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Domaine Drouhin - A French Vineyard in Oregon

Updated: 1 day ago

Domaine Drouhin's front door sign

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As someone who notoriously does not like Pinot Noir, my palate is humbly corrected and challenged at Domaine Drouhin on every visit. Domaine Drouhin gets a special spotlight because their winery was the first winery in Oregon to open my eyes to Pinot Noir in a new light. When the wine has a story whose roots literally run deep in the history of European vine growing, the characteristics of what I once looked at as a lifeless varietal now takes on new depth.

French Vines in Oregon

Did you know that most of Oregon's wine country is composed of Burgundy grapes from France?

These "cloned" vines stretch across acres and acres of vineyards from Dundee to Willamette Valley and on, bringing a taste of France to America's Pacific Northwest.

Happy blog owner holding a glass of white wine
Sampling wine at nearby Domaine Serene's Members Only Lounge

I always thought the grapes in Oregon were young and still needed decades to mature. I have always leaned so heavily into the old world reds that I didn't stop to consider - could old world vines be supplanting our varietals right here in youthful North America?

Domaine Drouhin's barrel room - visible on the way to the restrooms
Domaine Drouhin's barrel room - visible on the way to the restrooms

The Story of Domaine Drouhin

The 'essence' and the story of what makes Domaine Drouhin so special is that it's a family run business. Generations of Drouhins have invested themselves in making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir the life blood of the land.

Close up shot of Domaine Drouhin's pinot noir glass

Papa Drouhin (Joseph) began the legacy of winemaking in Burgundy and Chablis in France (with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes respectively) and passed his enthusiasm on to Maurice, who ventured to the Pacific Northwest to share it with the Americans. Armed with phylloxera resistant rootstock (a nasty crop wiping insect), Maurice and eventually his son Robert were able to launch the business in the Dundee Hills of Oregon in the 1980s and evade the eventual crop slaughter that took hold of farms everywhere.

Now, his descendants have taken over the family business, managing both the French winery and the Oregonian. Soul goes into every pour, as their web slogan is

"French Soul ~ Oregon Soul".

Domaine Drouhin Spreads Beyond Dundee

The conglomeration of properties held by the Drouhin family all lend flavors that influence the wines.

Signs pointing to each of their properties
Signs pointing to each of their properties

You have Maison Joseph Drouhin in France, Domaine Drouhin in Dundee and Roserock in Eola-Amity Hills - the latter both in Oregon.

The tasting room at Domaine Drouhin offers flavors showcased from each of these vineyards, elegantly illustrating the familiar flavors I love from France, while at the same time taking advantage of different climates and preparation techniques in Oregon.

They plant their vines closer together than other vineyards, they also have interesting weather patterns that impact the taste. For instance, one of Roserock's vineyards faces a chill in the mornings or extreme heat midday. But, with the slope of the hill and the inevitable winds they face, it's almost like "a sunburn" as our tasting assistant shared with us - where the harshness of the day on the crop is smoothed over by this comforting wind. The yield is an interesting stress test on the grapes themselves.

If you're a bit of an oenophile like me, you'll know there's a myriad of ways to influence the flavor of a wine - from the terroir (the soil) to the weather, the slope, the insects, the humidity and so on. Then of course you have barrel or stainless steel processing, different pressing and destemming techniques, different bottle shapes and colors, etc. The games you can play to get to peak flavor are outrageously endless.

At Domaine Drouhin they take two grapes - the simplest of starts - chardonnay and pinot noir - and find delicately balanced blends of many of these techniques to deliver quality to the Northwest region.

Domaine Drouhin's Tasting Flight For Our Visit

Psst: don't forget to pre-order a cheese board!

The Chardonnays

The whites were really lovely. The beautiful golden straw colored wines were smooth and supple, with only the slightest hint of oak and butter.

2020 Domaine Drouhin Chardonnay: Arthur (their most popular!)

2020 Rose Rock Chardonnay

2020 Domaine Drouhin Chardonnay: Edition Limitee

The Pinot Noirs

Grappling with the idea of a Pinot Noir being to my liking, I found the reds to be fuller than expected. Some were quite spirited with some hi-ya on the after burner.

They were strong in the featherlight weight, and the color of many of these wines took on the color of strawberries and roses. In fact, Zephirine was named after Drouhin's daughter Veronique's favorite flowers. By a simple fate of naming convention, there is in fact a flower called "Rosa Zephirine Drouhin". Of course this thornless pink rose was bred by a Frenchman, so it's all so fitting.

2019 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir (the most widely purchased and seen - even in airports!)

2019 Rose Rock Pinot Noir: Zephirine

2019 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir: Laurene (the most coveted)

Special Bonus: I got to see some of the harvest season productivity!

Overall, over my many visits to Oregon wine country, this vineyard and tasting room has always had me walking away the happiest. I love the story, the French influence, quality of service, and let's not forget - the view! Do yourself a favor and put this one on your next list for wine tasting in Oregon.

Tasting room views at Domaine Drouhin
Tasting room views at Domaine Drouhin

Want to learn more? Visit Domaine Drouhin's website.

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