It makes my heart sing with joy to see more Oregon Sparkling, and the idea of using multiple years of aged wine provides a complexity we don’t get to experience very often. Speaking of new Sparking releases. Domaine Serene is releasing their first Blanc de Blanc on New Year’s Eve. Having started the Sparkling program in 2014, Blanc de Blanc was a must for Domaine Serene! Finally, after seven years, we will have the pleasure to experience the hard work and dedication of the winemaking team in our glass.
One of the activities I did over the break was a one-day road trip to Bend for the opening of Domaine Serene’s new location. In case you weren’t aware, outside of the tasting room, aka Clubhouse in Dundee, there is a downtown Portland location along with a Lake Oswego location.
The downtown Portland location is a perfect spot to meet friends, have some wine with some small bites, and on many occasions, there is some live music. The last time I visited was in October 2019, enjoying a small event for the Lake Oswego location opening. Unfortunately, downtown Portland has been through some tough times the last bit. However, it is slowly getting back to a state of normalcy, and I need to visit again sometime soon!
The Lake Oswego location opened in November of 2019. I remember attending and felt I should have dressed up a teeny bit more but had a great time. Before everything shut down almost two years ago, you would see me sitting at the bar with my laptop, sipping wine, and having dinner. The menu at Lake Oswego is quite diverse. Of course, there are nights where I want the burger. BTW, the original Pinot Burger was the absolute greatest burger ever! Other nights, taking a culinary journey was delightful every single time. When we were in lockdown, Lake Oswego had a mouth-watering pizza I will forever cherish in my heart. They even took the pizza on the road to thank first responders.
Sampling the food in October of 2019 in Portland, I was introduced to Julie. She was hired to be assistant manager of Lake Oswego and later became manager. Another person from Lake Oswego I admire out of this world is Darko. I don’t have an official title for Darko, and so my title for him is Senior Sommelier with a heart of gold and truly cares beyond belief for everyone he talks with.
Before the Bend location opened up, there was a lot of anticipation and excitement. As more details were ironed out over the summer, rumors started circling that Julie and Darko were going to Bend. I was heartbroken but also happy they were getting other opportunities. Talking one Sunday afternoon with Darko, he confirmed the move to Bend, but Julie moved to Bledsoe Family Winery in Bend. I was shocked and heartbroken yet again.
When I got an email invite with details for the opening night of the Bend location, I was so excited! I looked at the calendar to make sure I could attend, and to have the stars line up made me temporarily forget my heartbreak.
I saw a couple of pictures of Bend before I walked in, but nothing prepares you until you can experience it yourself. I won’t forget the first time I walked into Lake Oswego. I was blown away and marveled at the all-glass wine cellar. The feelings I had walking into Bend were calm, relaxing, and laid back. I also had the feeling I was overdressed. Someday I will figure out the proper attire for the occasion.
I have only done the teeniest bit of research surrounding the history of Bend, but it sounds like Bond Street was quite the happening strip back in the day. There are rumors of ghosts and secret rooms recently found during some remodeling in past years. So standing there in the entryway of Domaine Serene’s newest wine lounge, I am intrigued about what Bend looked like 50-60 years ago.
The wine lounge used to be a hair salon for men, kind of like Hair M here in the Portland area. The renovations leave no trace of hair and beard trimming, much less head shaving. There is a nice long bar for sitting with tables on the main floor.
In true Domaine Serene fashion, I a glass of Bubbles magically appeared in my hand to start the evening. Seeing people standing around and talking felt so lovely. Let’s keep our fingers crossed by this time next year, we can get back to more events like this without worry. I made my way to the other end of the crowd to observe and take in everything. Off in the corner, I spotted Darko. I couldn’t help myself and had to go over and say, “Hi!” He was surprised to see me, gave me a big ole hug, and I told him, “I know you are busy, but I wanted to say hi real quick.” Big smiles all around, and you could see the genuine pleasure on his face and body expressions, he was thrilled to see a familiar face.
Standing off in the corner and overdressed, a bald-headed person stands out slightly. Evan of Domaine Serene came over and chatted with me. There have been countless occasions where our paths crossed, but we never quite got the chance to say hi face to face. Ryan Harris joined us for a little bit before I grabbed a splash of Chardonnay, made my way upstairs to check out the second floor.
Walking upstairs, the coziness was knocked up a notch. Off to one side, tables are accompanied by a love seat and cushiony chairs. You still hear everyone downstairs, but the ambiance is quite decadent up here. If your inner extrovert needs a bit of stimulating, the unique standing bar overlooking the downstairs is quite lovely!
As you can see from the picture, the ceiling is purposely unfinished. You can see the electrical wires running through the boards compounding the coziness factor. And yes, I should have taken a picture of the ceiling for you, but there are some things you need to see in person to truly experience. BTW, wasn’t that a great excuse for my lack of documenting?
After having a couple of Pinot pours, I made my way back to the main floor to another little “nock.” I wouldn’t say this area is hidden when you walk in the front door, but it is difficult to miss once you are aware of the area. The fireplace in the middle of the room was comforting.
At this point, I was anxious to see the downstairs. If I remember correctly, the two rooms downstairs are reserved areas for members to have get-togethers in a cozier private setting. Walking down the stairs, the vibe changed a bit. I felt like I could have been somewhere in the Old World walking into an underground cellar. But, I have to tell you, sitting at that long table with the red chairs with a group of friends sounds incredibly lovely right about now!
Sitting in the other room for a bit, enjoying another splash of Pinot, I ran into Eric, also of Domaine Serene. It had been a couple of years since we had the chance to sit, talk and catch up a little. We talked Lego, art, and of course, a bit of life.
Walking back upstairs, I was pleasantly surprised to run into Julie! I was bummed we didn’t get to talk very much, but the event was wrapping up. I realized something getting ready to leave. There was food with the wine throughout the night, but I took in the surroundings too much. I know I missed at least two or three pours, and who knows how much food I missed.
Before leaving, I ran into Darko again and asked if I could get a bottle of Jerusalem Hill. A bottle appeared out of thin air within the flash of an eye, ready to take home! Walking less than a block, there was a place serving Gumbo. I have to say, sitting there reflecting on the evening, with warm Gumbo, a glass of Jerusalem Hill put the biggest of smiles on my face!
Wrapping the newsletter up, you know what I will probably say next, but I might surprise you a bit this week. I want you to know I have heard the countless stories of being turned off by Domaine Serene. I have heard the service sucks, along with being asked immediately upon entering the clubhouse if you are a member. There is quite the sensation when driving up to the winery on top of the Dundee Hills. Trust me. There have been countless times where I felt insecure in my skin during events. I felt like I didn’t belong and was out of place. I highly suggest that the next time you are in Bend, check out the wine lounge and see yourself. I am not 100% sure about this, but I am pretty sure you could get one glass of wine just to check it out. When sitting there at the bar, ask if Darko is working. If he is working, let him know, “A.J. sent me.”