Carneros Uncorked: Domaine Carneros in the House

"A gourmet meal without a glass of wine just seems tragic to me somehow." – Kathy Mattea

Summer may be gone, but on the California coast and inland there's still much wine tasting to do as the weather is still pretty fantastic and the fall colors are just now hitting the vineyards with the fantastic colors and lighting of Fall. So grab a picnic basket, some water, because pros hydrate, jump in the car, take a bus, fly in a luxury jet, and then head on over to a gorgeous place called Carneros; often regarded as one of the premier spots in all the world for producing world-class wines.

I thought it's high time to get a little 'Carneros' in my life and what could be better than a comfortable drive out to their estate. Domaine Carneros, which sits between Duhig Road and the Carneros Highway on Napa Valley's south-western border, closer to Sonoma and on the outskirts of Napa's familiar highway twenty-nine corridor.

In a word, the overall experience is, "winetastic" okay I know, a made-up word perhaps, but none-the-less accurate. Domaine Carneros is as picturesque as any winery could ever hope to be, modeled after a traditional 18th Century French chateau. If you close your eyes for just a moment and imagine you could almost see Josephine and Napolean waving to you as you drive up vineyard lined road, just before that "let them eat cake moment." This winery iconically says first-class all the way. A visit to Domaine Carneros and their partner Taittinger represents the iconic French Chateau experience I believe we all think of when we here the word winery, simulating what a trip to Bordeaux or Champagne may be like.

Domaine Carneros is better known for its Sparkling Wine program, where they have three traditional styles of sparkling wine, each wine is made in the traditional method often referred to as the "méthode champenoise." But seeing the potential for creating a beautiful expression of red burgundy, they embarked on adding still wines to their portfolio. The Pinot Noir I tasted is an excellent addition to their exciting line of sparkling wines, their still-wine program started in 1992 is now expanded to three offerings. If you're thinking about a visit; they welcome guests in a variety of ways, please check their web page for all the details.

Time to take a closer look at this delish Carneros Pinot Noir via this quick tasting note. This wine needed a little coaxing to come out of its shell, as it's a bit reticent at first blush. 2008 was a difficult vintage, but the DC team pulled it off quite nicely. Give it some air in the decanter for at least an hour or so, and that should do the trick nicely. They have three Pinot Noirs in their line-up, but the one I'm reviewing today (pictured above) is the entry level 2008 Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir, Carneros AVA, which was sent as a sample for the review process.

2008 Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir: In the glass, you'll find a beautiful garnet colored core. After stuffing my fat half Irish nose into the glass, you get some Burgundian funk, kind of a forest floor aroma mixed together with cherries, rhubarbs and a splash of cola. After the first splash down across my palate, a nice vein of acidity running through an excellent entry level Pinot Noir. I found it wonderfully dry, silky, and light bodied, laying on a pillow of blackberries, cola, and ripe raspberries all wrapped around a luxurious finish. It's drinking pretty nicely right now, but by next year it will be even better.

Price and Where to Buy: Okay folks you can do this a couple of ways, you could buy it in their tasting room or from their online store for $35 bones or you could gallop down to your local high-end grocery outlet, where you could possibly get this wonderful juice for somewhere in the mid-twenties, and that has some excellent QPR appeal. I gave this wine a score of 90 points, a really well-made wine for everyday quaffing. While this wine may no longer be available, I'd give one of their recent releases a swirl.

The other wine (sample) sent for the review process was their sparkling Brut Rosé also known as the Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour, quite a mouthful. I'm sure it's known as 'Pompadour' for short, yet, a wonderfully toasty, salmon-colored sparkling wine that would lighten up anyone's day, as a bit of celebratory bubbles, or just a Friday night quaff and a sigh of relief the week is over. A great bottle of wine to have on hand for any occasion, just stash one away in the pantry or even better have it chilling out in the refrigerator. Remember it was Mr. Charles Dickens who was  once quoted to have said, "Champagne is one of the elegant extras in life."

Organic: This sparkling wine is made from certified organic grapes. And on the vegan front, it may be a relief to know that their bubbly is an animal-free product. Some wines are "fined," or clarified, with animal products like egg white and sometimes isinglass the dried swim bladders of fish. While this is a somewhat standard industry practice, Domaine Carneros believes it's important for folks to know that they only use a clay-based vegan product for clarifying their bubbly.

Swirl, Taste, Spit: Okay as I mentioned earlier in the glass, you'll find a Salmon, leaning toward copper type color. It's a blend of 58% Pinot Noir, 42% Chardonnay filled with a yeasty, yet tangy flavors. Nicely complex flavors of vanilla cream and raspberry brioche, wonderful creamy mouthfeel. The finish fell off a little at the end, but still has that champagne like elegance, a true Brut in every sense of the word. I gave this wine a score of 91 points.

Price and Where to Buy: You could purchase this wine through their website or the tasting room for $35 each or possibly at your local wine shop typically selling somewhere south of the $30 and other online sources may have it for a bit less.

If you find yourself in the area, this is one of the better places to stop for completing your own wine country experience, the views are extraordinary and so is the hospitality. Remember folks life is short, compromise is for relationships, not wine, so until next time, continue to sip long and prosper cheers!

All original content: Including text and photographs remain the copyright © of the author, (W.R. Eyer) and © Fotogui Photography except where otherwise noted.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed wines are from medias sample provided (not for sale) for the review process.


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