Tales of perseverance, strife and hardship often lend insight to the character of a wine-maker as well as the wines produced as a result of their steadfastness. One tale of immense perseverance is that of a Polish immigrant named Stanislaus Serafin, who in the late 1930s settled in the village of Gevrey Chambertin with his wife. French immigration laws of the day precluded Serafin from practicing his trade as a skilled woodworker, affording him but two choices: the mines or the fields. Fortuitously, Stanislaus would elect for agricultural work, learning the art of the vine in his own way.
World War II would interrupt Serafin’s work as a vigneron however, as Stanislaus would enlist in the Polish Independent Highland Rifle Brigade in 1940. Soon after enlistment, he would land in Norway, only to have his Brigade withdrawn again to France by the Allies to defend the Bretagne Peninsula. After the Armistice signing in June of 1940, Serafin’s Brigade would be disbanded and its members relocated throughout Europe. Stanislaus, however, had Gevrey on his mind.
Borrowing a motorcycle, Serafin hit the road for Paris. From Paris, he continued on to Dijon; his home, family and vines in Gevrey on his mind. However, just short of his destination, he would be captured and delivered to Frankfurt – where he would spend the next five years of his life. Not until the end of the War in 1945 would Stanislaus Serafin finally return to Gevrey, where his son – born in 1940 – would greet him for the first time.
Stanislaus’ first role as vigneron would come as the result of a friendship established with an Italian immigrant – Livera – who had recently become the owner of a Domaine located in Gevrey. Serafin benefitted from the guidance of other vignerons in the village as he worked towards becoming a self-taught wine-maker, and tending Livera’s vines proved the perfect opportunity for the formation of Domaine Serafin.
Livera’s son-in-law – a real estate lawyer – assisted Serafin in the acquisition of parcels of land, which had become available at quite reasonable rates after the war due to abandonment, etc. Through these land acquisitions, Stanislaus pieced together what today is known as Domaine Serafin, his son Christian joining him in 1957. Throughout the late 50s and into the 1960s, together they built the house on the property as well as the cave, which is located just below the 1er Cru vineyard of Cazetiers in Gevrey – Christian himself the one who laid the stonework.
The wine-making today reflects the father’s meticulous attention to detail in the vineyards – with viticulture being completely organic – while also mirroring the son’s passion for fantastically complex, full bodied wines – Christian incorporates 100% new oak for the 1er Crus, the Vieilles Vignes cuvees as well as the Grand Cru. And while the Domaine only offers two generations worth of history, the results have long been recognized, as evidenced by placements at many of France’s 3-star restaurants. And considering the praise bestowed on the Domaine by international critics from Parker to Burghound, it’s accurate to classify Domaine Serafin among the elite of today’s producers.
In particular, it’s worth noting Burghound’s comments regarding his most recent visit Chez Serafin:
“I was quite honestly shocked when the normally laconic Christian Serafin, who I promise you is simply never given to hyperbole and has seen some 40+ vintages in his career, announced that 2010 “should be a great vintage. It has everything it needs to be superb.””
These are wines well worth the search, wines I personally collect and share – the ’10s are drinking beautifully as of summer 2014 (the date of my latest update).