It’s tough to beat wine country. Between the sweeping vistas of vine-lined hills, the feeling of departure from everyday life and the opportunity to entertain temporary country manor fantasies, what’s not to like?
Well, the driving, for one thing. Anybody who’s ever tried to summon a Lyft from the reception-free reaches of the Eola-Amity Hills knows that most successful wine country excursions involve either a designated driver, or a spendy car service.
Lake Oswegans, however, now have a third option: The Domaine Serene Wine Lounge. It’s the second urban outpost for this popular Dundee Hills winery (the first is in downtown Portland), and the first to serve a restaurant-worthy food menu alongside wines from Domaine Serene and the owners’ other two wine labels, Château de la Crée and Maison Evenstad, both of which showcase fruit from their Burgundy estates.
EXPERIENCE THE LOUNGE
I say “restaurant-worthy” because Domaine Serene is adamant that the R-word does not apply to the Wine Lounge. “It’s not a restaurant,” says Domaine Serene’s president Ryan Harris. “It’s an experience.”
Whatever you call it, you can come hungry. While wine is undeniably the centerpiece at the Wine Lounge (literally — the center of the space is anchored by a massive, glassed-in wine room resembling a Lite-Brite for enophiles), the food is an almost equally compelling reason to make the trek to Lake O.
Executive chef Cody Rodriguez — fresh off a stint at Nomad Las Vegas — helms the kitchen. Fittingly, there’s an undercurrent of showmanship to the food, at least when it comes to plating. Think perfectly medium-rare and flawlessly lozenge-shaped strips of steak draped over jet-black river rocks in the center of a very large plate (Meat and Potato, $18), or a head-on grilled shrimp that emerge on a bundle of sticks and layers of foraged autumn leaves ($9).
Flavors, however, skew towards the subtle, with an emphasis on crowd-pleasing, French-inspired dishes viewed through a modern Northwest lens. A poached chicken breast frosted in a buttery miso sauce and topped with mahogany-toned glazed chicken skin ($26) manages to turn miso’s intense fermented flavor down to a mild background buzz of earthy sweetness. Duck à L’orange ($24) juxtaposes seared rare duck breast with a whisper-tart dollop of orange puree and rich pool of savory jus for a sanguine-citric combination that pairs beautifully with the red fruit tones of Pinot Noir.
EYE ON WINE
That pairing success is no accident. Hospitality manager Anthony Rostock explains that the menu was designed around the wines, rather than the other way around. Many dishes are listed with a suggested pairing, but an onsite sommelier can help guide additional exploration.
Of course, if you’re just here for the wine, there’s plenty to enjoy. The Wine Lounge offers guests the chance to taste some of Domaine Serene’s library wines, reserve wines and other bottlings that are otherwise tough for non-club members to track down. All three of owners Ken and Grace Evenstad’s wine lines are delightful, but on a recent visit the whites from Burgundy were showing the most electricity, including a 2016 Château de la Crée Santenay Premier Cru Gravières Chardonnay that almost crackled with smoky minerality.
The Lake Oswego Wine Lounge is open to everybody, not just Domaine Serene club members. However, if you’re one of the latter, you’ll get some perks like special tastings and invites to exclusive events. Top-tier members even get access to private onsite wine storage lockers — NBA star Michael Jordan and culinary legend Emeril Lagasse have already claimed theirs.
The rest of us can grab a glass of Pinot (or even a beer or cocktail — it’s a full bar, after all), settle in by the fire or out on the expansive patio, and see if you can spot your kid’s orthodontist cruising home to his Lake Oswego Tudor. When you’re done, go ahead and grab a Lyft home. The reception’s great.