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Drouhin expansion caps ‘big year for Oregon wine’

Burgundy's Drouhin family has doubled its vineyard land in Oregon after expanding into the Eola-Amity Hills area, rounding off a series of wine investments in the US state in 2013.

Roserock in Oregon

Drouhin, which has itself been in Oregon since 1987, has acquired Roserock, a 113-hectare property with 49ha of planted vines in the Eola-Amity Hills American Viticultural Area (AVA) of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Financial details were not disclosed.

The deal doubles Drouhin’s vineyard land in Oregon and is the latest in a spate of vineyard acquisitions by wine firms in the US state, which has also seen vine plantings and wine production increase strongly.

Roserock does not have a winery, but produces top quality grapes for other wineries, said Veronique Drouhin-Boss, winemaker at Domaine Drouhin Oregon. ‘Some of my friends have been producing wine from these grapes,’ she told decanter.com.

Drouhin previously bought-in grapes from the area now within the Eola-Amity Hills AVA, and Drouhin-Boss said she was keen to return there once the group discovered Roserock was available in September last year.

She likened the difference in wine style between Drouhin’s current Oregon base in Dundee Hills and its new purchase to that of Chambolle-Musigny and Gevrey-Chambertin in Burgundy respectively. Eola-Amity Hills, where Roserock predominantly harvests Pinot Noir, produces wine that is a ‘little more structured and has a little more intensity’, she said.

There are no plans to build a winery at Roserock in the near-term, but Drouhin-Boss said that shouldn’t be ruled out for the future.

Roserock was owned by Premier Pacific Vineyards. Earlier in 2013, the same company also handed Jackson Family Wines its first vineyards in Oregon. California-based Jackson acquired the 34-ha Zena Crown collection of vineyards, also in Eola-Amity Hills AVA, and the Gran Moraine hillside vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA.

Later in the year, Louis Jadot announced its debut in Oregon – and its first vineyard acquisition outside of France – by purchasing the 13-ha Resonance Vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton. Around the same time, Jackson Family Wines said it had bought Solena Estate, a 15,000-case winery and 14-ha vineyard in the same appellation.

‘2013 was a big year for Oregon,’ said Drouhin-Boss. If demand continues to grow at this pace, she said that opportunities to buy prime vineyard land in Oregon ‘will shortly become a lot more difficult and, of course, more expensive’.

Oregon’s planted vineyard land expanded by 25% in 2011, according to the latest annual report on the state’s wine sector published by South Oregon University, released in November 2013. Also in 2011, Oregon wine grape production rose by a third to a record 41,500 tonnes, according to US Department of Agriculture figures.

Written by Chris Mercer

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