Domaine Carneros is situated at the base of Napa Valley and Sonoma Wine Country in California. While it is in California, this Winery Estate offers a uniquely fascinating journey to France. Modeled after the House of Taittinger, the centerpiece of Domaine Carneros is The Château, an architectural accomplishment inspired by the classic 18th century Château de la Marquetterie.
The French influence of Domaine Carneros only begins with the exquisitely designed building purposely built atop a knoll which oversees the estate and vineyards of this California Winery. The House of Taittinger, recognized as one of the original premier champagne houses in France, lends its mystique to both The Château as well as the surrounding property. The vineyards, wines and production methods of Domaine Carneros all mirror centuries of French Champagne perfection.
Madame de Pompadour
The Château of Domaine Carneros at the heart of the estate coaxes visitors into mentally leaving California as they are transported back in time to the legendary champagne region of France. The Château is enveloped by a stone balustrade with uniformed stone balusters which embellish the feeling of 17th and 18th century Europe.
Standing or sitting anywhere behind the waist high balustrade on the stone terraces which surround The Château, the visitor is treated to magnificent vistas of the Napa Valley Mountains. In the foreground are the formal gardens of the estate featuring traditional European style privy hedges, well thought out gardens which line the grand staircase that offers views of the vineyards.
In European Grandeur the property features a garden conservatory or Jardin d’Hiver with a marble fireplace along with floor to ceiling windows, skylights, chandeliers and marble floors which frame the picturesque landscapes. The gardens that feature fountains and statuary are reminiscent of another century. Whether on a rainy spring evening, or a clear sunny day, the Jardin d’Hiver offers guests the ambience that is required to sample the fine wines produced at this French inspired winery.
This majestic estate is a working winery. The production area is situated behind The Château. It is a state-of-the-art wine facility that when completed in 2003 had the largest solar collection system of any winery in the world. Designed and constructed in the inspiration of a French Carriage House, this production facility also serves as the exquisite setting for the Château Society members only Club Room and Terrace.
Wine tastings are held daily from 10 AM through 5:30 PM. Exclusively indulgent, wine tastings at Domaine Carneros include vineyard views at private tables in the salon or on the terrace. Daily wine tastings offer the accompaniment of local artisan cheeses and other indulgences that pair well with the wines of Domaine Carneros. An encompassing Food and Wine Menu is offered that includes delectable delights such as Truffled Golden Whitefish, Estate White Sturgeon and of course the ultimate French experience, a selection of Caviar.
As beautiful as the grounds and as enticing as the food, Domaine Carneros, is a winery. So, let’s not forget the wines. Delightful still wines offered by this estate winery include Avant-Garde Rosé and single-vineyard Chardonnay. Domaine Carneros carries the expertise and influences of one of the world’s leading champagne makers, the House of Taittinger, therefore the award-winning wines of this winery include Pinot Noir and sparkling wines that encompass a noble French heritage. Holding true to the influence of French Champagne, the sparkling wines of Domaine Carneros showcase the lovingly tended pristine grapes of the estate vineyards crafted into sparkling wines using the centuries old méthode traditionnelle.
Leading the production of the prized sparkling wines of Domaine Carneros is Eileen Crane, America's Doyenne of Sparkling Wine. With 38 Years of experience Ms. Crane who has a culinary and scientific background, relishes the history of the estate as well as keeping the art of sparkling wines alive and intriguing. "I especially love blending trials because they give me to opportunity to use the skills and palate, I have developed over years to produce cuvées or blends," says Eileen. "With the myriad factors that affect each vintage - weather conditions, vineyard age, clones and rootstocks, viticultural practices (pruning, harvesting, etc.) - blending can be daunting but I relish the opportunity to connect with and shape our wines to produce our distinctive style year after year.”
Hand harvested grapes that are picked only at night or early morning to minimize astringency are the beginning of the méthode traditionnelle of sparkling wine that is practiced by Ms. Crane. As in champagne production at the House of Taittinger, only the first pressings are used in these award-winning sparkling wines. True to the historic processes developed in French champagne production and practiced by Eileen Crane the second fermentation takes place in individual bottles in cool cellars that are two stories underground.
Neil at The Art of Sparkling Wine Pairing Asian Bites with Bubbles
The Art of Sparkling Wine Pairing Asian Bites with Bubbles
Along with the daily tastings by reservation at Domaine Carneros, specialty experiences are also available such as, THE ART OF SPARKLING WINE PAIRING ASIAN BITES WITH BUBBLES -
Monday through Friday, one seating per day at 11am. Book 48hrs in advance. • $85 per person
THE ULTIMATE CHIPS & DIP - One-week advance booking required. • $350 per couple.
The ultimate romantic wine tasting experience is also offered at Domaine Carneros.
THE SPARKLING SUITE Available Monday through Friday year-round (weather permitting) • $500 per couple. This romantic wine adventure includes a private tasting for two of Domaine Carneros sparkling wines and Pinot Noirs, paired perfectly with caviar, charcuterie and all the necessary accoutrements. As a keepsake, you’ll be gifted with your most memorable wine of the day.
A visit to Domaine Carneros is like visiting the champagne region of France without leaving California.
Story by Daniel Dachille and Laine Page
Some photos courtesy of Domaine Carneros