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Women Behind the Wine: Véronique Boss-Drouhin

Sun, Sep 18, 22

Head Winemaker Maison Joseph Drouhin, Domaine Drouhin Oregon, Drouhin Roserock Oregon

Véronique Boss Drouhin (photo courtesy of Maison Joseph Drouhin)

Véronique Boss- Drouhin was born into a wine family. As the fourth generation of Drouhins at the helm Veronique and her three brothers run all the aspects of their Burgundy and Oregon wineries. She is the head winemaker for all of the Drouhin wine projects. They have négociant wines and premier cru holdings in Burgundy along with their Oregon properties, Véronique has a full basket, so to speak, of wine to make. When she was asked to take the position, her father Robert said, ‘You are the guardian of the style of the family’.
When Véronique was growing up, she never thought she would be responsible for the wine carrying her family name. Women in winemakers did not exist in Burgundy. Then, when Véronique was 10 years old, her father needed help in his growing business and hired on a young woman for work in the lab. She was a daughter of another Burgundy producers and while not formally educated in wine, though she had a sharp palate. M. Drouhin encouraged her to take her talents to study wine. Upon her graduation from enology school in Dijon, she became the first female winemaker in Burgundy. Her name was Laurence Jobard. Laurence worked with Robert Drouhin and eventually Véronique until her retirement in 2005.

Véronique was very much influenced by Laurence’s path. She was the only woman of a class of 22 in the enology program at the University of Dijon. Véronique interned for a harvest in Bordeaux but wanted to try her hand at making wine in the ‘new world’. While California was the alluring choice, her father mentioned that Oregon had a glimmer of potential from his experience with David Lett’s Oregon Pinot Noirs from international competitions.

Intrigued by this notion, Véronique set her sights on the Pacific Northwest. She wrote to Bethel Heights, Adelsheim, and Eyrie to ask if they would consider her for an internship. They all said yes! Instead of choosing one, she split her time between the three wineries and learned what viticulture was in the Willamette Valley. The Oregon community embraced Véronique and were interested in what the Drouhins thought about the Oregon winemaking scene. Keeping in touch, David Adelsheim would put a bug into the Drouhins’ ears about the prospect of making wine from Oregon soil. Too busy with his Burgundy endeavors, Robert put it off.

In 1987, Robert Drouhin was asked to speak at the first International Pinot Noir Celebration event in the Willamette Valley. Robert invited Véronique to join him and when they arrived in Oregon, David Adelsheim told them about a piece of property for sale in the Dundee Hills. They drove up to the land and immediately fell in love with the view, the climate, the soil and the possibilities.

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Vineyard

Once the deeds were signed, Robert asked Véronique to be the winemaker at this new property: Domaine Drouhin Oregon, or DDO for short. For their first vintage in 1988, they bought the grapes from several different growers from around the valley, borrowed the winemaking equipment and dipped their toe in the waters of Oregon winemaking. After tasting winemaking success from their first ad-hoc vintage of Pinot Noir, the Drouhins decided to build a physical winery. They took some of winemaking equipment from their Burgundy winery, found a used press in California and gathered what they needed to make a Pinot Noir worthy of the Joseph Drouhin name, in Oregon.

The land they purchased was a blank slate. The Drouhin family, Véronique, her father and her 3 brothers were all intimately involved in planning the vineyard and winery. From the space between rows to the 4-story gravity fed winery, the Drouhins had the latitude to create their ideal winemaking situation without the strict regulations of Burgundy. However, their experience with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Burgundy informed their decisions to graft their vines from the first plantings and also stayed committed to Biodynamic & Organic farming (they are LIVE Certified). At this time, Oregon had yet to discover Phylloxera in their vineyards but that was only a matter of time.

The original grape press @ DDO       The French Fermenters

Domain Drouhin Oregon Vineyard

The Drouhins, with Véronique at the winemaking helm expanded their Oregon vineyard holdings with the addition of the Roserock Vineyard in the Eola- Amity district. Originally planted by William Hill who was from Oklahoma; he said the soils of this site reminded him of roserocks, the official state rock of the Sooner State. Set atop a hill in a remote part of the Willamette Valley, the Roserock wines are another chance for Véronique to express the beauty of the Oregon soil. They are elegant, complex and express the patience and passion that Véronique and the Drouhin Family have for their craft.

The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay of the Roserock vineyard in the Roserock vineyard!

Despite some growing pains and the difficulty of making wine on two continents, Véronique has gracefully and successfully kept the style of the family. As the first French family to move and invest in the Willamette Valley, Véronique and her family and helped bring validation and respect to the Willamette Valley’s wines. Following Véronique’s lead, it is now common for Burgundy producers to send their children to intern in the Willamette Valley for schooling in the art of Pinot Noir. Thanks to a hunch of her father, Véronique embraced the majesty of the Willamette Valley and helped bring recognition to this world-class area for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The Sign at Roserock Vineyard

Just her success in Oregon would put her at the status of Wine Goddess, but Véronique Boss- Drouhin doesn’t stop there. Since 2005, Véronique has been the head of winemaking for the Maison Joseph Drouhin. Working in concert with head enologist Jérôme Faure-Brac in France, She is able to oversee all of the Drouhin négociant wines, the estate wines and the Oregon projects. Needless to say, she doesn’t rest on her laurels or past achievements, she is always looking to the future and excited to show the many elegant layers of Pinot Noir.

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