Celebrations, Milestones, Friends and Domaine Serene

This week at The Thirsty Kitten we had a chance to celebrate with friends who are moving into a new chapter in their lives. And what better way to celebrate than with good food and good wine? So we invited them out to one of our favorite restaurants, Bar La Grassa, which also turned out to be one of their favorites, as well. No wonder we’re friends.

An Italian version of a Spanish tapas bar, the restaurant has a long list of phenomenal dishes in both small and large plates, making it an ideal opportunity for sharing if you are inclined towards tasting as many things as possible. We quickly honed in on some favorites that were “must haves” and then relied on great recommendations from our server to complete our selections.

The choices? Roasted beet salad with toasted pumpkin seeds and pea tendrils, soft eggs and lobster bruschetta, bucatini bolognese, gnocchi with cauliflower and orange, and roasted chicken and carrots.

So what wine would be able to accompany such an eclectic array of favors and, just as importantly, what wine would best honor the celebratory nature of our dinner?

The wine list was long and filled with many intriguing options at reasonable prices. Sometimes having so many choices can make it hard to choose. In these cases, we often rely on the advice of our server, which is always a good bet. We’ve rarely, if ever, been steered wrong. But since this was a special occasion and since we wanted to make sure it was just right, we decided to go with something we know well and could rely on to be elegant and up to the task.

We selected the 2009 Domaine Serene Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir. We’ve been sipping Domaine Serene for many years. Located in the Dundee Hills of the Northern Willamette Valley of Oregon, Domaine Serene was founded by Ken and Grace Evenstad in 1989. Their Evenstad Reserve Pinot makes us weak in the knees to think about because it is such a blissful sipping experience. The Yamhill Cuvée is also quite lovely, and like all the Domaine Serene wines we’ve tried, is marked by softness, elegance and balance. And we thought the choice of Pinot Noir would be versatile enough to accompany all our food choices well.

In the midst of our celebratory dinner, we did not take out our pad and pen and make tasting notes. So we’ll offer you the winery’s notes instead: “Floral aromas of cherry blossom and strawberry, with a touch of spring earth. Jammy crushed cherry, plum, and white pepper on the palate, with accents of saddle leather. Long, intense finish, with earth and rose petal notes.” As it turns out, the 2009 Yamhill Cuvée received a 91 point rating from Wine Enthusiast. Well deserved, we thought.

We promise we didn’t select this bottle just to be able to tell you about yet another great wine with Minnesota connections (see previous two week’s posts) but, well, we are proud to say that the Evenstads, are, in fact, from Minnesota. Their winery has been widely touted and recognized for its outstanding Pinot Noir from their very first vintage, a rare feat. They’ve earned accolades from all the big names in wine world, from Robert Parker to the Wine Enthusiast to Wine Spectator. They even beat the legendary French burgundy, Domaine de la Romanée Conti, in a blind tasting in 2004. No longer a small production operation, they have nonetheless maintained the quality of their world-class Pinots.

We lingered with our friends at the table, sharing carmel crepes and homemade, mini ice cream sandwiches. We caught up on their kids and ours, theirs now grown and married and buying their own homes. Where does the time go? We shared stories of our latest adventures and they talked of transitioning to a new phase of life, one that is commonly referred to as “retirement.” Again, we ask, where does the time go? We laughed, talked of travels past and future, relished the food and the wine, reminisced, relished the food and wine some more. And relished being in company together. After all, isn’t that the essence of a good celebration?

So this week we raise our glasses to honoring the important milestones in life, to marking special occasions with celebration in whatever form suits you, and to sharing time with friends. Cheers!

9 replies »

  1. Our latest milestone is that Diane is completely done/graduated – thesis received “final final” blessing yesterday from the Dean. Our version of Domain Serene was truly serene – kombucha. But bubbly at least :) But i am appreciating the spirit of celebration that you had w/your friends…and the food sounds so good. Off to Disney Cruise w/my fam then Ind’y w/D’s. When we get back, we will be only a couple of days from seeing you and K – at Fish, no less! xoxo and happy 4th!

  2. Hooray for the latest milestone in your house! And congrats to Diane on that huge accomplishment. We always say that you should celebrate in the style that suits you best so we salute your choice of Kombucha for your toasting! Wishing you a great cruise and looking forward to seeing you soon at Fish. Let’s see, should I order the crab roll sandwich?

  3. Sounds like you had a wonderful evening! And I have not had a wine that I didn’t really, really like from Domaine Serene:)

    I had the opportunity to tour the winery in October of 2010. I had never been to Oregon’s wine region and I was NOT disappointed! If you or your readers have the chance to go, it is worth the time, effort and distance to get there.

    The winery itself is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen (and I’ve seen some lovely ones in Sonoma and Napa). The surrounding countryside is stunning, the wine operation is top notch and forward thinking about the environment and the people were gracious.

    And we spent a long time in the tasting room, being spoiled with some of the very best wines from their cellars!

    It is a special place. And makes it even more special that the owners, The Evanstad’s, had this vision and dream of owning a winery when they were young and had just met. They wrote their dream/vision on a cocktail napkin one day and they NEVER gave up on pursuing this dream. The napkin is now framed and part of the tour. It was a touching and inspiring story.

    Like I said…make the trip someday. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

    Jamee Tuttle

  4. Such a great story, Jamee, about the napkin and the dream/vision of the Evenstads. Thanks for chiming in with your tasting experience. We have so many wineries we’d love to visit in Oregon. This one is most definitely on the list! I think of you when I think of their Evenstad Reserve. Remember sharing a bottle as a treat to ourselves when our spouses were off skiing or something? Bliss.

  5. It was fun to think about that tour, the story of their vision and the fabulous wine they poured for us that day! And, yes, I do think of you, too, when I see Evenstad Reserve. We did share a bottle when the “boys” were off somewhere on a “Mancation” :)
    I think we need to open another one soon…certainly there is something we can celebrate?!!!
    Let me know when you and Kip head to Oregon b/c there is a restaurant down the road from Domaine Serene that is NOT to be missed:)


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