Bubbles, more bubbles, and yet even more bubbles.

What an education in flavors of Champagne—OK, sparkling wine because this was California after all. Call it what you want, an afternoon of tasting at Domaine Carneros in Napa was sublime.

Sue and I ordered different tastings (there were four to choose from) so we could share, and thus broaden our palates even more. We had the Sparkling Wine Sampler and Sparkling Chateau Tasting, with the 2019 Brut Rosé being in both.

The first one also had the 2018 Estate Brut Cuvée, 2019 Blanc de Noir and 2018 Verméil Demi-Sec, while the other included 2018 Ultra Brut, 2017 Late Disgorged Brut and 2015 Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs.

Still and sparkling wines are the same in that their flavors change with food, which was why it was fun to have a cheese plate to pair the bubbly with.

Champagne flavors are as distinct and varied as any varietal. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I’m not a big fan of rosé in any form, so I was not surprised this was not the first glass to be emptied. My favorite was the Verméil Demi-Sec, while Sue was partial to the Late Disgorged Brut. That one came in second for me.

What put one higher over another? For me it was flavor, which I realize isn’t saying much. Verméil Demi-Sec tends to lean toward being sweeter. The tasting notes say it has “aromas of lychee, cherry blossom, and honeysuckle ride on a delicate bead of bubbles that complement a long, creamy finish.”

The Late Disgorged Brut is aged six years, and could stay in the bottle longer. Tasting notes say, “This wine has profound richness expressed in aromatic notes of toasted almond and brioche with a plush palate of baked pear, honeysuckle, and tarte au citron.”

One thing that is so special about tasting at Domaine Carneros is that most of the bottles are only available there or they can be shipped to you from the winery.

I knew Domaine Carneros made some still wines and asked to try the Merlot. Oh my goodness, love, love, love it. If only it were on a store shelf  near me.

This grand estate at the southern end of Napa County in the Carneros region looks like a chateau out of France, which just adds to the grandeur of the experience. This French influence clearly has a lot to do with the founders being the Taittinger family of Reims, France.

This French influence continues with how the sparkling wine is made, which is by using the méthode traditionnelle. Wine Spectator describes this as a “labor-intensive process whereby wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle, creating bubbles.”

The winery says, “Before a méthode traditionnelle sparkling wine earns the right to feature its vintage on the label, it must be aged in the bottle for a minimum of three years.”

From our outside table we looked upon acres of vineyards. Most of the grapes Domaine Carneros uses are estate grown. It’s not unusual to see CEO Remi Cohen walking among the vines.

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are used for sparkling wine, with the former some of the first to be harvested each year. With a cooler summer than normal in Wine Country, it has meant the harvest started in late August, about three weeks later normal. It means soon there will be more sparkling wine to try.

Domaine Carneros is a distinctive building sitting on top of knoll in Napa. (Image: Kathryn Reed)



Address: 1240 Duhig Road, Napa


To make a reservation: 800.716.2788, ext. 150

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