Top of the World
Domaine Serene Pinot named Decanter Best in Show
It’s official: The finest Pinot Noir in the world comes from Oregon. Shocked? Probably not. The Oregon wine industry has long respected the quality and potential of local wines. A recent win has certainly propelled global recognition.
At Decanter’s 2016 World Wine Awards (DWWA), Domaine Serene’s 2012 Winery Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir beat six Grand Cru and 26 Premier Cru Burgundian Pinot Noirs to capture the coveted top honor of Platinum Best in Show for Pinot Noir costing more than 15 pounds (currently equates to about $19). Winery Hill Vineyard is home to Domaine Serene’s winemaking and hospitality facilities in the Dundee Hills.
Domaine Serene is certainly not a newcomer to recognition as a top producer. In 2013, Domaine Serene 2010 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir was Wine Spectator’s top-ranked Pinot Noir in the world, and No. 3 in their Top 100 ranking of all wines that year.
Yet, the most recent accolade from the acclaimed UK magazine was a particularly great coup. In all, 16,000 wines were submitted. A panel of 240 of the world’s best palates, including 69 Masters of Wine and 26 Master Sommeliers, conducted the blind judging. Less than 2 percent of all international medal winners were from the U.S.; and only five out of the total 539 gold and platinum medal winners were American. Domaine Serene took home a total of eight medals from the competition, including one silver medal and six bronze, the most for any American winery.
Domaine Serene learned of the victory a month before the news went public in late June. They received an e-mail from Steven Spurrier, current chair of 2016 DWWA and the person who organized the Judgement of Paris, launching California into international fame 40 years ago.
“We were excited,” shared Ryan Harris, President at Domaine Serene and their Burgundy winery Château de la Crée, “but not surprised.”
Domaine Serene has believed in Oregon since the 1980s. When founders Ken and Grace Evenstad scoured the West Coast for a place to produce world-class Pinot Noir, they found 42 acres in Dundee Hills. Yet, there were plenty of obstacles. In 1989, advisers cautioned not to plant on the west side; a portion of the award-winning Evenstad Estate faces west. They were warned they would not be able to sell more than 5 percent of their wine outside Oregon; they sold 95 percent out of state their first year. They were told they would never be able to ripen grapes above 600 feet; Winery Hill Estate stretches from 775 to 930 feet.
In fact, Harris attributes the award, in part, to the elevation.
“This wine struck a chord with the panel’s European palates because even in the warm dry vintage conditions of 2012, there was great balance,” he said.
Harris also credits the winemaking team and the involvement of Ken and Grace Evenstad.
“Diversity, breadth of knowledge and experience make this Domaine Serene’s strongest winemaking team in 27 years,” he added. Erik Kramer, director of winemaking and viticulture, leads the team in a practice they call “drinking and thinking.” The blending never stops at Domaine Serene and the Evenstads continue to be an integral part of the process, even logging long hours at the sorting table.
“There is no ego, just collaboration and a focus on quality,” said Harris.
At Domaine Serene, they have always pushed forward, practicing their business philosophy of “continuous improvement.” According to Harris, after a little celebration of the news from Decanter, the team challenged themselves to achieve even greater heights.
Harris predicts that following the awards, Oregon will receive more substantial recognition as a world-class Pinot Noir region, and the more people who experience Oregon wine, the better.
“Once they taste, the wines will speak for themselves,” says Harris.
Domaine Serene will be the featured Pinot Noir at the Riedel exhibition to display the quality of their special Pinot Noir wine glass at the 2016 Decanter Fine Wine Encounter, Nov. 12–13.
For those wishing to taste the award-winning wine, sadly, unless it is in your cellar, you are too late. Released almost exclusively to wine club members and tasting room visitors, the only remaining bottles are archived at the winery. The 2013 vintage will be released this summer for those wanting a taste.
To learn more about Domaine Serene, visit www.domaineserene.com.
Jade Helm is the primary author of Tasting Pour, a blog about wine, cocktails and food. Her expertise is evidenced by credentials from the Society of Wine Educators (Certified Specialist in Wine) and the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (Diploma in Wine and Spirits) and from the Court of Master Sommeliers (Certified Sommelier).