The Tour at Domaine Carneros
After our stop at Whitehall Lane, we were off to Domaine Carneros. The tasting room and production facility is located in an enormous château modeled after the Château de la Marquetterie in Champagne, France.
In the late 1970’s, Claude Taittinger, the president of Champagne Taittinger, wanted to find a site to produce wines in America in the same style as his winery in Champagne, France. The search for land was on, and in 1987 Champagne Taittinger (led by Claude Taittinger), along with partner Kobrand Corporation, selected a 138 acre land parcel in Carneros to form Domaine Carneros. For a little more (and pretty interesting family background), you can go here and read about the Taittingers.
Since Domaine Carneros was founded, the lead winemaker has been Eileen Crane (selected by Claude Taittinger), and she is still in charge of operations and overseeing the winemaking and exactly when the wines are ready to be bottled.
Domaine Carneros is known for their remarkable sparkling wines, especially their Brut Vintage and ultra-bubbly cuvée Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs.
In the winery’s beginning, they sold their Pinot Noir fruit to other area wine makers for many years. Since the wines being produced from these grapes were top-notch, by 1992, Domaine Carneros decided to begin making their own Pinot Noir.
All of the Domaine Carneros wines are from the Carneros Appellation, and 95% of the grapes are estate grown. All of Domaine Carneros estate vineyards have been has been certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers organization since April 2008.
The last sparkling wine we tasted (not pictured) is my favorite: the The Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour. It has so many favorable qualities: elegant, crisp, festive, and the antique pink color!
It was made to celebrate Madame de Pompadour (the great courtesan and mistress of Louis XV) who first introduced sparkling wine to the court at Versailles, and who is quoted as saying, “Champagne is the only wine a woman can drink and remain beautiful.”
This Rosé is a balance of 58% pinot noir and 42% chardonnay. Domaine Carneros obtains their Rosé’s color and flavor using two methods: first, by allowing part of the pinot juice to spend several days in contact with the grape skins. (This is how many other non-sparkling rosés are made.) Secondly, a small amount of pinot noir is added back to adjust color and flavor.
Although it is pink in color, this Brut Rosé is not sweet. It pairs very nicely with salmon, duck, brunch foods like quiche, brie en croute, and even fresh berries.
If you visit Domaine Carneros, the main château and terrace are open from 10:00am to 6:00pm daily. The last service of the day is at 5:45 p.m. If you do a tour, call ahead of time and make a reservation. I know it is hard to do when you are in Napa and sticking to a schedule is the last thing you’d probably want to do, but this tour is really worth it!