During a recent stay in the beautiful Napa Valley, I had the opportunity to visit Domaine Carneros and take the “Art of Sparkling Wine“ winery tour.
As you head west on the Carneros Highway (Hwy 12/121) to Sonoma, you’ll notice the iconic Chateau-style winery up on the hill. Take a left on Duhig Road and turn right into the parking lot. It’s a well known, local landmark and a very popular winery to visit.
Domaine Carneros was originally founded by Champagne Taittinger, which is the stately Champagne house of France. During the late 1970’s, Claude Taittinger search the United States for a place to produce wines locally. He purchased a rolling, 138-acre parcel located in the heart of Carneros, Napa Valley. The classic 18th century château-style building that resides onsite today was finished in 1989. The inspiration for this gorgeous building was the historic Château de la Marquetterie in Champagne, France.
The Carneros region is famous for both its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. These two varietals are essential for the best tasting, premium sparkling wines. A varietal wine is primarily made using a single variety of grape.
It was recommended by a colleague to take the wine tour. The Art of Sparkling Wine tour provides an intriguing, educational experience. It’s a terrific way to learn how sparkling wine is made. Of course, the highlight for most is to actually taste several of the sparkling wines, as well as Pinot Noirs.
The Art of Sparkling Wine tour is offered three times a day. The tour times include 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. The price is only $30 per person, plus local sales tax. The tour usually runs between 1 and 1-1/2 hours.
To start, our group of 12 people met in the a tasting room. We were all looking forward to a great VIP experience. After an intro of the winery’s history from our guide Michelle, we all tried a glass of 2011 Estate Brut Sparkling Wine. It had a crisp, yet light taste and was delicious. The sparkling wine is made using 2/3 Pinot Noir grapes and 1/3 Chardonnay. Brut is the wine industry’s common name for “dry”. Extra Brut is counter-intuitive and actually means more sweet.
We learned that Domaine Carneros uses two stage fermintation process. The first is in the large wine tanks and the second, in the wine bottle itself. The combination of sugar and yeast causes CO2, which makes the famous bubbles in sparkling wine as well as champagne. Our guide explained the term “nose” of a wine. It actually means the aroma or bouquet. The nose actually is the key method we perceive the wine’s flavor in our own mouth.
The Art of Sparkling Wine tour includes watching a 10-minute video. Then we got to walk along an observation area to see the large wine tanks and the winery’s bottling operations from above.
Depending on the time of the year and weather in the Napa Valley, the tour may include a walk to the nearby vineyards. Take in the amazing lake and vineyard views from your terrace table. After our walking tour, we ended in a tasting room and sat down to taste additional sparkling and still wines. We were served a plate of local artisanal cheeses, crackers and raisins to pair with our wines.
We tried a 2008 Prestige Cuvee which was decadent. It’s a heartier food wine with a full taste. Next was a 2012 Brut Rose that we were told is ideal with salmon. Next was a 2013 Avant-Garde red wine, which was rather light. What followed, was a heavier red wine – 2013 Pinot Noir Estate.
We all enjoyed the casual atmosphere of the tasting area and the opportunity to try many, great tasting wines from Domaine Carneros.
It was interesting to learn about the micro-climate regions of both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The Carneros region is perfect for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. The result is a world-class, California sparkling wine.
Once the wine tour is over, you can take your time wandering around the massive property that covers about 4,800 square feet of space. Enjoy strolling around the winery and view the grand staircase, formal gardens and fountain. It’s such a peaceful setting in the middle of this world famous wine region.
Domaine Carneros was a wonderful stop during our day of sightseeing and wine tasting. The winery is located in an incredible and beautiful setting among the vineyard covered hills. The staff was top notch and provided VIP style hospitality. I look forward to returning once again.
1240 Duhig Road, Napa, CA 94559
(707) 257-0101 or (800) 716-2788
If you would like to visit the wine country region of California, be sure to add the Art of Sparkling Wine tour at Domaine Carneros to your list of things to do. We can help plan your perfect Napa Valley or Sonoma Valley getaway. Read our luxury blog to learn about more luxury travel ideas and must-see places to visit.
Photos: The Life of Luxury