Willamette Valley

Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir, 2008, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA

Drunk November 2013, Hawksmoor Guildhall, London


The winery

In 1989, Ken and Grace Evenstad came to Oregon with a vision to produce top quality pinot noir. They purchased 42 recently logged acres atop the renowned Dundee Hills in Yamhill County, Willamette Valley, where Oregon Pinot Noir began.

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 06.30.44.png
Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 06.31.08.png

Domaine Serene (named after Ken & Grace's daughter, Serene Evenstad Warren) produced their first wine in 1990, earning 90 points from esteemed critic, Robert Parker Jr.

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 06.35.21.png

Erik Kramer is the winemaker for Domaine Serene. Like many others in the field, winemaking is a second career for Erik. In 1999, he left a successful profession as a corporate geologist in the oil industry to pursue a career that allowed him to follow his passion for science and appreciation for fine wine. That career change prompted him to obtain a Postgraduate Diploma in Viticulture and Enology from Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he graduated with honors. Erik has now been making wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley since 2004.  He joined Domaine Serene as winemaker in 2011 and has also worked for several highly acclaimed wineries in Oregon, New Zealand and Washington. 

Domaine Serene has 3 vineyards - Winery Hill, Evenstad Estate and Jerusalem Hill:

Winery Hill Estate is an 80-acre hilltop in the Red Hills, one mile North of the Evenstad Estate. The winery is built into the West side of the hill. Twenty acres of Dijon clone Pinot Noir are planted on gentle, South and West-facing slopes along the driveway with elevations of 800 to 850 feet. The volcanic soil is Jory type.

Evenstad Estate, crowning the southernmost hill in the prestigious Red Hills of Dundee, is one of the most unique vineyard estates in the world, ranging in elevation from 520-800 feet. The seven vineyards of this site face East, South and West, with views of the Cascade Mountains, the Coast Range, and the Willamette Valley. Clones, rootstocks, microclimates, slope and elevation allow for the creation of distinct and complex wines. There are seven producing vineyards on the Evenstad Estate: Mark Bradford, Fleur de Lis, Etoile, Gold Eagle, Clos du Soleil, Grace and Côte Sud. The soil in all of these vineyards is Jory type. It is an ancient, crumbling volcanic soil with a very distinctive red color.

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 06.25.44.png

Jerusalem Hill Estate is about 13 miles South of the Evenstad Estate, on the East side of the Eola Hills, Yamhill County, Willamette Valley, Oregon. The Estate encompasses 90-acres of gentle East-facing hillside on Jerusalem Hill. Jerusalem Hill Vineyard has 55-acres planted to Pinot Noir. Vineyard elevation is 200-300 feet. The sedimentary soil is called Woodburn.

The wine

The Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve is the winery’s flagship wine sourced from estate vineyards in the Dundee Hills and Eola-Amity Hills. It is a blend of 40% Pommard, 51% Dijon, and 9% Wädenswil clones sourced primarily from estate vineyards grown in the Dundee Hills (70%) and Eola Hills (30%). Aged 17 months in 72% new French oak barrels. · 

Medium purple colour in the glass with powerful fruit and smokey nose. Black cherry, blackberry and raspberry fruit are expressed with oak in the background. Silky smooth with a long finish. Excellent. A classic Oregon Pinot Noir. 

Shea Wine Cellars Estate Pinot Noir 2007, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA

Drunk October 2013

The winery

Shea Wine Cellars is the winemaking effort of grape growers Dick & Deirdre Shea, based in Newberg, Oregon.

They use 25% of Shea Vineyard’s production for their own effort and sell the remaining grapes to other producers in Oregon and California.

Shea Vineyard was first planted to wine grapes in the late 1980s. Today Shea Vineyard is a 200-acre property with 140 planted acres. 135 of these acres are planted to Pinot noir vines and the balance is planted to Chardonnay.

Roughly 25% of the Pinot noir fruit produced each year by Shea Vineyard is used by Shea Wine Cellars for its releases. The other 75% of the Pinot noir fruit is sold to some of the finest winemakers in Oregon and California. The first vintage was produced in 1996 and Shea make around 5,500 cases of wine per year.

Shea vineyard sits on sedimentary soil over fractured sandstone. Vine spacing is 5×7 yielding 1,245 plants per acre. Shea was one of the early vineyards in this area of Yamhill County and on this soil type. 

See the video about the Yamhill Carlton AVA at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XujTYuPWL4 where Shea wines are based.

The wine

Only 4,100 cases were produced of this 2007 Estate Pinor Noir and its a treat to be able to try a bottle from this small production from this boutique Oregon winery. 

It is medium ruby, crimson and the nose is fruity and earthy with black/red cherry and raspberries. The palate is intense yet structured with a juicy, spicy intensity with a hint of cloves and oakiness. The finish is powerful.

Another fab Oregon Pinot Noir and I feel fortunate to have another 5 bottles to drink. The second glass tastes better than the first, and there sure was a temptation to drink even more of this delicious wine.

Bought Handford wines, Old Brompton Road. 

Hamacher Pinot Noir 2008, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA

Fermented Grape Favourite

Drunk October 2013

The winery

"With minimal and gentle handling of my wines in the cellar and by seeking balanced, low yields in selected vineyards, I strive to produce handmade wines of individuality and elegance. Enjoy these wines in good spirits, and with good health and good friends!" - Eric Hamacher, Winemaker

After originally training as a doctor, Eric earned a degree in viticulture and enology at UC Davis. He worked more than 24 vintages at numerous wineries around the world including Mondavi, Chalone and Etude, before he moved to Oregon to try and create the perfect Pinot Noir.

Eric founded Hamacher Wines in 1995 which now has eight vineyards that spread throughout the Willamette Valley.  The locations vary from 250’ to 825’ in elevation, are home to numerous clones and vary with different soil types contributing to the final blend.

The wine

Hamacher Pinot Noir is aged for 18 months in premium French oak barrels (30% new) made from staves which are minimally toasted and aged for nearly twice as long as the industry norm. This leeches out all of the astringent phenolics and allows the wine to soften and integrate without absorbing harsh tannins or toastiness.

The wine was a deep crimson when poured, with a powerful nose of cherries, raspberries, smokey spices. The palate was incredibly juicy with background vanilla and tannins, almost making the mouth salivate. High complexity, balanced with a long length. Great now....must be amazing in a few years. The Oregon pinot's are really catching my fancy!

Bought: Handford wines, 105 Old Brompton Road, Thanks for the Recommendation Mick!

Antica Terra Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2007

Drunk August 2013 @ Goodman London 

Antica Terra, Amity Hills,  Oregon

The winery

The inspired moment, the one that changed everything, occurred in the midst of a nervous breakdown, after a bout with malaria, on an island off the coast of Kenya. In this moment, facing her traveling companion's request to “put down her beer and get serious,” doubting her ability to return to Chicago and begin her career in conflict resolution, Maggie Harrison decided to become a winemaker.

Maggie Harrison

This simple decision, incredible luck, and her own tenacity sent her to Ventura County where she landed, without any experience, the holy grail of winemaking apprenticeships. Maggie worked for nine wonderful and life changing vintages under the tutelage of Elaine and Manfred Krankl at the iconic winery Sine Qua Non. In 2004, at Manfred’s urging, she started her own Syrah project called Lillian. At this point she could see the rest of her life unfolding clearly before her. She and her husband Michael would settle down in Santa Barbara and raise a family. 

She would tend to the barrels at Sine Qua Non and make tiny amounts of her own exquisite Syrah on the side. But her well-laid plans were not to be.

This all changed in 2005, when Scott Adelson, John Mavredakis and Michael Kramer, three friends on a search for land, visited Antica Terra. Over the years, they had collaborated on countless projects but had always dreamed of starting a vineyard together. This was not the first time they had visited a piece of land with this dream in mind, but something was different this time. It’s hard to say if it was the subtle breeze from the ocean, the majestic stands of oak, or the fossilized oysters hiding among the boulders, but they knew immediately that this was the property they had been looking for.

Scott Adelson, John Mavredakis and Michael Kramer, Maggie Harrison

When Scott, John and Michael asked her to become the winemaker at Antica Terra, she emphatically refused. But the three friends were clever. They asked Maggie if she would simply take a look at the vineyard and offer her opinion about the qualities of the site. She reluctantly agreed. Twenty-six seconds after arriving among the oaks, fossils, and stunted vines, she found herself hunched beneath one of the trees, phone in hand, explaining to her husband that they would be moving to Oregon.


The vineyard is an 11 acre vineyard located on a rocky hillside in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 04.53.09.png

The geology of the site is extremely unusual. In most of the region, vineyards are planted in the relatively deep, geologically young soils left behind by either the Missoula floods or the volcanic events that formed the Cascade Range. Here there is a mixture of sandstone sown with fossilized oyster shells. The vines are spindly and frail with tiny clusters of thick-skinned berries are less than half the usual size and fit easily in the palm of the hand. The smallest changes in the environment can cause the leaves to turn yellow and fall.

The wine

A delicious Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, Oregon,with plenty strawberry and raspberry fruit notes. An excellent balance of acid and earthiness. Most enjoyable and distinct. I am becoming more and more of a fan of the Oregon Pinot Noir given their high quality and distinct terroir.