim Vineyards, Bethel Heights and Eyrie. Robert put the word out that he was interested in doing something in Oregon, and in 1987 they were alerted to a 225 acre estate with south-facing slopes that was currently a cereal farm. They bought it.

The first DDO vintage was 1988, made in rented premises, and that year the first vineyards were planted with Pommard and Wadenswil clones on the typical 7 foot wide row spacing. It was the following year that serious planting was embarked on, however, and DDO decided to do something quite different. They were the first in the USA to use high density planting (1 m by 1.3 m = 3300 plants per acre), and this was done on rootstock, which was unusual for Oregon. This was prescient: two years later, phylloxera was discovered in Oregon.  1989 was also the year they built their purpose-built, gravity flow winery. Digging was started in February, and vintage was done here the same year.

Fruit is hand picked and hand sorted, if necessary. All the Pinot Noir is destemmed. Probably the most high tech thing here is heating and cooling. No enzymes are used and wild ferments are employed. Two-thirds of the barrels are from Francois Freres. Drouhin in Burgundy purchases the wood and season them for three years before sending them to Francois Freres for barrel construction.

The wines? They’re the real deal. They’re beautifully elegant, with real freshness and focus, and from my relatively limited experience with them the news is good: they seem to age pretty well.


Domaine Drouhin Oregon Arthur Chardonnay 2006 Dundee Hills
Named after Veronique Drouhin’s son; half aged in oak, half in stainless steel. Lovely freshness with some toastiness. It’s nutty and crisp on the palate with nice depth of flavour. Some creaminess to the texture, too. A really sophisticated effort. 91/100

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2006 Dundee Hills
Light-ish colour. Lovely aromatic fresh cherry fruit nose: quite sweet but with nice purity. The palate is fresh with a lovely spiciness and some good structure. Lovely balance here between the fruit, the savoury spiciness, and the acidity. 93/100

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir ‘Laurène’ 2005 Dundee Hills
A serious effort: structured and bold, yet refined. Lovely sweet raspberry and cherry fruit aromas. Vibrant with lovely freshness. The palate is vivid and juicy with lovely acidity and good freshness. Structured and intense yet elegant at the same time. 94/100

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir ‘Laurène’ 2001 Dundee Hills
Beautifully sweet aromatic, pure red fruits on the nose with great focus. The palate is smooth but structured with real presence and lots of fruit. Refined and fruit driven with good acidity. This is a superb wine that is ageing beautifully. 94/100

And tasted earlier in the week:

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 1993
It’s amazing how well this Oregon Pinot is ageing. Elegant, complex nose. The palate is fresh, vivid, spicy and beautifully expressive with good structure. 95/100

See also:

Wines tasted 07/08  
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