Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Domaine Serene – The Dundee Hills of Dayton, Oregon

After visiting Willamette Valley Vineyard on the fourth day of my trip I headed west across the valley to Dayton where I made my second and final stop of the day at Domaine Serene. They are located in a community of wineries in the Dundee Hills. Perched above the valley floor visitors can taste fabulous wines and get a breath taking view of the valley below. 

The winery was founded in 1989 by Ken and Grace Evenstad who named it after their daughter, Serene Evenstad Warren. Initially the estate consisted of 42 acres on a west-facing slope that had been cleared of the trees by loggers. The cleared land then became the Estate vineyards named Mark Bradford, Fleur de Lis and Etoile all of which were planted to Pinot Noir

They now own 462 acres of land in Yamhill County with 150 acres of the land planted to vine, 95% of which is Pinot Noir with the remaining planted to Chardonnay and Syrah. This includes the Evenstad Estate Vineyard that totals 142 acres named Mark Bradford, Fleur de Lis and Etoile all of which were planted to Pinot Noir. It also includes 41 adjoining acres with east facing slopes named Grace, Clos du Soleil and Gold Eagle Vineyards, as well as south-facing slope of 59 acres planted to Pinot Noir and 4.5 acres to Dijon clone Chardonnay named Côte Sud Vineyard. They also own 90 acres on Jerusalem Hill, 55 of these east-facing slope acres are planted solely to Pinot Noir. They also have a second label called Rockblock that features Rhone varietals made with sourced fruit harvested from the Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley appellation of Northeastern Oregon.

The architecture of the winery and tasting room is absolutely beautiful. It is a 50,000 square foot Tuscan-style building with yellow clay walls, a red-tiled roof and 20-foot ceilings. The facility is a multi-level gravity-flow winery with five levels that contain four fermentation rooms, four barrel cellars, a sorting line, corking operation, tasting room and restaurant. 

The ambiance of the tasting room is beautiful. Visitors can stand at the tasting counter lounge or lounge in a comfortable sitting area near the fireplace. But, weather permitting, the most scenic place to sample the wine is on the patio where you can enjoy the fantastic vistas of the vineyards and valley below.

While visiting I sampled the following wines:

My first pour was the 2009 “Etoile Vineyard” Chardonnay. This wine exudes delicate aromas of butterscotch, caramel, pears and golden delicious apples. On the palate it is creamy without being heavy weighted and it has refreshing crisp acidity and a really prolonged finish. An absolutely fabulous wine and one of the best Chards I have had in a long time. However, at $49 a bottle I know of other comparable California Chards in the $30-$35 range.

The second sample was the 2009 “Yamhill Cuvee” Pinot Noir. This wine is fruit forward with fresh aromas of cherries, strawberries, and cherry-vanilla. On the palate it has medium acidity and a lengthy finish. This wine is very California-like and in a blind taste test I would have guessed it was from Carneros in the Napa Valley. It is a very nice wine but it isn’t what I am looking for in Oregon. This wine sells for $45 a bottle.

The third pour was the 2008 “Evanstad Reserve” Pinot Noir. This wine is deeper ruby and garnet in color and it has fruit and earthy aromas of black cherries, cola and forest floor. On the palate it has well balanced acidity (medium +), medium tannins and a lengthy finish. This is an absolutely phenomenal wine but at $65 a bottle it isn’t competitive with many other similar Oregon Pinots that I tasted elsewhere.

The final wine was the NV (Non-Vintage) Rockblock “SoNo” Syrah. On the nose this wine is jammy with pronounced aromas of blackberry jam, cocoa, and oak. On the palate it is silky smooth with a hint of sweetness and a medium length finish that suddenly comes to a dead stop. The nose of the wine is better than on the palate. It is way too soft, lacking structure and backbone and at $35 a bottle I’d definitely say, “Pass.” 


To see more pictures of the Domaine Serene, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Domaine Serene
6555 N.E. Hilltop Lane
Dayton, Oregon 97114
Phone: 1-503-864-4600

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