The James Beard Foundation’s motto is to “improve the world one delicious meal at a time.” One way of achieving this objective is to invite guests to savor fabulous dinners paired with equally fantastic wines in incredible settings. The James Beard Foundation recently collaborated with Domaine Serene in Dayton, Oregon, to host their Celebrity Chef Tour — an amazing pairing, indeed.  

The James Beard Foundation 

The Foundation is renowned for their yearly awards of excellence presented to exceptional chefs and for their array of first-class dining experiences. These experiences include dinners at; the James Beard House, Taste America across the country, Celebrity Chef Tours, Friends of James Beard Benefits, the James Beard Foundation Gala and many more.  

Domaine Serene 

Ken and Grace Evenstad’s love for French cuisine and burgundy wines was the original inspiration behind the development of Domaine Serene Winery. They are the founding owners of the winery and owners of Château de la Crée in Burgundy. From Domaine Serene’s first bottle of 1990 Reserve, which earned 90 points from a revered critic, Robert Parker, Jr., to the current releases from both wineries, the couple continues to produce award-winning wines. 

Recently, the Evenstads received the Wine Spectator’s Highest Honor, the 2018 Distinguished Service Award. This award is bestowed on recipients to honor their efforts of enduring and meaningful contributions made to the wine industry. The Evenstads received the award for playing a principal role in the region’s advancement from a budding wine community to one of the nation’s most progressive and esteemed wine producing areas. Grace said, “We are honored and thank Wine Spectator for this prestigious award recognizing our continuous efforts to elevate Oregon wines on the global stage.” 

Celebrity Chef Tour 

The recent Celebrity Chef Tour was the seventh tour hosted at Domaine Serene. Typically, the destinations and venues change each year, but the governing board at the Foundation has high regard for the winery and is excited to return each year. These wine dinners served as the inspiration for the design of the two kitchens at the winery. In 2018 Domaine Serene’s Executive Chef Jason Kupper helped to organize the tour, and he invited an awe-inspiring cast of five female chefs to prepare the different courses. Jeff Black from the James Beard Foundation and Ryan Harris, President of Domaine Serene and Château de la Crée, hosted the event. 

Before the tour, each chef received a bottle of the winery’s Rosé and an additional specially selected wine. Chefs created an appetizer that paired with the ‘r’ Rosé v. X for the social hour, and a dish to serve with their wine during dinner.   

Chef Jason Kupper launched the dinner with his scallop and chorizo grits, chanterelle mushroom and cipollini onion cooked with a chardonnay reduction and served with puffed quinoa and sweet potato mole. The mole, made from 27 different ingredients, added a spicy finish to the sweet scallop. This course paired deliciously with the 2016 Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay with notes of pineapple and guava.  

Rachel Yang paired the mineral-driven 2015 Maison Evenstad Santenay Premier Cru ‘Beauregard’ Chardonnay with her shrimp and bacon mandoo, a style of filled pasta. Chili foie oil and sour fennel completed the dish. Rachel trained and worked in a New York City restaurant run by famous French Chef Alain Ducasse, and she was nominated for the “James Beard Best Chef” in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.  

Dakota Weiss, a Top Chef winner on Bravo TV, prepared kingfish and squash crudo with crunchy pumpkin seeds and pine nuts, Tajin and a citrusy yuzu truffle vinaigrette. The crudo arrived paired with 2016 Coeur Blanc White Pinot Noir. This white Pinot Noir is the first of its kind in the United States and is delectable with notes of lemon and ginger.  

James Beard finalist and “Best Chef Northwest” in 2017 and 2018 Katy Millard created a girella pasta tossed in a parmesan-carrot sauce with crispy kale, pecans and a chicory and rosemary-brown butter. This comforting course married fabulously with the spicy black pepper notes in the 2015 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir. 

Carrie Mashaney, another one of Bravo TV’s Top Chef winners and a champion of Food Network’s “Chef vs. City,” prepared duck warak arish with duck filled grape leaves along with duck breast and bulgur dumplings. This hearty plate combined with the dark fruit notes in the 2015 Aspect Pinot Noir to make a heavenly combination. 

Jenn Louis, Food & Wine’s 2012 “Best New Chef” and competitor on Top Chef Masters in 2013, created the finale for the Tour. Her semolina and olive oil cake with tahini ganache, za’atar and ginger were tasty and inventive. This substantial dessert paired well with the bold 2015 Grand Cheval. 

During the last 40 years winemaking in the Willamette Valley has gone from almost non-existent to award-winning bottles and worldwide recognition. In 2013 Domaine Serene’s 2010 Evanstad Reserve Pinot Noir ranked #3 wine in the world on Wine Spectator’s “Top Wines of the Year” list, and in 2016 their 2014 Evenstad Reserve Chardonnay ranked #2 on the same list. 

Additional Willamette Valley wineries are stepping up their game by creating incredible wines and winning awards. This wine valley is making its mark in the US and abroad, so treat yourself by visiting this stunning part of Oregon. Indulge in fine wine and great food and maybe even schedule your visit so you can attend one of the James Beard Foundation events.