It is time once again today for the annual Harvest winemaker’s luncheon and tasting at one of my favorite places, Domaine Carneros, located between the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Domaine was established by its founder, Champagne Taittinger in 1987 in the heart of Carneros. An exceptionally nice 138 acre parcel was obtained, and Eileen Crane was selected as winemaker and eventually, CEO. Domaine has built their reputation on sparkling wines, particularly the Brut Vintage and the cuvee’ Le Reve’ Blanc de Blancs. Then in 1992, Pinot Noir was added after selling it in previous years to high quality outside producers.
All of the Domaine wines carry the Carneros appellation, with 95% of the grapes coming from their vineyards. In 2008, Domaine Carneros received organic certification of all Estate vineyards from the California Certified Organic Farmers.
The beautiful Domaine château was completed in 1989, with a classic 18th century design inspired by the historic Taittinger owned Chateau de la Marquetterie in Champagne, France. Sitting on top of a knoll, it provides a spectacular sight as one drives from the Napa Valley into the Carneros region.
Aside from special quarterly events, daily tasting hours run from 10am to 6pm daily. Tours are held at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm daily, with private tours and tastings available. I prefer the party atmosphere of the winemaker’s harvest luncheon and the casual nature of the meal itself. Two years ago, I sat at Eileen Crane’s table, and asked many questions. Do you think she figured out that I was a farm boy from the Central Valley? This year, she provided the treat of the quarter century. We tasted her 1988 Brut, her very first vintage, done completely on borrowed equipment.
The three sparklings made here are Brut, Brut Rose’, and Blanc de Blancs. The Brut Rose’ is my favorite, after numerous tastings and musings. From their website: Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé is a wine of great balance, emphasizing fruity and floral characteristics to a greater extent than evident in the Brut or Le Rêve. It is made strictly with artisan attention to quality, with sourcing exclusively from Carneros and the use of time-honored Champenoise methods of production. A blend of 58% Pinot Noir, 42% Chardonnay, the Brut Rose is meant to be enjoyed at a fairly young age, when the fruity character is still predominant yet there is enough age to make the wine round and balanced.
The menu was quite eclectic, with grilled sandwiches of various types, an outstanding nectarine and heirloom tomato salad, good old American potato chips, chocolate truffles, and more bubbly. The other patrons were quite enjoyable as well. Dessert was a decadent ice cream sandwich filled with goodies that would challenge the best statins.
I strongly urge you to visit this magnificent place, so close to home. It is much preferred to a long flight to France, dealing with the natives, and the champagne, or rather sparkling wine is equally good, in some cases, superior. Take Highway 29 north (Napa Highway) to Highway 121 toward Sonoma. You can’t miss it on the left hand side of the road. Don’t let too many bubbles get into your nose’ !!!!!!! (get it? It rhymes with rose’)