Oregon is now squarely on the radar of top winemakers from Burgundy. Domaine Drouhin Oregon started it all when Burgundian powerhouse Maison Joseph Drouhin acquired property in 1987 in the Willamette Valley and started producing wine. Since then, several big names in Burgundy have started or make wine at wineries in Oregon: Evening Land and Lingua Franca are both projects started with Dominique Lafond of Comtes Lafond; Isabelle Dutarte of Burgundy makes the wine at Oregon’s DePonte Cellars as well as running her own label Callabus Cellars, a project she shares with Domaine Drouhin’s Veronique Boss-Drouhin; and Bruno Corneaux who studied enology and viticulture at the University of Burgundy in Dijon with Veronique Boss-Drouhin has started Domaine Divio. In 2013 a big event happened when another Burgundian powerhouse, this time Maison Louis Jadot, purchased two vineyards in the Willamette Valley and created Résonance. On a recent trip to the Willamette we heard the Résonance story firsthand from its very talented winemaker, Guillaume Large.
Guillaume grew up in the southern part of Burgundy known as the Maconnais. He attained his Oenologist’s National Diploma from Jules Guyot Institute in Dijon. From 2011 to 2015 Guillaume was the cellar master at Maison Louis Jadot. Maison Louis Jadot, like Maison Joseph Drouhin, is one of the top names in Burgundy, which qualifies it to be one the top names in the vinous world. At Jadot, Guillaume worked with Jacques Lardiere who made 42 vintages of wine at Jadot until he retired in 2012. Lardiere is definitely an icon in the world of winemaking having made most of Jadot’s 111 wines that received 95 points or higher in the Wine Advocate.
The Jadot team discovered the Resonance Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA of Oregon’s Willamette was for sale and came over to see if it might be a fit. They tasted a number of wines made by various winemakers from Resonance Vineyard fruit. The decision was made pretty much on the spot: they would acquire the vineyard and build a winery. Jacques Lardiere was so impressed with what he saw and tasted that he decided to come out of retirement and work with Guillaume on this project.
We began our conversation with Guillaume in the best way possible: with trip in his car up into the vineyard. As Guillaume takes us up the steep dirt road to the top of the Résonance Vineyard, he explains to us “the vineyard was planted in 1981, onto its own rootstocks, ungrafted”. This is quite an unusual practice in the US as most viticulturalists plant on specially propagated rootstock that is resistant to the vine-killing phylloxera pest. Guillaume goes on to explain another unique feature “the vines here at Résonance are selecion massale, like we do in Burgundy. We don’t plant just one clone per block, we mix different clones within the block. Here we have Pommard, Dijon 777 and Wadenswil.”
The Résonance Vineyard is absolutely beautiful. The original vineyard covers 20 acres and climbs the steep south facing hill from 262 feet to 492 feet in elevation. The new owners planted additional vines in 2017 and 2018. 2021 or 2022 are likely to be the first vintages from those new plantings. The vineyard is organically dry-farmed (no irrigation). Just outside the winery, Guillaume takes us over to an interesting cut into the side of the mountain. He points out to us the varying layers of soil and effectively gives us a master class in the effect soil has on wine growing.
“Here we have a nice profile of the geography,” Guillaume tells us pointing to the layers in the cut. “You can see marine sediment, submarine volcanic activity. When the ocean was here and because it was under the water, it was immediately formed in a very compact hard way (blue grey basalt); but if you see where it’s more wet, you can see the layer above the marine sediment there was volcanic activity so you can see the line where it becomes very friable. Now imagine the roots, going down and bringing the minerality and energy to the grapes.” Guillaume’s passion is wonderfully infectious. He clearly loves this land and shows great respect to it. The Résonance philosophy is very much about sustainable agriculture, one reason for their organic farming methods.
Coming from the great house of Jadot in Burgundy, owner of some of the truly hallowed ground in terms of vineyards, we wanted to know what contrasts and similarities he found between the Willamette Valley and Burgundy. “We have a nice balance among the days; we have warm days and cool nights here, so very good for the vegetation. In Burgundy, we say we harvest (on average) 100 days from bud break but here it averages 110 days. The average temperature during the day is very similar to Burgundy but the night makes a big difference, it is cooler in Oregon, and it’s better because the grapes take the time to ripen.” How is it different? “Planting is very different, here it’s 2000 vines per acre and in Burgundy it’s 4000, sometimes more. And of course, here there is no limestone.”
We had discovered on a recent trip to Oregon, how much biodynamic farming is being done here. Biodynamics is also practiced in Burgundy. We enquired about biodynamics at Résonance. Guillaume takes us over to the remains of an old pit that the former owner used to make biodynamic preparations in. “Today we are not biodynamic but certified organic. It is very important to have best expression of the fruit and we manage the vineyard with dry farming cultivation; this is maybe the connection we have with Burgundy.”
Résonance also acquired the Découverte Vineyard, just 10 miles away in the Dundee Hills. It is an 18-acre property with 15.5 acres under vine, mostly to Pinot Noir with a bit of Chardonnay. Here the soils are red volcanic Jory. Like Résonance and like Burgundy, the vineyard is planted in a massale selection of clones, including Dijon 777, Coury and 96.
Their recently built winery is clean and efficient with considerable room for expansion. Winemaking at Résonance is predictably hands-off. When the fruit comes in, it is all de-stemmed. “After de-stemming we fill the tanks,” says Guillaume as he shows us the fermenting grapes that were already in the fermenter. “Punchdown is used to have the connection between the solid part and the liquid part of the grape – to make that and to extract the tannins and colour we do one punchdown in the morning and one in the afternoon. Fermentation takes between 3-4 weeks. Then we press the berries, and we store the juice in tanks for a couple of days before moving it into barrels.”
Guillaume takes us into the barrel room for what was a brand new and somewhat surreal experience for us. The barrel room had been flooded with steam and an eerie glow came from the room’s lights. The steam and the resulting humidity are for the new barrels which had arrived just two weeks prior. The new wood will draw in moisture from the steamy air, slightly swelling the barrel’s staves which serves to tighten and strengthen the barrel.
The following evening, we took 18 executives who had come to the Willamette Valley for a planning retreat to a specially prepared dinner at the Résonance tasting room hosted by Travel Oregon. This was a stunning experience. The tasting room is a beautiful place, made from re-claimed wood from local barns, nestled among the trees on a hilltop with a stunning view of the local vineyards. It is a gorgeous tasting room, a must-stop for anyone visiting the Willamette Valley. The dinner that Résonance put on, paired with their delicious wines, was something to behold. The very positive comments we received from those executives were numerous. Even though it was the middle of harvest, and at 7:30 pm Guillaume was hard at work in the winery, he took the time to come up to the tasting room and say hello to everyone and thanked them all for coming to Résonance. It was a gesture from a person totally in keeping with the Résonance way: the essence of class.
2018 Résonance Rosé
Juicy cranberry and strawberry notes are delivered on a medium plus body with mouth-watering acidity. There is lots of presence to this wine, possessing both texture and structure. The mineral streak acts as a good counter-point to the red fruit profile and helps to complete the serious and food-friendly nature to this wine. Made from Pommard and Coury clones of Pinot Noir, this wine has more body and intensity than we would have expected. This is the style of rose that really shines at the dinner table.
Very good+ (USD$30 at their tasting room)
2017 Résonance Chardonnay Hyland Vineyard
The Hyland Vineyard is one of the first planted vineyards in the State of Oregon, with vines going back to 1979, planted entirely to the University of California Davis 108 clone. Like Résonance, it is a high elevation vineyard, planted between 600 and 800 feet on a south-facing slope along the Coastal Range in the McMinville AVA. This Chardonnay shows classic apple, green apple, honey and almond notes. There is a lot fruit on the palate and it has a wonderful purity to it. We were surprised to learn the wine spent 17 months in barrel (25% new) but showed no oakiness! Again, a testament to the quality of the fruit. Some batches were raised in barrel and others in concrete egg, helping to explain the balance and the texture. The acidity is well judged and gives this medium-bodied wine precise definition. Oregon has become a new leader with Chardonnay and this 2017 Hyland is among the states finer efforts with this grape.
Excellent (USD$50 at their tasting room)
2017 Résonance Pinot Noir Willamette Valley
Lots of dark cherry flavours combine with a medium+ body to create a wine that immediately speaks of stature. For this wine the Résonance team works with growers across the valley as well as with fruit from their own Résonance and Decouverte vineyards. The tannins are firm but ripe. The earthy and slightly oxidative notes add aromatic complexity. The wine is quite approachable now but is likely to develop further over the next 5 years. Hints of vanilla and spice infuse the long finish.
Very Good+ (USD$35 at their tasting room)
2016 Résonance Pinot Noir Découverte Vineyard
Découverte sits about 10 miles away from the Résonance Vineyard in the Dundee Hills and was planted in 1995 and its 12.5 acres were planted to a massal selection of Pommard, Coury, 777 and 116 clones. The wine spent 15 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. We get beautiful flavours of bright red cherries combined with background notes of earth and baking spices. Very complex for such a young wine. The body is medium+ and there are cracked pepper traces on the finish. A delicious wine that will develop further for a t least a decade, possibly two.
Excellent+ (USD$65 at their tasting room)
2015 Résonance Pinot Noir Résonance Vineyard
The Résonance Vineyard is organically dry-farmed and meticulously cared for. This shows Grand Cru level body and intensity. The fruit profile leans toward the darker end of the spectrum: black cherry, plum and black currant. The tannins are firm but ripe, not at all raspy. At age 4 it is still a baby, only giving hints of what it will become over time. We pick up secondary notes of forest, baking spices and pepper. There is great presence to this wine but everything is in proportion to the other elements creating a sensation of remarkable balance. It has that hallmark of truly great Pinot Noir: power aligned with elegance and sophistication. The essence of class!
Excellent+ (USD$70 at their tasting room)
12050 NW Meadowlake Rd
Carlton, OR 97111
Tasting Room: Open Daily 11am-5pm