In 2013, Domaine Drouhin Oregon purchased 279 acre (113 ha) Roserock Vineyard in Willamette Valley’s Eola-Amity Hills. This acquisition adds to the 225 acre (90 ha) estate in Dundee Hills they established in 1987, and allows for a focused expression of terroir reflective of their Burgundy domaine, Maison Joseph Drouhin.
Véronique Drouhin-Boss, Robert Drouhin’s daughter, holds court as the vigneron for the family’s holdings, including Roserock Drouhin Oregon. Elegant, refined, graceful, her wines capture both the essence of their microclimates, as well as the trademark Drouhin ‘house style’ – ethereal, lilting pours of supple, structured beauty.
In this exclusive interview with Véronique Drouhin-Boss, the artisan provides insights into her life as a wine maker for the family estate, including a bit about her own élevage, or ‘raising up’ in Burgundy.
LM Archer (LMA): Your family has produced terroir-expressive wines in Burgundy for four generations at Maison Joseph Drouhin. Can you elaborate about the ground-breaking role that your family played in revitalizing Chablis?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: It is actually my father who played an important role in Chablis, believing, in 1968, in the future of the depressed region. My grandfather was the one who started the estate purchasing in 1918 the Clos des Mouches.
LMA: Your father Robert proved a pioneer in Oregon as well, establishing Domaine Drouhin Oregon in 1987 in the Dundee Hills, the first Burgundian drawn to the region by its familiar climate and promising soils. How has the purchase of Roserock in 2013 impacted your family’s winemaking operations?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: It has not changed our philosophy regarding winemaking. It is, however, a different area than the Dundee Hills, with minor differences in the microclimate and soil. The goal remains the same: producing wines that are elegant, refined, age worthy and showing the character of where they grow.
LMA: The ‘rose’ portion of the ‘Roserock’ label references Pinot Noir and the ‘rock’ part of the name references Chardonnays. A third, small portion of reserve wine is held back for ‘Zephirine,’ named after the ’Zephirine Drouhin’ a rose. Where does Roserock fit within the Drouhin ‘style?’
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: Roserock is flirting in style with Gevrey-Chambertin, meaning the wines show a great underlying structure with ample volume and bright flavors. Our Dundee Hills Pinot is more like a Chambolle-Musigny.
LMA: Can you elaborate a little bit more about the significance of ‘Zephirine,’ both the wine and the rose?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: Zephirine was the wife of a man, Monsieur Drouhin, who loved roses. In 1968, at his request, a rose was made for her by Mr. Bizot, a rosemaker, who gave the name “Zephirine” to his new rose. How well suited for our Roserock reserve cuvée this name is! Like Laurene for our Dundee Hills premium estate pinot noir, Zephirine is a blend of a few carefully selected cuvées from Roserock, showing great complexity and beautiful texture.
LMA: In 1988, your father ‘nominated’ you as wine maker for Domaine Drouhin Oregon. Today, you straddle the wine-making fence between Burgundy and Oregon as ‘guardian of the Maison Joseph Drouhin style.” Your older brother Philippe oversees the vines, striving to achieve ‘natural answers to natural problems.” How do these viticultural and wine making philosophies work together at Roserock?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: The philosophy is the same at Roserock, both for the viticulture and winemaking; the difference is that we have now been working for almost 30 years at Domaine Drouhin Oregon in the Dundee Hills so we have some good experience there. In Burgundy, it is 136 years of experience for our family. Roserock is much newer for us, the soil and microclimate characteristics are a little different, we already have fairly precise ideas on how to manage the vineyard and vinify the grapes but with time we will better understand each individual block. That might lead to a couple more different cuvées in the future.
LMA: As a vigneron, do you find your production methods vary much between Roserock, Domaine Drouhin Oregon and Maison Joseph Drouhin?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: Honestly no, our methods do not vary that much between the three locations. The goal is the same in each place: to produce wines of character that reflect where they come from. There is no secret, but certainly there is a lot of thinking in the viticulture practices and then many tastings to fine tune each wine.
Every working day of the week and this during all year we taste at 11 AM for about one to one-and-a-half hour. When I am in Burgundy, I still taste our wines from Oregon that the winery sends me every month.
LMA: In 1986, after earning your advanced degree in Enology from the University of Dijon, you ended up interning with the Letts of The Eyrie Vineyard, the Casteels of Bethel Heights, and the Adelsheims. During your internship, did you notice many similarities between Oregon and Burgundian wine families?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: Living with these three lovely families was wonderful. Oregon and Burgundy wine families have a lot in common. The way of life: easy going, healthy eating, spending time together, was not very different from our life back home.
LMA: After your internship, was there anything about Oregon that made you personally want to return and make wine, regardless of your father’s recommendations?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: I was only 24 years old after my internship and did not see right away a future in Oregon for me. I loved the place and the people but did not think I could do something there.
LMA: Your advanced degree was in Pinot Noir. Did you learn anything about growing/making Pinot Noir in Oregon vs. Burgundy that informed those studies?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: Pinot Noir is a tricky variety to grow. What is a fact is that in most years it is easier to grow it in Oregon than in Burgundy. My study on Pinot was mostly related to extraction of color which can be a challenge in Burgundy but certainly is not a problem in Oregon. The challenge in Oregon is to keep the natural elegance of the variety. Making wines with deep color and great structure is quite easy, having also the balance, finesse and elegance is not that easy.
LMA: Domaine Drouhin Oregon’s credo is “French Soul, Oregon Soil.” At the 2016 Oregon Wine Symposium, you accepted the Founders Award, an award which ‘honors people whose longtime work in and for the industry has positively affected the direction and accomplishments of Oregon wine,’ on behalf of your family. Did this award have any significance for you and your family that differed from other awards you have received?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: Yes, we were extremely touched by this award. It came from friends we have known for 30 years. These friends are the same people who did not know us so well 30 years ago, but believed in us. They believed we could, with them, contribute to make Oregon become a recognized region for the quality of its Pinot Noir. It has not been an easy path, but all together, I think we have succeeded in putting Oregon on the map of one of the best Pinot Noir producing region of the world.
LMA: You have three brothers. You’re a mother of three. Where you surprised when your father asked you to become the family’s wine maker?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: Since I was the only one who studied winemaking, it did not surprise me so much, but I was still very young and not sure I could fulfil the position. Luckily, I have had help from my father whose long experience in winemaking was very precious.
LMA: Do you take your own children into the caves to taste, as your father did with you when you were a child?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: Not as much as my father did with us when we were young. For us it was easy since we lived above the cellars.
LMA: Do any of your children show an interest in keeping the Drouhin style alive for the next generation?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: For the moment they are still studying, so it is a little early to tell. They all like wine, but also think they should make their own experience for some years before they maybe join the family business.
LMA: Anything else you’d care to share with readers about Roserock?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: Yes, I would like to make it clear that Roserock is a wine from Domaine Drouhin Oregon. It is from a different AVA [Eola-Amity Hills] than the Pinot we produce in the Dundee Hills, but it is made with the same philosophy.
Also we need the readers to become our ambassadors: we can grow the grapes and make the wine but we can’t share it with their families and friends!
LMA: Finally, if your experience as a vigneron has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?
Véronique Drouhin-Boss: Whatever we do we remain growers whose crop will always depend on Mother Nature. We have to respect our planet and precious water resources.
All photos (except Véronique Drouhin-Boss) are copyright Andrea Johnson and published here with permission from Domaine Drouhin Oregon / Roserock Drouhin Oregon.
LM Archer is a freelance writer based in Seattle and California. She is Francophile who considers wine an art and Burgundy the centre of the universe. She is the founder and editor of binNotes | redThread.