Domaine Drouhin has essentially doubled its estate vineyard holdings in Oregon with the purchase of picturesque Roserock, a 279-acre property in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA overlooking Salem, the state capital. The vineyard includes 122 planted acres (111 to Pinot Noir, 11 to Chardonnay) and an additional 80 plantable acres. No purchase price was announced, but prime developed vineyards in Willamette Valley sell for about $100,000 an acre.
“We will continue to invest in Burgundy," said Frédéric Drouhin, president of Maison Joseph Drouhin, the family's highly regarded business in Beaune, France, "but it is getting difficult to buy something of Roserock’s size in Burgundy, and we think it will be harder to do so in Oregon soon."
"Oregon is still very reasonable compared to premier cru in Burgundy," said Véronique Boss-Drouhin, who makes Drouhin's wines in Burgundy and from their 124 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay planted on the 225-acre Oregon property in the Dundee Hills AVA.
"We have already made some wine from parts of this vineyard, and are really excited about it," Boss-Drouhin told Wine Spectator. She and her brother Philippe, who manages the vineyards, have been looking for opportunities to expand their Oregon vineyard holdings since the 2010 vintage, the first in which the flagship Oregon wine was made entirely from grapes they grew on their own vineyard. From its first vintage in 1988, Domaine Drouhin purchased grapes from around Willamette Valley for a portion of the blend. Eola-Amity Hills has always played a key role.
"When we first started we used to buy wine from Bethel Heights, and always the wine was fantastic. I liked what I tasted from Cristom, too," Boss-Drouhin said, mentioning two of the most prominent wineries in Eola-Amity Hills. "We know that these are high-quality vineyards." Evening Land's estate vineyard, where Burgundian vigneron Dominique Lafon is a consultant, is just up the road.
Among the top-tier Oregon wineries that have purchased grapes from Roserock are Soter, Penner-Ash, King Estate and Argyle.
Roserock was planted in 2004 and 2006 by California-based Premier Pacific for the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS), which owned the land as an investment, and sold it to the Drouhins. CalPers also owned, and Premier Pacific developed, Zena Crown Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills and Grand Moraine Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, both purchased earlier this year by California's Kendall-Jackson family.
Plans are to vinify various blocks of the new vineyard separately to get a handle on what they can produce, Boss-Drouhin said. The family expects to bottle an Eola-Amity Hills estate wine to go with the Dundee Hills estate, "just as we have a Gevrey-Chambertin in Burgundy to go with our Pommard," she explained. "But if there are individual blocks that make something special, we would think about how to bottle them individually."
Boss-Drouhin sees the 25-mile separation between the home estate and the new vineyard as a positive. "Eola Hills is a little later ripening. Thats good news for me," she said, noting that the grapes would be coming in a week or two later than the ones from the home estate. "It's cooler in Eola-Amity Hills. I really like the late, slow-ripening sites. They make very elegant wines."