Wine's French Foreign Legion

My friend Jim Gullo is a journalist and author based in McMinnville, Oregon, in the heart of the Oregon wine country. Jim's new blog on wine, food and travel is called b/t/w and he is about to re-launch the OregonWine website as editor and publisher. One day Jim was telling me about four French women he knows who are making amazing wines in Oregon. I thought, what the heck? It has nothing to do with Provence but it's a great story--and I asked him to tell us about it. I’ve always felt fairly strongly that if a place claimed to be “the France of…” (take your pick: New Zealand, Hoboken, northwest Wisconsin), it should at least have a few French women living there. French women just add an irresistible…Frenchness…to a destination that can not be faked, not even by French men. And that is why I’m pleased to report that in a recent story that I wrote for Portland, Oregon-based MIX Magazine, I managed to find four Frenchwomen who are making wine professionally in Oregon, most of whom reside or work in the Willamette Valley (i.e. “The Burgundy of the U.S.”). Two other women who make wine in the area – and very good wine at that – are so elegant in their manners and bearing that everyone thinks they’re French, which is almost as good as the real thing. I put them into the story anyway. [As a professional aside here, a free tip for student journalists, the way that one finds French women working in Oregon wineries is to hang out in cheese shops until one ambles by, or call several wineries and announce, “Hello? I’m looking for a French woman. Got any there?” and get past many stunned silences until someone says, “I think you need to talk with Isabelle.”] These women, all Burgundians, were drawn to Oregon by pinot noir. Alexandrine Roy, for example, now splits her time between Domaine Marc Roy, her family’s winery in Gevrey-Chambertin, and Phelps Creek Vineyards in Hood River, Oregon, where she makes a special pinot noir cuvee every year that bears her name. Veronique Drouhin-Boss is the fourth-generation of Drouhins in the wine business; she also splits her time between Maison Joseph Drouhin in Beaune and little Dundee, Oregon, where Domaine Drouhin Oregon was the first Burgundian house to stake a claim in Oregon when father Robert Drouhin bought property here in 1988. Just down the street from DDO is DePonte Cellars, which lured longtime Drouhin associate Isabelle Dutartre to become its head winemaker in 2001. She liked it so much that she moved her three children to McMinnville, Oregon, and recently began her own label, 1789 Wines, to commemorate her personal revolution. And not far from DDO, Delphine Gladhart, who was born in Lyons and fell for wine while attending boarding school in Beaujolais, handles the winemaking duties at family-owned Winter's Hill Vineyards while husband Russell mans the tasting room. Now we all sleep more soundly, knowing that there are French women in our midst. We hope they can say the same in the Burgundy of northwest Wisconsin. Photos top to bottom: Veronique Drouhin-Boss, Alexandrine Roy in Burgundy (photo by Jean-Luc Petit) and Isabelle Dutartre. To reach Jim Gullo: [email protected]