Rendez-Vous with Laurent Drouhin USA and Caribbean Director Joseph Drouhin Wines
Domaine Joseph Drouhin is one of the largest estates in Burgundy, with 73 hectares of vineyards in Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Chablis. Some of these vineyards are among the most famous in Burgundy like Clos des Mouches, Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche, Musigny, Corton-Charlemagne, … Maison Joseph Drouhin was founded in Beaune in 1880 by Joseph Drouhin and has remained in the Drouhin family since then. In the late 1980’s Joseph’s grandson, Robert Drouhin, decided to invest in Oregon and bought land in the Willamette Valley, southwest of Portland, where Domaine Drouhin Oregon produced its first vintage in 1988. The site was selected for its “similarity in climate, latitude and aspect to the legendary vineyards of Burgundy”. For the last 30 years Drouhin Oregon has been producing elegant and fine Pinot Noir and more recently Chardonnay with the same family approach, passion and respect for terroir as they do in Burgundy. Today, Maison Joseph Drouhin is run by Robert’s four children Frédéric, Philippe, Véronique and Laurent. Laurent Drouhin lives with his family near New York City. He manages the market development and communication for the brand Joseph Drouhin in the United States and the Caribbean. Laurent welcomed me to his office and answered some questions for Cuisine Inspired.
Did you always know that you wanted to work for the family estate?Absolutely not! When I was younger I was passionate about windsurfing and always wanted to work in a business related to that activity. I ended up working in a private bank for a year before I realized I was missing something. That something was Burgundy and its wines.
What was your path and did someone in particular inspire you to take that path? I graduated from ESG* having specialized in International trade but I didn’t join the family business straightaway. However, in 1993 after a year in a bank, I realized I was missing the wine world and decided to join the family. As nothing replaces experience I started as a sales representative for a year then became in charge of the Parisian market reorganizing its sales force and reinforcing our distribution. In 1997 my father asked me to get a handle on the export market starting with the Caribbean. In 1999 I started getting in touch with one of our main export markets, the US. Managing such a huge territory from Beaune was not easy and in 2005 I decided to move to the New York area with my wife and children in order to spend more time with my family and be closer to the market. I signed up for 3 years…it’s been 12!
Domaine Drouhin Oregon celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2017. Why did your father decide to invest in Oregon rather than in California? At that time, Oregon was in California’s shadow. However a few pioneers were already producing wines there. After being exposed to some of those wines in the late 70’s my father quietly saw Oregon’s potential for Pinot and later for Chardonnay. Turns out he was right!
What is your annual production in Oregon and where does Domaine Drouhin Oregon sell its wines?We have 2 domains in 2 AVAs** in the Willamette Valley, the historical one Domaine Drouhin Oregon (Red Hills) and Roserock in Eola since 2013. The overall production is approximately 40,000 cases. Wines are mainly sold in North America with a growing Asian market.
How do you see the American wine market and how is it different from the French market? Even if the American wine market is still mainly based on grape variety, the consumers are now getting more educated. There is a growing percentage of buyers (still low) who now buy based on origin more than grape variety. The French market is exclusively based on Terroir wines. This makes a crucial difference when it comes to education and communication and strategy.
What is the link between your Burgundy wines and your Oregon wines?We say Oregon soil French soul. That says it all.
How would you define the Drouhin style?Complexity, elegance and finesse with the Terroir as an umbrella.
What do you like best about your job?A smile on people’s faces when I share our wines and history.
What are your hopes for the future?To discover another region for Pinot noir with the same potential as Burgundy and Oregon….but I leave that to the next generation of Drouhins.