Warning, I am going to ramble more than usual this week. If you appreciate my rambling, there is a chance I go a little far. If you want to skip ahead, please do so. I won’t know one way or the other.

Last Friday, not yesterday, I rented Black Widow, the latest movie in the Marvel franchise, for my daughter and friends to watch. I had been waiting over a year to watch the film and was quite excited myself. One day we will get Top Gun 2 and No Time to Die. All the girls were set up in the living to watch the movie while I was cooking food. I wasn’t paying 100% attention, but there was a song during the opening credits I thought was pretty cool. It had a mellow tone with a catchy chorus. I heard the words “stupid and contagious.” I was like, wait a minute. I know this song. What is it? I couldn’t place it immediately. I opened up my iPad, typed in “stupid and contagious” lyrics into the ever-hungry data mining Google with results of Nirvana, “Smells like Teen Spirit.” Oh, my golly ghoulishness Batman. No freakin way. Polar opposite editions of the song, and I have to say I enjoyed Malia J’s version over Nirvana. I never say this about a cover!

I don’t talk much about wine score results here much, but I have to spend a little time talking about the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards results. There were over 18,000 wines judged, but all I care about are Oregon wines. Here is the top ten list

  1. Audeant – 2017 Audeant – 97 Points – Platinum Medal
  2. Domaine Serene – 2017 Triple S – 96 Points – Gold Medal
  3. Domaine Serene – NV Rose Brut – 96 – Gold Medal
  4. Domaine Serene – 2017 Two Barns – 95 Points – Gold Medal
  5. Domaine Serene – 2017 Grace – 95 Points – Gold Medal
  6. Domaine Serene – NV Brut – 95 – Gold Medal
  7. Alexana – 2018 Terroir Series Pinot Gris – 95 – Gold Medal
  8. Audeant – 2017 Luminous Hills – 95 – Gold Medal (my top wine for 2020)
  9. Domaine Serene – 2018 Clos de Lune – 94 – Silver Medal
  10. Twill Cellars – 2018 Chardoanny – 90 – Silver Medal

Can you guess why I am so happy with this top list? Long-time readers, I assume, are going, “Duh, Mr. Audeant fanboy is over here bragging.” I wouldn’t say I am bragging, but knowing the people behind the label does make my heart beam with joy to see their hard work paying off. If you haven’t stocked up on Audeant, I would seriously consider it! I am so glad I stocked up on the 2018 Seven Springs Chardonnay. It is sold out! Also, huge kudos to Alexana and Twill Cellars for making the top ten Oregon list. I am not shocked to see Domaine Serene dominating the top 10. I think this is the first time I have seen their Sparkling in a wine judging contest. The team at DS has it dialed in! Oh, one last tidbit on this topic. Audeant is the only producer that walked away with a Platinum medal out of 18,000 wines. Mic Dropped!

Today I came across a picture of the Bootleg fire in Southern Oregon. It is devastating to see more fires. I will never forget how the skies looked last summer. I adore what this picture conveys on so many levels. Take away the fire, smoke, and the reflection of the fire on the water. You are left with a serene country filled with tiny white flowers, green plush land, with a beautiful stream running highlighting all the beauty. Add in the fire, and the risk of all of the serenity being wiped away is devasting. I am relatively confident this picture isn’t a fake. Luis Mota posted a time-lapse video of the sunset. Isn’t it sad we have to question the truth of information we see on the Internet?

Did you bypass all of my rambling to get to the meat and potatoes? I mentioned I wouldn’t know, and I don’t, but you missed out. Shame on you!

When I think about my wine journey, I have been following my nose to see where the path takes me. For the last month or so, I have been on an adventure to find Oregon Sparkling. Last month, I had dinner with a couple from Florida (Alfred and Michelle) and Jay, winemaker at EIEIO, at Earth and Sea in Carlton. During dinner, Alfred was talking about his visit to Tendril. I perked up as always because I hadn’t been to Tendril yet, and the winemaker, Tony Rynders, was the winemaker at Domaine Serene for ten years. Alfred mentioned great things about the tasting, and he also said Tony is releasing a Sparkling wine. I immediately took note!

The following day bright and early, I send a DM via Instagram to the Tendril account inquiring about the Sparkling. Later that day, Owen Bargreen also did a post on the Child’s Play Chardonnay bubbles from Tendril. After conversing through a few messages back and forth, a date and time was settled upon.

You know I have to get into some back story before I get into the tasting. The history with Tony Rynders is abundant beyond belief! I have no doubt there is an excellent lengthy book of stories Tony has to tell. Add in some stories of the wineries he has worked/consulted for, and there could be a few volumes. One such story is when he applied to become winemaker at Domaine Serene.

With time spent in Australia and Italy, Tony had contacts in Oregon. One of those contacts mentioned Argyle needed an assistant winemaker. When Tony called his contact at Argyle, there was a little confusion because there hadn’t been a discussion of an assistant winemaker position. Ending the phone call, Tony was instructed to call back after his time in Italy. Moving on from Argyle, Tony made a move to Washington as a winemaker. After some time in Washington, Tony needed more of a challenge. After looking in the Wine Country Classifieds, a physical yellow newspaper of sorts, there was a full-page ad for a prestigious winery looking for a head winemaker. There was no mention of who the winery was at all. Tony took a chance and sent in his resume.

One day while working at the Washington winery, there was an announcement over the intercom saying, “Tony, call on line 1.” When Tony picked up the phone, the person on the other end said, “Tony, this is Ken Evenstad.” Taken aback a bit, not sure who Ken was at the very second he starting putting pieces of the puzzle together. While he worked at Argyle, he had met Ken and Grace Evenstad. Tony interviewed for the Domaine Serene position and got the job on the spot.

His first day at Domaine Serene set a precedence for the next ten years. Grace and Ken flew in on a plane to meet Tony, went to Staples to pick up a fax machine, a bunch of colored markers, and any other office supplies he needed. Going to the facility at the time in Carlton was a whirlwind. Tony was happy, though, being employee number one. He worked with Ken Wright for the first year in 1998 and felt it was cool as all get out being the head winemaker for the first time in his career.

In 2008, Tony was a little restless and was looking for the next challenge. After ten years, Domaine Serene went from 3 offerings to 15. There were now 25 employees, and his DNA was imprinted forever into Domaine Serene. His challenge was to produce a high standard of quality for young vines in 2002 while having a high output of wine. Tony’s next challenge was starting Tendril and consulting for other wineries.

One of Tony’s early consulting projects was Sitar at Alexana. I have a five-year vertical of Sitar waiting for me starting with 2008. Thank you, Tony!

This little bit of backstory is only one story with so many details left out. Can you imagine all of the other stories I could dive into? Why can’t I have more time? I know you don’t have much time as well. Shall we dive into the tasting?

Do you remember the gawd-awful three-day heatwave of 115 degrees? Well, my appointment was set for the Friday before the heatwave. It was hot, but it wasn’t unbearable. When I met Andrew inside the tasting room, he asked me, “Do you want to sit inside or out?” Here we go again with the internal debate of where to sit. It is summertime in Oregon. You don’t waste days during summer, but it is like 90 degrees outside. There is shade at the picnic tables, though, but there is AC inside. Oh my goodness, be thankful you are not inside my head constantly. I didn’t have it in me to waste an afternoon of being inside.

Sitting at the picnic table, Andrew came out with the first pour of the 2019 Child’s Play Chardonnay. The Child’s Play label is meant to be more fun and consumed young, within 3-6 years. I found it incredible that the artwork for every Child’s Play label is created by Tony’s daughters, Madeline and Audrey. The 2019 Chardonnay all is neutral oak and was enjoyable at room temperature (it was freakin hot out). I can only imagine what this is like chilled!

To say Andrew was hospitable is putting things lightly. We talked for quite some time during the first pour. He apologized Tony wasn’t currently present, but he should be here soon. I felt awful Andrew was standing in the heat with the sun bearing down on him, talking to me. At this point, I doubted myself once again. I should have sat inside. At least Andrew wouldn’t be quietly suffering.

My second pour was the 2017 Extrovert Pinot that spent at least 18 months in barrel and 2-3 years in bottle. All of the Tendril wines spend time in bottle before they are released. I didn’t taste anything younger than a 2017 during the whole tasting. The 2017 Extrovert was released two weeks before my tasting. The fruit on this was a little lighter, but wow, what a killer finish with the slightest of tannins.

For my third pour, Tony came out and poured the 2017 Carter Vineyard Pinot. I have no idea how long we talked, but it was a solid 15 – 20 minutes. We talked a little about the nine wineries he consults for. With a background working as a chef during the early years, Tony’s approach to making Pinot is a chef telling a story with food. All of the wines at Tendril are a blend from multiple vineyards every year, except for one bottle. Whichever vineyard produces the best fruit that year gets a single vineyard designate. Carter vineyard has held the title of best vineyard four years in a row, starting in 2016. I have to say it is pretty delicious with a medium red hue. I took a big ole sniffy sniff, and I kid you not, I had tingling sensations running all through my nose. The deep dark fruit mingled in with spice melted me on the palate even though I was sitting in the shade. The finish held up to every expectation I desired, long spices through and through!

After coming down off of cloud nine, my next pour was the 2016 Tight Rope. The pour in the glass was super dark red in color, almost edging into blue fruit. I was shot back up into the stratosphere, and I am pretty sure I said, “wow” out loud encountering the finish. Tight Rope is considered a reserve with spending 18 months in 50% new French new oak.

Ben, the winemaker, accompanied the 2017 Tendril Chardonnay. He started in 2014 and has been working closely with Tony. We talked and talked and talked. I think we talked for a solid 15-20 minutes. Ben has a little bit of a QA software testing background, and he compared tasting wine to that of testing software. I totally understand his logic. You sit down and try all of these scenarios in software like in wine to see if it works. One question he proposed was, “Do we make wine based on what people are buying, or do we make wine we feel is spectacular?” Hands down, Tendril makes spectacular wine! The 2017 Chardonnay grabbed me on the nose and has a great mouthfeel. Ben told me they go for all four senses: sight, smell, taste, and mouthfeel.

Next up was the 2017 White Pinot called Pretender. I had to ask Tony a question about this wine. There are very few producers who make a white Pinot Noir. Another label called Coeur Blanc from Domaine Serene is also a white Pinot Noir. I heard rumors there was some feather-ruffling about Tony’s White Pinot with DS. When asked if the rumors were true, he said, “Yes.” I didn’t dive any further into details. I wanted to be as respectful as possible. The Pretender is a gorgeous wine and decadent as the shade slowly drifted away at my picnic table.

Finishing things up, Andrew came up to see if I had any questions or wanted to revisit anything. I noticed C~Note on the list of wines, and my curiosity got the best of me. I asked if he, by chance, had a bottle open for me to try. Without hesitation, Andrew walked into the tasting room and came out with a pour of the 2015 C~Note. Eighteen months in new French oak and whole cluster, this wine grabbed me immediately on the nose. Mid-palate was filled with earthy dark fruit, great acidity, with the slightest of tannin integrated into a velvety finish.

The shade was running away from me, and it was time to make the trek home. Andrew was helping another party in the barrel room but grabbed his attention when he had a couple of seconds. I thank him over and over for a beautiful tasting. He went above and beyond coordinating time for me to speak with Tony, Ben, and himself. It always surprises me how approachable and down-to-earth the Oregon wine community is. Tony seemed to have zero issues coming out to talk with some random bald guy. Ben was down to talk geek, and we could have kept going. Andrew, what can I say? Spending the time with me via DM to set up a time when Tony would be on-site and making sure everything was perfect put the tasting over the top! When you visit Tendril, be sure to walk up to Andrew and say, “A.J. sent me!”

With Gratitude,
A.J. Weinzettel

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