Photos by Christine Vanover & Kate McGuire

This July, we were fortunate enough to travel to Willamette Valley AVA to visit Roserock and Domaine Drouhin and Walla Walla AVA to visit Dusted Valley Winery. The Drouhin family has been in the wine business for centuries with Roserock Vineyard being their latest endeavor. Dusted Valley just celebrated its fifteen-year anniversary. What these wineries have in common is that each is steeped in family values and a passion for crafting the best possible wines their regions can offer. 

During our trip, we were fortunate enough to hear from Veronique Drouhin, winemaker for Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy as well as Domaine Drouhin and Roserock in Oregon, and meet Corey Braunel, co-owner and winegrower of Dusted Valley. Braunel owns and operates Dusted Valley alongside his wife Cindy Braunel, her sister Janet Johnson, and Janet’s husband, Chad Johnson. It truly was an honor to become better acquainted with these talented people, their beautiful wines and the growing wine regions of the Pacific Northwest. 

Veronique Drouhin

In your opinion, what makes Domaine Drouhin so special?

The fact that my family believed in Oregon more than 30 years ago, and involved themselves personally in the farming of the grapes and making of the wines. Philippe, Robert, Françoise or myself have been at DDO for every single vintage since 1988, taking the delicate decisions of picking and winemaking using our longtime experience from growing and making pinot noir and chardonnay in Burgundy. 

What is your favorite stage of the winemaking process?

All of them! Bud break when vines wake up from a long dormant time. Flowering because of the enchanting smell. Harvest because you have not seen grapes for a year. The beginning of fermentation when the winery gets filled with an extraordinary range of aromas and bottling because you have spent two years of your life taking care of your vines and wines.

What has been your greatest challenge in winemaking in Oregon?

Leaving my children back home in Burgundy.

Is there a varietal you have not yet worked with that you are interested in doing so?

Yes, syrah!

Which of the wines you make (or have made) are closest to your heart and why?

1992, 1994 and 1996 because each of these years I made both a wine and a beautiful child.

Corey Braunel

Who in your group was the biggest initiator/instigator of making a drastic lifestyle change and entering the wine business?

Chad and Janet had moved from the Midwest to Portland, Oregon in 1998 to get to the Pacific Northwest. Upon visiting Chad and Janet, Cindy and I fell in love with it. Chad began sharing Walla Walla Valley and Washington wines with me while I was living back in Madison, Wisconsin and I took a transfer to move to Walla Walla in May 2003. Dusted Valley was born by June of that year and we crushed our first vintage that October!

How did you decide that Walla Walla was the best place for your winery?

Once you visit this place you get the “why Walla Walla” factor. Walla Walla and world-class wine are synonymous with quality and are recognized around the globe today. The people in our community and industry are amazing and the comradery is infectious here.

What prompted you to incorporate American White Oak from northern Wisconsin in your barrel program?

We all grew up in the northcentral area of the state. It’s about as far north as American White Oak grows in the river valleys. We harvested our first logs from that area and had them sawn into staves in Minnesota and air dried there for three years of seasoning before being coopered in California. What we found was the tighter grain from these trees made the barrels subtler and more restrained as compared to other American Oak.

What has been your greatest challenge in winemaking?

Building the business to get to a point where we could control as much as possible. Today we farm sixty acres of estate vineyards and work with only three other growers who are amongst the absolute best in Washington. In 2015, we brought our new winery online which affords us total control of processing, fermentation, ageing and bottling. 

Which of the wines you make (or have made) are closest to your heart and why?

We name our top cabernet sauvignon and top syrah after our grandfathers. 

V.R. Special is named after Chad’s grandpa, Vernon Rhodes. The V.R. Special refers to Vern’s Special Chocolate Chip Cookies that he was famous for. 

Tall Tales Syrah is named after my grandpa, Fred Sicklinger. Fred was an amazing storyteller who kept his seventeen grandkids on the edge of their seats waiting for each story’s sensational ending. We honor Grandpa Fred and his oral tradition in our estate-grown and -produced syrah from Stoney Vine Vineyard.