Tom's blog

Aging that Oregon pinot noir

Several years ago I stopped by Domaine Drouhin to catch up with its fabulous pinot noir and meet with Veronique Boss-Drouhin. I was hoping to disprove a theory -- one I regrettably espoused in a column -- that Oregon wines did not age well.  My conclusion was based on a handful of 5-year-old pinot noirs that had passed their prime.

Veronique has been with Domaine Drouhin since its launch in 1988, but she balances her time between Oregon and Burgundy, where she oversees Maison Joseph Drouhin as well. I was in luck: she was in Oregon when I was passing through. 

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We tasted some older wines together and she persuaded me that her Oregon wines had as much an ability to age as her burgundies -- just maybe not for as long as the great burgundies.

I brought home some of her iconic flagship, Cuvee Laurene, from the 2009 vintage. Named after daughter, the Laurene gets the best grapes of the harvest and is more restrained than most Oregon pinot noirs.

I decided to open a bottle and was shocked at the stage it was in. The obvious tannin and tight cluster of flavors indicated that it was still evolving. Or was it? Would the fruit ever emerge after the tannins faded? I could taste the potential -- but not the reality. Damn. I hate opening expensive wines prematurely, but truthfully I wasn't convinced by this bottle that the wine would get better. 

Drouhin's more elegant, restrained style is more like burgundy, but it gives me pause about how well it will age. However, the Laurene experience shows that a delicate wine -- ala a great burgundy -- doesn't mean a short-lived wine.