With the news of the recent acquisition of Williams Selyem by the famed Burgundy producer Faively, we can’t help but consider the French have caught on. For centuries the tiny region of Burgundy has been the epitome of excellence when it comes to Pinot Noir. With its seemingly, never-ending sunshine and warmth, California seemed a far cry from the perfect climate for this delicate varietal. Yet, we have seen the likes of West Coast wine producers grow to cult status for their coastal expressions of this beloved varietal. Enter Oregon with its rainy, cool climate and similar topography to Burgundy; this region became a hot spot for producers looking to craft Pinot.
We’ve curated a breakdown of everything you need to know regarding the latest Burgundy-West Coast endeavors; check it out!
Recently, as of January 2021, the owners of Sonoma’s famed Pinot Noir producer, Williams Selyem, announced that they had sold a minority stake in their estate to the Faiveley family of Burgundy’s Domaine Faiveley.
The owners of Williams Selyem shared with Wine Spectator in a recent article that the Faiveley family is the perfect partner for a potential long-term commitment, as many values and ideals are shared amongst the two entities and that they plan on keeping the estate family-owned.
“‘How many families are there that can afford to buy something of this size and quality that also have a reputation?’ John Dyson asked Wine Spectator. “[Kathe and I] are both in our mid-seventies, though neither looks or acts like it,” he teased. ‘I still enjoy walking vineyards, but there comes a time when you should start to think about a successor. We didn’t want a private equity investment or big corporate takeover,'”
The Dysons acquired the Williams Selyem legacy in 1998 from Burt Williams and Ed Selyem after their garage startup grew too large for their means. Today, the annual production of Williams Selyem is around 20,000 cases.
The Faiveley family, headed by Erwan Faiveley, has longed to expand into California’s wine-growing regions since the early 2000s, where they have considered on multiple occasions starting a winery from scratch. The Williams Selyem winery seems to be a perfect fit for both the Faiveley and Dyson families, and we are looking forward to their future endeavors!
The Drouhin family’s wine history roots back to the 1800s in Burgundy, beginning when Joseph Drouhin relocated from Chablis to Beaune after purchasing rights to a wine house founded back in the year 1756. Throughout the early 1900s, Maurice Drouhin, Joseph’s son, set out on a venture to further establish the family’s name in the wine industry and purchased various vineyards, including the famed Beaune Clos des Mouches and a site in the Clos de Vougeot. This acquisition proved to be a great success, the business was taken over by Robert Drouhin, and the family later expanded to the worldwide market post World War Two. During this expansion, the estate also acquired prestigious vineyards in the Cote de Nuits, including Musigny, Griotte Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Beze, Bonnes Mares, and Grands Echezaux.
After a visit to the West Coast in 1961, Robert became captivated by the Willamette Valley of Oregon and recognized the area’s potential in regard to wine production. Around this time, an Oregon wine from the Eyrie Vineyard was submitted to The Gault-Millau Wine Olympiad in 1979, and to much surprise, it received a shocking Top 10 awarding. This winning was a catalyst for the estate’s further successes on the West Coast, and soon after, Robert’s daughter came to work harvest with a few founding families of Oregon wine, including the Letts, Casteels, and the Adelsheims. In 1988, Domaine Drouhin Oregon was officially born, with daughter Veronique as the first winemaker. The first official vintage of their California endeavors was met with great acclaim and even drinks beautifully to this day! Since its inauguration, the estate has grown to 225 acres of estate-grown bottlings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In the year 2013, Robert Drouhin became the first Burgundian to have received the prestigious Distinguished Service Award from Wine Spectator!
While many of the Burgundy-West Coast endeavors are tales of a new venture and a go-getter mindset, this was not the case for Jacques Lardière and Résonance. Upon retiring after 42 well-spent years as the technical director for Maison Louis Jadot, Lardière ventured into the Oregon wine scene.
Résonance, names after the Yamhill-Carlton vineyard, is Jadot’s first project outside of Burgundy. The estate recognized Oregon as a viable opportunity for growth outside of France for its growth potential and affordability in relation to France’s steeply-priced market. Paired with French winemaker Guillaume Large, Maison Louis Jadot is excited to use their knowledge, skills, and history to expand on the West Coast for many years to come!
Burgundies Influence On The West Coast
The Old World influences have steadily made their appearance throughout the West Coast, from new ventures to stylistic inspiration. At Benchmark Wine Group, we proudly boast Burgundians’ New World wines from producers such as Lingua Franca and 00 Wines. In addition, our cellar highlights several producers who use the styles, vines, and inspiration from Burgundy, including Cristom, Ken Wright, Kistler Vineyards, and more!
There is no doubt the influence of these historied Burgundy Domaines/ Negociants will have great success! We are curious to see which Burgundy house will be next to invent in West Coast properties to grow their Pinot Empire.
Established in 2002, Benchmark Wine Group is the leading source of fine and rare wine retailers, restaurants, and collectors around the world. Based in Napa Valley, we acquire the most sought-after wines from private individuals and professional contacts, but only when provenance can be verified by our team of acquisition professionals. Our staff draws on decades of industry experience and is dedicated to providing exceptional service to all of our clients. Benchmarkwine.com offers 24-hour access to our cellar, displaying inventory in real-time.