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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Domaine Carneros - California French Sparkles




Tuesday, December 14, 2010
If you’ve ever crossed the GoldenGate Bridge and headed north towards Napa along Highway 121, there’s a good chance you’ve passed Domaine Carneros. The rose and champagne-hued château is a landmark of the Carneros region, which is famous for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sparkling wines thanks to its climate, which is cooler than other Napa appellations. The classic 18th century château-style building was finished in 1989 architecturally inspired by the historic Taittinger-owned Château de la Marquetterie in Champagne - the architect himself happened to join us on a tour several weeks ago when we enjoyed a visit with friends and family two days post-Thanksgiving.

With so many great wineries to visit in Napa, it can be daunting to find one that can both accommodate and appeal to a large group. I selected Domaine Carneros for our group of 8because it was one of the closet wineries to travel to, is interesting (if you’ve read my blog about how sparkling wine is made, this tour is a gives a nice overview – with visuals- of the methode traditional for producing and bottling champagne), is reasonably priced - $25 per person for a tour and tasting of 4 wines (though they will pour you a lot more than that after the tour if you ask!), and appeals to everyone’s tastes offering festive sparkling wines and rich pinot noirs.
I would highly recommend a visit to Domaine Carneros - not only because of its elegant wines and regal architecture, but because it is the quintessential place to come visit, relax and enjoy a leisurely glass of wine or picnic outside on the terrace or inside in the fancier upstairs salon, overlooking the endless rolling Carneros vineyards. It is one of the few wineries that offers table service, which can be ordered by the bottle, flight, or glass, and can also be paired with a selection of cheese plates, caviar, chocolate and other delectable treats.
Another reason to love Domaine Carneros: Despite looking as fancy as a French pastry chef’s wedding cake confection, the facility also has a long history of being green. In 2003, they put in the largest solar collection of any winery in the world, and is certified organic, meaning they don’t spray their vines, which allows natural populations to grow and is healthier for both the grapes and the people who work in the vineyards!
Champagne or sparkling wine? The U.S. failed to sign the 1930s labeling agreement limiting use of the word “champagne” to wines from the Champagne region of France, so some American wineries feel free to call their wines champagne. Although DC’s wines are made in the classic manner, "méthode champenoise", Domaine Carneros chooses to use the name of their own Napa region. DomaineCarneros makes three traditional styles of sparkling wine: Brut, Brut Rosé and Blanc de Blancs.

My tasting notes are below:

Brut Rose Sparkling Wine: Perfectly balanced, with more fruity and floral characteristics than the Brut or Le Rêve. The wine’s aroma has hints of wild strawberries and roses with notes of peach. Pale pink in color, this Brut Rosé is still dry – a true brut, ready to be enjoyed right away, and perfect for the holiday season.
Estate Pinot Noir: This is a classic California Pinot, rich with fruit tones of ripe cherry, raspberry and black current and secondary hints of chocolate, toast, clove and exotic spices. Luscious flavors end in a very long and silky finish. – Rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast!

Blanc de Blancs: Yeasty, baking aromas of warm fall apples and fresh baked roll, This classic wine made from Chardonnay grapes offers rich, elegant flavors that include crisp pear, peach, lemon and cinnamon flavors that echo through a lingering finish. Delicate and refined, this wine has great mouthfeel and tiny bubbles. - Rated 92 points by Wine Enthusiast.


Estate Pinot Noir: This is a classic California Pinot, rich with fruit tones of ripe cherry, raspberry and black current and secondary hints of chocolate, toast, clove and exotic spices. Luscious flavors end in a very long and silky finish. – Rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast!
 

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