With its Pinot Noir vines and marginal climate, Oregon has much in common with Burgundy, writes William Kelley, who explores the links between the two regions and the common search for a sense of place in this Decanter magazine feature.
When wine importer Becky Wasserman-Hone packed two bottles of Oregon Pinot Noir in her suitcase and set off for her home in France in 1979, no one could have anticipated what would happen next.
Wasserman-Hone had encountered Oregon wines while she was in the US selling barrels for Burgundian cooper François Frères; she recalls being ‘moved by their finesse and grace’.
On her return to France, she duly entered her two bottles – The Eyrie Vineyards, Pinot Noir Reserve 1975 – in an international Pinot Noir blind tasting, known as The Wine Olympics, organised by Gault Millau. The fact that the Eyrie wine placed in the top 10 in that tasting didn’t grab headlines in the way that the Judgement of Paris had done in 1976.
But in its own way, the outcome was scarcely less momentous. A year later, Robert Drouhin of Burgundy négociant Maison Joseph Drouhin – who had taken notice of the Gault Millau result – organised a rematch in Beaune. This time, The Eyrie Vineyards 1975 came in second, trailing Drouhin’s winning 1959 Chambolle-Musigny by only one-fifth of a point.
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