At a dinner party on Saturday night I enjoyed an extraordinary wine. It was the Domaine Drouhin’s Laurène 1997 – a pinot noir from the Burgundian family’s Dundee Hills vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
The Drouhin family has been making wine in Burgundy since 1880 and in Oregon since the late 1980s. Interestingly Robert Drouhin first “discovered” Oregon as early as 1961. His interest, however, was really piqued in 1980 after David Lett’s 1975 Eyrie South Block Reserve Pinot Noir placed second in a competition organised by Drouhin at Maison Joseph Drouhin in Beaune.
Robert’s daughter, Véronique Drouhin-Boss, worked harvest with three of Willamette Valley’s founding families – the Letts, the Casteels (Bethel Heights) and the Adelsheims (Adelsheim Vineyards) – before taking charge of winemaking at the Oregon winery in 1987. Her brother, Philippe, is in charge of viticulture. The Laurène, named after Véronique’s daughter, is a reserve bottling from specially selected barrels.
The Burgundian character of the Laurène was striking, especially since on the same night I had the unique opportunity to compare it to the Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny 1999. (By the way, all wines that night were matched with exquisite Japanese cusine).
The Chambolle Musigny 1999 was more highly perfumed than the 1997 Laurène, but the Laurène’s silky texture, complex flavour profile and remarkable freshness were a revelation.
I couldn’t find a tasting note for the 1997 Laurène, but the Wine Spectator’s Harvey Steiman suggested a drinking window out to 2006 for the 1996. Perhaps another example of how critics have underestimated the ageing potential of New World pinot noirs? (see my post, Cellaring Australian Pinot Noir: How Long Do They Last?)