What do wine bloggers do on a day off? Taste wine, of course. It’s a bit like a busman’s holiday — not that we’re complaining! Last Friday we took a slight detour through the southern end of Napa Valley on our way to a evening get-together with friends. For some time we have been wanting to stop and taste the wines of Domaine Carneros. Finally, we made it happen.
Outdoor Seating, Please
I made a reservation ahead of time because we wanted to be seated outside for the tasting. This time of year the weather is perfect and large umbrellas provide ample shade. We were seated at a table around the side of the Château with a view of the lawn and hills beyond. The highway below was hidden from view by a low hedge beyond the lawn. It was a quiet and out-of-the-way table. Just perfect.
Wine and Food
A number of tasting options are available that include an all sparkling flight, a red wine flight and two flights that include both sparking and red wines. Both of us opted for a different sparkling and red wine sampler giving us the opportunity to taste eight wines from Domaine Carneros.
When sampling this many wines, even at only 2 ounces per wine, food is required. Once again, we chose different food plates so we could share the food as well as the wine. Smoked salmon and charcuterie paired beautifully with all of the wines.
What We Liked Best
I deliberately left my wine notebook at home for this tasting, determined to enjoy this tasting like other guest — without making tasting notes. We sipped, compared, nibbled and sipped again until we were contented. Every wine was delicious.
Two sparkling wines stood out for me. I loved the toasty notes and complex flavors of the 2009 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs. The 2012 Domaine Carneros Blanc de Blancs was lively with complex fruit flavors thanks to its unusual blend of 36% Pinot Gris and 64% Chardonnay. Super delicious.
That said, the 2012 Domaine Carneros Estate Brut Cuvée is very complex and the 2012 Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut is super clean. Guess I liked them all.
The 2015 Domaine Carneros Pommard Clone Pinot Noir really sang to me. This lovely, earthy, brambly Pinot Noir gave me everything I want from the variety. These are the flavors I first learned to love in Pinot Noir during visits to the Willamette Valley.
Just A Few Details, Even Though I Wasn’t Working (Really)
- Domaine Carneros was founded by the Champagne Taittinger family and the Château was built in 1988 to house the winery and cellar. It is a replica (only five-times larger) of the Taittinger country home in Reims.
- All Domaine Sparkling wines are made in the Méthode Traditionnelle; the same method used in Champagne to produce champagne.
- Annual sparkling wine production at Domaine Carneros is approximately 60,000 cases. The area directly below were we enjoyed our tasting houses 500,000 bottles!
- Domaine Carneros is perfectly situated in the Carneros AVA. Perfect because the cooler region of Napa Valley is home to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both traditionally used in the production of sparkling wines.
- All of the wines made by Domaine Carneros are sourced from within the Carneros AVA and almost exclusively from estate vineyards.
- In addition to sparkling wine, Domaine Carneros produces still wines, which include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Clair (a white Pinot Noir) and Merlot.
- You will find all of the details necessary to plan your visit to Domaine Carneros on their website.