Grand Seminar

2017 Grand Seminar

The French Adventurers
Burgundians Making Pinot Noir in Oregon

On a splendid morning of July 1987, in the hills of Dundee, my father looked at me and said ‘let’s try to make wine here, I believe in this place’. In 30 years the journey has been as challenging as it has been a fascinating adventure.” – Véronique Boss-Drouhin

In more recent years, emissaries from Maison Louis Jadot, Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Méo-Camuzet, and Domaine Marc Roy have decided to put down their roots in Oregon as well. Join moderator Eric Asimov of The New York Times, and savor examples of their Oregon wine as they share tales of their adventures here in the New World.

All Full Weekend guests attend the Grand Seminar on Friday or Saturday late morning.

The Moderator

ERIC ASIMOV, The New York Times, New York, New York

Eric Asimov is the chief wine critic of The New York Times and the author of “How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto,’’ published by William Morrow, and “Wine With Food: Pairing Notes and Recipes From The New York Times,’’ written with recipes by Florence Fabricant and published by Rizzoli. His weekly column appears in the Food section of The Times. Naturally, he is on Twitter and Instagram, too, @EricAsimov. A collection of his columns is included in “The New York Times Book of Wine,’’ published by Sterling Epicure. Before he started writing full-time about wine in 2004, Asimov wrote primarily about restaurants and food. He created the $25 and Under restaurant reviews in 1992 and wrote them through 2004. He is a co-author of five editions of The New York Times Guide to Restaurants, and published four editions of “$25 and Under: A Guide to the Best Inexpensive Restaurants in New York.’’ In 2013 he was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America. Asimov is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and did graduate work in American Civilization at the University of Texas at Austin. He is married to Deborah Hofmann, has two children, Jack and Peter, and lives in Manhattan.

The Panelists

VÉRONIQUE BOSS-DROUHIN, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Dundee Hills AVA

Véronique Drouhin and her three brothers were raised in Beaune, and learned from the earliest ages to respect the beauty and detail of wine and place.  Their father, Robert Drouhin, instilled curiosity, a strong work ethic, and rigorous honesty in all four children, and today they run the family business together.

Veronique first came to Oregon in 1986, to work harvest with the Lett (Eyrie), Casteel (Bethel Heights) and Adelsheim families.   Her experience confirmed her father’s early enthusiasm for Oregon wine, but critically, it also forged deep ties with these pioneering families.  In 1987, when the Drouhins returned to Oregon for the inaugural IPNC, the (rather bold) decision was made to start a domaine there.

30 years later, Domaine Drouhin Oregon is a leading light, and Véronique’s wines are known internationally for their special qualities.  Véro continues as winemaker, and her brother Philippe leads the family’s thoughtful approach to viticulture.  They are both widely admired for their work, but perhaps the highest praise came in 2013, when the family bought the Roserock vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills:  Many in Oregon noted their pleasure that it was “locals” who had purchased the vineyard.  Véronique loves to say “without this community, we might not have come to Oregon.  The spirit here is incredible, and is an inspiration to all of us.”

DOMINIQUE LAFON, Lingua Franca, Eola-Amity Hills

Dominique Lafon has long been associated with innovation while working within tradition. Since 1986, he has been running his family vineyards and winery, Domaine des Comtes Lafon, working closely with his father René from 1982 to 1986, as well as working for Becky Wasserman selecting growers for her Burgundy portfolio.

Dominique’s great-grandfather, Jules Lafon, founded the domaine in the early 1900s. It owns outstanding vineyards in Meursault planted with Chardonnay, as well as vineyards in Volnay and Monthelie planted with Pinot noir. The average total production on 40 acres of vineyard is 7,000 cases annually, with one-third Pinot noir.

Dominique’s first visit to Oregon was in 1981, when he met the “pioneers” of Oregon winemaking.  He was invited to the first IPNC in 1987, and a friendship with the Adelsheim and Ponzi families began.  His great interest in the region and its wines evolved out of these early encounters.

In 2007, when he started consulting with Evening Land on Seven Springs Vineyard, he found the vineyard site and the wines inspiring.  When Larry Stone, with whom he has had a long friendship, bought the adjacent farm and started his Lingua Franca project, Dominique decided to “move in.”  He has found it exciting to work on establishing a great vineyard location and to work with a young and dedicated winemaking team, led by Thomas Savre.

In response to the invitation from the IPNC, Dominique wrote: “I am very honored to be invited to IPNC for the first time as an Oregon producer and to be recognized as part of the Oregon wine industry.”

JACQUES LARDIÈRE, Résonance, Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Born in 1948 in Vendée, France, Jacques Lardière decided at an early age to dedicate his life to winemaking. Graduating with distinction from the school of Viticulture and Oenology of Alentours in Mâcon, Jacques was drawn to research in the biology of aromas and bacteria under close association with Professor Brechot of the Pasteur Institute and Jules Chauvet, who has worked his whole life on aromatic identification. In 1970, Jacques joined Maison Louis Jadot in the capacity of assistant oenologist under Mr. André Gagey, then managing director. He was appointed technical director in 1980, and is respected as one of France’s most brilliant, passionate, and inspired winemakers.

In 2013, Maison Louis Jadot purchased the 20-acre Résonance Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA and began their Oregon project. Jacques came out of retirement to oversee the house’s first acquisition outside of Burgundy. The new vineyard presents an opportunity to implement organic viticultural practices, which Jacques has already found expressed in the wines produced from the site. “Each of us supposes that the grape – grown as naturally as possible – becomes a ‘carrier’ that reveals the living strength of Mother Nature in her most pure expression,” he says. “Given that wine is an especially remarkable medium, its organic creation is strongly recommended if we want to show the force of the place from which it came.” Jacques believes that in growing grapes and making wine there must be a balance between “assisting” in the process, while remaining “hands-off” in an intimate alchemy, which we still do not truly understand.

JEAN-NICOLAS MÉO, Nicolas-Jay, Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Jean-Nicolas is the winemaker at Domaine Méo-Camuzet in Burgundy and the co-founder and winemaker at Domaine Nicolas-Jay in the Willamette Valley. After taking the reins at his family domaine in 1989, Jean-Nicolas began defining his own signature style, with an emphasis on depth, grace, and impeccable balance—a style that has brought Méo-Camuzet international fame and earned Jean-Nicolas respect as one of the finest Pinot noir winemakers in the world. Though Jean-Nicolas has deep roots in Burgundy, he has long nurtured an appreciation for Pinots from other parts of the world—most notably for the wines of Oregon, which he discovered while attending the IPNC in 1991.

Inspired by the quality and diversity of the Willamette Valley terroir, in 2012, Jean-Nicolas partnered with his friend of three decades, visionary music entrepreneur Jay Boberg to found Domaine Nicolas-Jay. There he applies insights gained from working with legendary sites such as Richebourg, Clos de Vougeot, Corton Clos Rognet, and Échezeaux.

Given their shared love of Pinot noir, and their common goal to build something lasting together, in 2012, Jay and Jean-Nicolas purchased the organically-farmed Bishop Creek Vineyard on the hillsides of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, a site characterized by the diversity of its soils, clones, and elevation. To complement the exceptional estate fruit, Jay, Jean-Nicolas, and associate winemaker Tracy Kendall have established relationships with famed vineyards throughout the Willamette Valley, including Nysa, Momtazi, Zenith, and Knight’s Gambit. The 2014 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir was their début wine, followed by two limited, single vineyard designates. Nicolas-Jay joins the ranks of several established Burgundian winemakers in the Willamette Valley and further validates the promise of Oregon’s winemaking landscape, while also bringing Burgundy’s finest touch to the region.

ALEXANDRINE ROY, Phelps Creek Vineyards, Columbia Gorge AVA

Alexandrine Roy is the fourth-generation winemaker at Domaine Marc Roy in Gevrey-Chambertin. The domaine includes nine acres of Pinot noir in Gevrey-Chambertin split into three distinctive “Cuvées.” “Vieilles Vignes” is made from a selection of the oldest vines of the estate (about 70 years old). “Clos Prieur” is made from this specific climat, ideally located just below the Grand Cru “Mazis-Chambertin”. “Cuvée Alexandrine” was first created in 2005 and made from a selection of millerandées grapes. One other acre is planted with Chardonnay to produce a rare white Marsannay “Les Champs Perdrix”. After wine studies in Beaune, Alexandrine took over as owner/winemaker of Domaine Marc Roy in 2003. She continued to further her wine knowledge through experiences in Australia (2004) and New Zealand (2005).

In 2007, Alexandrine joined the team at Phelps Creek Vineyards in Hood River, Oregon at the invitation of Bob Morus, owner and founder. Established in 1989, Phelps Creek’s family run estate vineyards consist of 34 acres, specializing in Pinot noir and Chardonnay. Alexandrine incorporates traditional French winemaking techniques with the grapes of Phelps Creek Vineyards. Cuvée Alexandrine is the winery’s flagship Pinot noir. She enjoys working with grapes from the volcanic soils of the Phelps Creek sites. “The expression of the grape is completely different from what you can experience somewhere else,” she notes.

Alexandrine’s wines, both in Burgundy and in Oregon, have garnered international media attention. Her passion for winemaking matches and pairs with Bob’s devotion to growing the finest wine grapes in the Columbia Gorge.