When tasting a Chardonnay for the first time, one of the first things I ask is, "what is the winemaker trying to say with this wine?" Are they trying to make a generic grape or are they trying to express the place the grape is grown — or maybe something in between?
After sitting down to take a look at the inaugural 2010 Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay from Domaine Serene I was hoping the winemaker would be saying something like, "this raises the bar for Oregon Chardonnay putting it along side the best Chardonnay's from Burgundy". If you've seen the Domaine Serene ads in magazines they proudly portray Domaine Serene Pinot Noir's getting the better of Pinot's from Burgundy so it's probably safe to say they're going after this perception.
In fact, I think winemaker Erik Kramer was trying to say that, but it might be too early to call this Chardonnay Oregon's Montrachet. A better comparison for the new Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay might be to Penfold's Yattarna — another luxury level wine from Australia that's found its place among the world's best Chardonnays. Grapes for that wine come from Tasmania where comparisons to Oregon could make sense.
The Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay source come from a range of Dijon clones in Domaine Serene's four Dundee Hills vineyards and offer Kramer a number of blending tools to achieve complexity.
In the Riedel Oregon Pinot Noir glass the wine had a light straw color with a tint of green. Immediate impressions of red gala apple, lemon meringue pie, lanolin and cashew notes gave way to subtle hints of lime zest and even a little fresh sweet cucumber, the kind of cucumber you'd use in a mixed drink.
For a young wine, there was good complexity but it would be fun to come back and taste this in another five to 10 years to see how the elements come together in the bottle. That's the only real way to make a comparison to age worthy Chardonnays of Burgundy. Achieving this level of complexity with lower alcohol level bodes well and harkens back to the pedigree of the winery.
A curious thing about this wine is the acidity seemed to be muted in the first ten minutes, then came roaring out of the cage with a full incisor assault. Also coming out after ten minutes were tertiary notes of orange marmalade, honey, nectarine and a little rock melon. That acidic presence will be the key to improving over time in the cellar.
Is this Oregon's answer to Chardonnay from Burgundy? Not yet. It's only the first vintage of a new wine that shows plenty of promise and has the right winery behind it.