Celebrate with Domaine Carneros

By Sandra Crittendon
Domaine Carneros 

When Claude Taittinger singled out the 138-acre parcel property located in the heart of Carneros in 1987 to build a Napa Valley domain of sparkling wine, he brought with him all the mastery and style of his family’s famed house overseas, Champagne Taittinger. He built this new Carneros winery and tasting room in the same style as the 18th century Château de la Marquetterie in France, the home of the respected Champagne house.

Domaine Carneros, finished in 1989, was strategically set on a hilltop surrounded by estate vineyards and immediately became an iconic landmark in the region. The grand staircase, the formal gardens and terraces, and the old-world style combined with expansive views of the rolling vines make for an unquestionably luxurious setting for indulging in the estate’s elegant wines.

The style of Taittinger’s new world house was originally overseen by Eileen Crane who has been referred to as “America's doyenne of Sparkling Wine.” She is quoted as saying that the bubbles produced at Domaine Carneros are "Classic. Sophisticated. Timeless. Think Audrey Hepburn in a little black dress."

While Crane is no longer running the Carneros estate, the female leadership continues with current CEO Remi Cohen, whose role began during harvest of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic and during a season of wildfire threats. Despite the year’s challenges, the estate’s elegant offerings are secured following what most in the region have described as an exceptional harvest.

Currently, there are two winemakers who oversee the grape to bottle magic at Domaine Carneros: Zak Miller is in charge of the sparkling production, and TJ Evans makes the still wines. Miller gave the current vintage an A+ rating, although wine lovers won’t be tasting the 2021 sparkling wines until the three-year long evolution is completed.

Domaine CarnerosAll of the grapes for the wines of Domaine Carneros are sourced from the Carneros appellation with 100 percent of the fruit coming from their six estate vineyards, which now comprise a total of 400 acres.

When traveling in either the Napa or Sonoma area, Domaine Carneros is easy to visit. Reservations are required and can be booked online. Most days, tastings are offered outside on the terrace overlooking beautiful vineyard views, guests are seated, and the tasting is led by an experienced wine professional.

On the rare occasion of bad weather, guests may be ensconced in the chateau’s salon. This is not a place where one wants to belly up to the counter, taste a few, and then move on. This is a place to luxuriate, to savor the wines and the setting.

Domaine Carneros offers a menu of extra options to elevate the time spent there with choices of charcuterie, cheeses, smoked salmon, and caviar add-ons. Guests can also more fully indulge with a curated food-and-wine pairing featuring a designated cuisine with Morocco and Mexico being some of the more recent menu inspirations.

The ultimate onsite experience is the Art of Sabrage package that includes a demonstration of the practice with a lesson on the history of sabering open bottles. This fun class comes with tastings of exclusive estate wines served with a spread of some of the abovementioned delicacies.

Fortunately, travel is not essential to indulge in the luxury of Domaine Carneros, it is easy to have it delivered to your doorstep. Joining their club is not required to get good savings either, non-members can get 15 percent off of six or more standard size bottles with only $5 shipping on purchases of $125 or more throughout the month of December.

They are also offering multiple gift packs featuring both their sparkling wines and still Pinot Noir packaged with special glasses or gourmet goodies, as well.

Ordering directly from the maker also gives buyers some more unique options, such as the Ultra Brut, a very crisp, dry wine that is ideal with seafood; a vibrant Rose with fresh berry notes that make it a natural to open for a luxe brunch or a ladies lunch but perfect for anytime; and the creamy feeling Vermeil Demi-Sec with a honeyed barely sweet finish that is best paired with brunch items with a sweet fruit component or with dessert, priced from $48 to $39, as mentioned.

There is also the more premium “La Reve Blanc de Blanc,” which translates to “The Dream.” It is made entirely of estate-grown Chardonnay.

Domaine Carneros also makes a range of Pinot Noir, which includes both the estate and selected vineyard options, that are priced from $30 to $92, offering one stop shopping for both the sparkling wine and Pinot Noir lovers on your list.

For those that cannot wait for a delivery to start the season’s celebrations, Domaine Carneros Brut is currently available for the festive price of under $30 at Spec’s.