When I first got the e-mail about Domaine Serene I immediately thought I was going to get a rare wine from The Most Serene Republic of San Marino. But actually reading the text revealed that the winery makes Burgundy-style wines in Oregon, and I got more excited. Founded in 1989 by Ken and Grace Evenstad, the winery focuses almost entirely on Pinot Noir but also plants a few other grapes. I had the pleasure of receiving a pair of bottles of their "Evenstad Reserve". The Pinot Noir is an established hit, but the Chardonnay is a new release that has just been bottled and isn't quite available yet.
2008 Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon
$65, 14.1% abv.
Light and mild with soft strawberry elements on the nose. The first sips reveal just a touch of tannins and a plum flavor, with a slightly vegetal finish. As it breathes and warms up, there's additional depth revealing bits of licorice and prune and dark spices. It's definitely a wine that rewards some time to enjoy over the course of an evening, not one that can be properly evaluated from a quick sniff and sip. Lots of great elements in this bottle, but one that will probably reward a few years of cellaring.
2010 Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay
Dundee Hills, Oregon
$55, 13.4% abv.
Light aromas of apricot and pear, on top , while those associated flavors emerge in the golden depths of the wine. A rich product of Dijon clones aged, like the Pinot Noir, in French oak. It is not a buttered popcorn bomb but rather has just light elements of toast. It has a long, lingering finish and might just be the closest domestic wine I've had to a great white Burgundy ever. Don't get me wrong, it's still got great Pacific Northwest character but is built in a richly layered fashion. Highly recommended if you get a chance to ever sip this wine, and that American Chardonnays can be produced in so many different fashions.
I paired the pair of wines with a festive spring supper: grilled salmon, roasted corn topped with butter and pepper sauce, zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes, Kumato tomatoes... I ended up laughing at myself because of the salt.
I don't heavily salt my food, but I am judicious in my choices. Start with unsalted ingredients and add the right salt at the right time to make the right flavor. On this meal I used some Chilean citrus sea salt on the salmon, French sea salt on the tomatoes, basic Kosher salt on the corn, and California Chardonnay-smoked sea salt on the sweet potatoes (because that's the only combination I've ever found for that odd but delicious salt).
Salmon is a classic pairing for restrained European-style Pacific Northwest wines, and while the side ingredients were decidedly more Southern I felt that it all worked quite well. The salmon went better with the Chardonnay but somehow the sides were far better with the Pinot Noir. Two hours later, the Pinot Noir is amazing as an after-dinner sipper, where certain herbal elements show a presence and the darker berry flavors are more pronounced.
Note: These wines were received as samples.