In 2016, the Wine Spectator bestowed its number two "Wine of the Year" selection onto Oregon's Domaine Serene for the incredible 2014 "Evenstad Reserve" Dundee Hills Chardonnay. Seeing that the top wine of 2016 was the 2013 Lewis Napa Cabernet, the Domaine Serene Chardonnay was in essence the top white wine in the world according to the Wine Spectator—no small feat, right? The wine was indeed magical. I had it at a special dinner event earlier this Spring and found myself wondering exactly when our neighbors to the north had stolen the domestic Chardonnay crown. Earlier today I tasted through the newest releases with Matt Viotto, the national sales director of the domaine, and was completely caught off guard once again by the majesty of the new 2015 vintage. The wine, while riper than the 2014 from an elongated growing season, was divine. It straddled the line between tropical and cool climate with incredible balance, showcasing creamy textures that were bolstered in places by acidity and drive. What is Domaine Serene doing to make such a great bottle of Chardonnay, one that currently holds the WS mantle for the world's best? I found out more during our meeting.
Domaine Serene tracks hundreds of different micro-vineyards, or crus like we know from Burgundy, throughout the winemaking process and have spent years getting to understand the unique qualities of each one. Each of these sites is given its own temperature management, yeast management and fruit handling. After harvest, the Chardonnay grapes go immediately into a press specifically designed for top quality white wines and Champagne production. After pressing, the wine is transferred to closed-top tanks, where it is allowed to settle for a short time before being moved into French oak barrels for fermentation. Multiple yeast strains, chosen specifically for Chardonnay, add nuances of flavor that combine with soil-driven characteristics to provide diversity and complexity for the blending process. The Evensted Estate sits in Oregon's Dundee Hills between 500 - 800 feet of elevation with seven different vineyard sites, each with its own exposure. Originally planted in 1993, the site today has been in the hands of Domaine Serene for over two decades now, and in all that time they've become masters of that terroir. The proof is in the 2015 edition of the Evenstad Chardonnay.
It remains to be seen if they can pull off the same feat two years running, but there's no doubt that the wine has world class legitimacy.