It is a bit like the antithesis of the centuries-old terroir of Burgundy, an Eden of a Pinot Noir fueled by monastic vibes, where each stone has a name and a story. There, half a day’s flight south of Portland, over the volcanic lands of the Willamette Valley, the virgin wastes still need to be cleared before being planted. However, with its Douglas pine forests covering the hillsides, its wet winters, the region has many similarities to Burgundy. It is perhaps in part the beauty of these landscapes and this atmosphere of a new world that, thirty years ago, prompted the Drouhin, a family from Beaune, to settle as pioneers in this Northwestern American state to plant vines. A risky but now successful venture – the Drouhin run three vineyards in the Dundee Hill and Eola appellations – that has helped change the image and economy of an entire region.
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Since then, other Burgundian winemakers and merchants have joined them. There were the Jadots, then Jean-Nicolas Méo Camuzet succumbed to temptation. In the process, the Maisons & Domaines Henriot group became the majority shareholder of the Beaux Frères estate, owned by Michael Etzel, Robert Parker and Robert Troy. Then the Bollinger family landed on American soil by purchasing the Ponzi Vineyards estate, created in the late 1970s by Dick and Nancy Ponzi.
When many Bordeaux people settled in California’s warmer Napa Valley, Beaunois and Champenois found their mirror vineyard here, their land of the future in the new world. Several reasons for this. “Water resources are becoming the number one problem for viticulture in the world. And Oregon has it all!“Remembers Véronique Drouhin who for thirty years has lived between France and the American West. The presence on the other side of the Atlantic also makes it possible to develop a global strategy on the largest wine market in the world. Furthermore, a very small part of the juices produced there are marketed in France. Many form circles that bind several thousand members to the estate and allow the direct distribution of much of the production with comfortable margins. Wine tourism is also successful. Over the past decade, the region has been booming. In 2021 the vineyard area exceeded 18,600 hectares, or two thirds of the cultivated area in Burgundy, and 1,058 wineries were listed. Although the price of land is slowly rising, hovering around € 250,000 per hectare planted, it is even more affordable than in Beaune and Dijon.
The vintage effect is also at stake in Oregon. The 2017, 2018, 2019 tasted by Le Figaro Vin correspond to solar years, therefore to warm, generous wines, very different from the previous ones or from 2020 and 2021. These juices marked by their terroir are without possibility of comparison with those of Morey – Saint -Denis or Vosne-Romanée. However, we have identified some nuggets, superb cuvées despite a high alcohol content that does not always succeed in Pinot Noir. Suffice it to say that Laurène, from the Drouhin estate, Beaux Frères, from Henriot and a few others, are now among the iconic wines of the new world. .
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