The Difference Between Decent and OMG
There are wines that are OK, wines that are good (at the price), and then there are wines that are so delicious, so sophisticated, so remarkable – that your eyes, nose and palate know that you are experiencing the difference between street art and a Matisse.
Private and Confidential
I was promised a memorable wine experience if I showed up at Benoit NYC in November. Looking forward to a palate-pleasing surprise I headed to west 55th Street, NYC. When I told the maître d’, I was at Benoit to experience Drouhin wines, she quickly left her station and escorted me to a back elevator that took me to Benoit’s private meeting space. I was directed to a delicious buffet display that featured smoked salmon and a charcuterie – the perfect introduction to a grand event.
Finally, this curated group of wine writers, wine merchants and sommeliers were ushered into the event space where we found our seats and anxiously waited for the wine surprise to begin.
First Organic. Then Biodynamic
The Drouhin vineyards date back to 1880 when Joseph (at the age of 22), moved to Beaume (Chablis region) with the objective of starting a winery bearing his name. Philippe Drouhin introduced organic farming techniques in 1988, but it was not until the 2009 vintage that the organization could officially declare that the grapes being grown within its vineyards were organic.
The next step was to become biodynamic. Wine made with organically grown grapes indicates that synthetic pesticides or additives have not been used in the vineyards and that there are no added sulfites. Biodynamic farming (developed by Rudolf Steiner 1861–1925) means that there are no synthetic chemicals used in the growing process and the vineyard is seen as an entire ecosystem that includes a recognition of astrological influences and lunar cycles.
Grapes farmed using a biodynamic system indicates that the winemaker did not make any manipulations such as yeast additions or acidity adjustments. The earth is viewed as a living and receptive organism and today the vineyards bring natural responses to natural problems through the use of biodynamic farming methods.
The Drouhin vineyards are owned and operated by the great grandchildren of Joseph Drouhin, and the family owns vineyards in Chablis, Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune and Cote Chalonnaise as well as in the Williamette Valley in Oregon.
The Drouhins acquire their own wood which they air dry for three years before turning them into barrels by the Francois cooperage. Rarely is more than 30 percent of new wood used on any cuvee, except for the grands crus. The Barrels are bar-coded to show the provenance of the wood and provides an audit trail.
The foundation of the Drouhin success is built on four principles:
1. Viticulture. A focus on the terroirs characteristics
2. Vinification. Authenticity comes before technology
3. Ageing. An understanding of the wines origin: Stainless steel vats to enhance fruit and freshness in Chablis and Maconnais; oak barrels for Cote d’Or to encourage complexity and finesse
4. Detail. Strict technical control with a passion for detail
In the Glass
1. Domaine Drouhin Oregon Chardonnay. Arthur, 2015. Chardonnay varietal; Jory terroir. 100 percent Dijon clones, grown on the Drouhin family estate in the Dundee Hills of Oregon. Partially fermented in French oak barrels.
Domaine Drouhin Oregon was established in 1987 and Veronique Drouhin-Boss is the fourth-generation winemaker. She is noted for making distinctive Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay that are award winners. Ninety acres of the 225-acre estate are planted with over 3100 vines per acre.
D is a majority of Premier and Grand
Notes: The eye is delighted with golden highlights that sparkle against a clear liquid canvas. The nose is rewarded with the perfume of lemons, limes, apples, almonds – suggesting the fragrance of a mountain lake in the spring. Beautiful to the palate thanks to suggestions of citrus, pears and honeydew melon, softened by notes of heavy fresh vanilla cream and spice. The finish is as soft as velvet leaving a light floral memory.
2. Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches Premier Cru. 2012. Chardonnay varietal; clay, limestone and marl terroir; matures 12-15 months in French oak barrels, 25 percent new. Mouches means flies; beehives previously existed in this sun-drenched clos. The bees in the local dialect were “mooches a miel” (honey flies).
Notes: Light golden sparkles to the eye – sending highlights reminiscent of sunshine after a rain. The nose detects the fruitiness of ripe bananas, honeysuckle, limes and lemons, tamed by hints of honey and almonds. The palate is charmed and the complex finish is both a taste and emotional experience. In one word: LUSH! Award: Le Guide Hachette des Vins. 2016. 1 Star
3. Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot Marquis de Laguiche Premier Cru, 2012. Chardonnay varietal; marl and limestone terroir. Aged for 12 months in 20 percent new French oak.
The land was previously occupied by monks from the Abbey and the Laguihe family. During the French Revolution, the Abbey was ruined, but the estate of the Laguiche family was spared and remains on the property.
Notes: Light golden hints of sunlight seduce the eye while the nose is rewarded with honey, kiwi, sunflowers, and the sea/sand at the beach tamed by hints of wet rocks. The finish is soft and delicious, with lingering citrus notes.
4. Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguice Grand Cru, 2010. Chardonnay varietal; brown-red earth with white, polished limestone pebbles. The word “rachet” in Montrachet means infertile land where nothing can grow.
The property is actually the largest parcel of the Montrachet vineyard and has been in the hands of the Laguice family since 1363. Beginning in 1947 the Drouhin family has managed its cultivation and vinification, ensuring product quality.
Notes: Golden highlights tantalize the eye, and the nose is entertained with aromas of grapefruit, apples, white melon, pineapple and honey. The palate is surprised and delighted with a slightly sour/sweet minerality that provides complexity to this experience. In one word: AMAZING!
5. Drouhin Oregon Roserock Zephirine Pinot Noir, 2014. Pinot Noir varietal; jory, rittner and nekia terroir. The Zephirine is a barrel selection cuvee and references expression of the site. The name refers to the Zephirine Drouhin variety of climbing rose, which is known for its fragrance and beauty.
Notes: Deep garnet red trending to black velvet to the eye. The nose is amazed by hints of violets, roses, plums and chocolate, tobacco, wood, soil, old leather, cork, wet soil and alcohol. On the palate, there is a soft and complex mix of cherries and oak, leading to a smooth finish. In summary: SEXY, SPICY and COMPLEX.
6. Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir Laurene, 2014. Pinot Noir varietal; jory terroir. Produced entirely from Pinot Noir grown on the family’s estate in the Dundee Hills. All of the fruit is handpicked into small totes, destemmed, fermented with indigenous yeasts and placed into French oak barrels (never more than 20 percent new). Once the vintage is in the cellar the process of selecting barrels with a consideration of adding complexity, length and depth.
Notes: Visually – this gem offers deep ruby red to black velvet and satin to the eye. The nose detects ripe black cherries and blackberries, wood, wet rocks, leather, cigars and tobacco, spices, sage and wood barrels. The palate is delighted with fabulous blend of fruit mixed with wood and soil. The soft finish with light tannins (barely suggested) – is just enough to be interesting and memorable.
7. Joseph Drouhin Musigny Grand Cru, 2011. Pinot Noir varietal; chalky terroir with pebbles and limited clay. A pioneer of vine growing in this area, Mucius owned the vineyard on this hillside in Gallo-Roman times. Musigny rose to the rank it now occupies in the early Middle Ages with the help of the monks.
Notes: Deep ruby red/cerise to the eye; the nose is astonished by hints of smoke, tobacco, dried roses, ripe Bing cherries, with hints of mint and musk. The palate is delighted with soft light tannins, making the experience deliciously seductive. Summary: Incredibly DELICIOUS
The wines of Maison Joseph Drouhin should be part of every restaurant and club wine list, included in the cellars of wine collectors and coveted by gourmet diners who accept only the very best palate experience.
© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.