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Wine: Côte d’Oregon

Doug Campeau

Véronique Drouhin knew she had discovered a special place when, in July 1987, she first crested the remote Oregon hillside that would become home to one of the most respected vineyards in the New World. Dropping gently away to the southeast, the idyllic slope before her offered breathtaking views across the Willamette Valley toward the glaciated volcanic peak of Mount Hood. A great-granddaughter of négociant Joseph Drouhin—who founded Maison Joseph Drouhin, one of the preeminent domaines in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, in 1880—the winemaker was as taken with the setting as she was with the hillside’s potential to one day produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. "I noticed immediately that the land has a very good feeling, like special places do," she says. "It’s something that stays with you, and in fact, I still get that feeling every time I’m there."

Less than a quarter century later, Domaine Drouhin Oregon enjoys a reputation for crafting wines as consistent as they are spectacular. Drouhin, who divides her time between the family’s operation in Beaune, France, and the Willamette Valley, credits the local weather with much of this success, explaining that the usual variations in daily temperature in the Dundee Hills AVA, where the estate is situated, help her grapes develop the complex flavors for which her wines are admired. Yet each vintage also benefits from Drouhin’s extensive knowledge and experience, much of which she acquired growing up in the vineyards and cellars of Maison Joseph Drouhin, before earning her National Diploma of Oenology from the University of Burgundy in Dijon, France, and a diplôme supérieur de recherche for her work with Pinot Noir.

Drouhin’s passion for her craft shines through in offerings such as the 2007 Laurène Pinot Noir, priced at $65 per bottle, which garnered the highest rating of any Oregon wine of that vintage from Burghound.com founder and critic Allen Meadows. Then there is the celebrated limited-release Cuvée Louise Drouhin Pinot Noir, a special blend of the best barrels of the vintage, which is only available (for $90) through an allocation list to members of Domaine Drouhin’s DDO Direct wine club. "For me," Drouhin says, "the Laurène and Louise cuvées are personal reminders that the work over the years has been worth it, and the potential in Oregon is amazing."

Given her family’s remarkable portfolio of white wines from the Côte de Beaune and Chablis, it is hardly surprising that Drouhin’s gifts also grace her Oregon Chardonnay. The 2008 Edition Limitée Chardonnay, priced at $55 per bottle, is a sensuous, round, delightfully delineated, and superbly structured release that recalls the best wines of Meursault. Comprising six of the finest barrels of the vintage, each hand-selected by Drouhin, it is only available at the winery—the best of all reasons to make a visit. There, in addition to enjoying the exquisite, expertly crafted wines, one may drink in the vineyard’s spectacular setting, much as Drouhin herself did on that summer day in 1987.

 

Domaine Drouhin Oregon, 503.864.2700, www.domainedrouhin.com

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