Sometimes you just don’t appreciate a place because you see it damn near every day. Growing up in Sonoma but having close ties in Napa I would drive by the Domaine Carneros winery on an almost daily basis. I watched it get built when I was a small child and I noticed every little change in the landscaping or exterior of the French style chateux. Some days, as I made the run over from Sonoma to Napa, or vice versa, I would see this place three or four times a day.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a beautiful, stylish winery, but to be honest its “in your face” location right on Highway 121 and the countless tour buses I would see in its parking lot always gave me the impression it was a tourist trap. Then a few years ago while picking out a sparkling wine for New Year’s Eve I snagged a bottle of Domaine Carneros Brut for a steal at Safeway. Later that evening I was struck by the sophistication and elegance of the wine as well as its reasonable price. I also noticed that the label read “Domaine Carneros by Taittinger,” and before then I had no idea that this Carneros winery was owned by one of the premier French Champagne houses.
Christine and I found ourselves with some time on the recent Sunday afternoon and decided we should pay this winery in our backyard a visit. We were in Napa for the weekend and Domaine Carneros is about a five minute drive from the cottage. Walking up the 80 odd steps from the parking lot, I paused at a plaque that informed me the chateaux design is based upon a 17th century abbey press that is now the country home of the Taittinger family. After we made our way to the summit, Christine and I were greeted by a friendly host who informed us tastings were offered by table service and we were welcome to sit inside or on the expansive patio.
I was a little disappointed by the main lobby. After the magnificent entrance, I found it to be rather small and uninspiring, but I reminded myself this is a working winery and not a real chateaux. There is also a tour that Christine and I missed and that could very well offer peeks into Domaine’s hidden elegance.
The patio is a real stunner. Even though the temperature was pushing 96 degrees, Christine and I opted for a shady table on the patio. Table service wine tasting was new for me. We were presented with a menu that offered a selection of the sparkling flight or a red wine flight featuring Domaine’s well regarded Pinot Noirs. We opted for the sparkling flight that included the Brut, Blanc de Blancs and the Brut Rosé. I was familiar with the Brut and enjoyed it as much as I had in the past. The Blanc de Blancs I found to be bit yeasty and heavy, yet this could be because it was paired in the middle with the other wines. The Brut Rosé was simply delicious. I do think the hot weather had something to do with it, but this was a wine that was just well made, exhibiting notes of strawberry and peach but with a minerality in the finish that is emblematic of wines from the Carneros region. Christine and I opted for a glass of the Rosé after our flight and Christine flirted with the idea of purchasing a bottle but we knew we’d probably be back soon.