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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Del Rio Vineyards - Old World Meets New

Old World Meets New

Del Rio Vineyards and Winery

Story by Mary Ann Bullard

Gently flowing rolling rows of grapevines growing on 205 acres sloping south towards the Rogue River can only herald one thing: Del Rio Vineyards. Nestled in sunny Rogue Valley wine country, this historic property is home to one of the largest vineyards in Southern Oregon. Swelling quickly over the past ten years, hosting 13 exquisite grape varietals, recipient of numerous awards and enriched with a vibrant international flavor, Del Rio is a must-see, must-taste vineyard.

From the heart of wine country in Loire Valley, France, vintner Jean-Michel Jussiaume brought his traditional heritage and skills to Del Rio with his first harvest in 2008 and continues to bring expertise to the beautiful, massive Rogue Valley vineyard along with his French assistant Aurelien LaBrosse. Initially LaBrosse was part of an internship program, but now works full-time at Del Rio. "I like to take on interns," Jussiaume says. "I like Auri's dedication to work, his philosophy and skill of tasting."    

Jussiaume’s youthfulness belies the years of experience he brings to the premium estate, along with a unique flair and philosophy. "I am from the old world coming into the new world of winemaking. So I do use some of my heritage, but I'm not here to establish what I used to do in France. We use my way of thinking and the work for the vineyard to get the best wine. Most of my wines represent my origins, my life, my personality and my belief in winemaking. I try not to overpower the fruit of the wines. Ultimately, I want the taster to go back to my wines and find at each new sip another layer of complexity and aromas."

Wine runs deep in his bloodline. "My family produced Muscadet in the Loire Valley and this vibrant wine is always on my mind when making whites." He smiles, "And my style of red wine comes from my experience in Bordeaux and Australia." 

Growing up walking through his father's vineyards, he absorbed the old traditions. The enthusiastic young man officially started his career at 19 and completed a six-year program in winemaking, during which he traveled extensively. 

After visiting Hungary, Australia, the USA and South Africa to gain knowledge and see the world of winemaking outside of France, Jussiaume set out on his own in 2001. He arrived at Del Rio eager to achieve great quality and consistency in his passion. "Because of our grapes and being in the Rogue Valley we are able to produce great Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris." 

Jussiaume credits the terroir (the geographical location) of the vineyard's setting between the low mountains and the Rogue River as well as weather conditions for setting the vineyard apart. "Obviously it's a special place—the size, special landscape, the climate in which to grow grapes,” he says. “I'm not trying to make a French style wine here—I want to make a Rogue Valley wine. I am from a traditional place and I use my full skills and winemaking practice, but my goal is to produce an American wine that will present the best of the Rogue Valley, the best of this part of the USA."

"A good wine arouses curiosity by its originality, respectfulness of the fruit, balance, texture, and must express to its best the vineyard site and the work of the grower," he beams.

"I'm trying to blend the old world with the new world, by using the climate and landscape to produce the best. Its old world meets new world, and it's exciting!"

Del Rio Vineyards and Winery

52 N. River Road, Gold Hill




A few of Del Rio Vineyard’s many awards:

  • A gold medal for 2009 Del Rio Claret by Taste of Harry & David in 2011.
  • 2009 Del Rio Viognier took Best of Class in 2011 at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
  • Gold for 2009 Del Rio Pinot Gris by Grand Harvest Awards in 2011.
  • 2011 Claret earned a Gold Medal at the Sunset International Wine Awards.
  • 2012 Del Rio Pinot Gris won gold also in the 2014 San Francisco Wine Competition.
  • Del Rio Syrah won gold in the 2014 Oregon Wine Awards.
  • The other recognition that really shows Jean-Michel's consistency is receiving 90

points from the Wine Spectator for the Cabernet Sauvignon three vintages in a row—2009, 2010, and 2011.

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