As you know I am based in France, and here wines for California are very hard to get by and purchase. I do love my champagne French Champagne wines, but it is always a great pleasure to taste and review wines from California. They have always been dear to my heart since I spent a vintage in Sonoma at Chateau Saint Jean.
Also, I’ve had the opportunity to taste Domaine Carneros wines before and I found they have a little je ne sais quoi, something special and unique to their taste that is not found anywhere else outside of Cali.
Domaine Carneros is a special estate in many regards. First, it’s based, obviously, in the Carneros AVA of Northern California, near the San Pablo Bay neighboring the San Francisco Bay. So, vines here get a lot of cooling influence from the cool ocean breezes, a climate that is particularly suited to growing grapes for making crisp and elegant sparkling wines.
As opposed to the Napa Valley or higher parts of Sonoma that are much warmer and better Cabernet Sauvignon and make dense reds, Carneros enjoys relative cold growing conditions.
Secondly, Domaine Carneros was founded by a French Champagne, Pierre Marie Taittinger in 1987.
Then, as an outstanding landmark in the Northern Californian landscape on the road between Napa and Sonoma, M. Taittinger built a proper chateau, a building inspired by the classic 18th century Château de la Marquetterie in Champagne, France.
With about 350 acres of vineyard surface area in total, Domaine Carneros crops 225 acres of Pinot Noir and 115 acres of Chardonnay to make sparkling wines using the method traditionnelle, as well as still red Pinot Noir wines.
Watch Domaine Carneros’ Wine Reviews in Video
2014 Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Brut Methode Traditionnelle
Rating: 90+/100 point
With a bright and shiny lemon-yellow color, including touches of gold hues, this is a blend of about 2/3 Pinot Noir and 1/3 Chardonnay, with just a hint (2 or 3%) of Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio (a very fragrant very full-bodied and round grape variety to give it a little more aromatics and a bigger body).
The wine spent about three and a half years lying down in the bottle on its lees to get fuller and extract all the goodness from the yeasts.
A very delicate and attractive nose, flowers, lily, elderflower, smelling sweet and tempting. It’s citrusy and zesty, lime and orange. Notes of cookies/biscuits and brioche just out of the oven. A hint of smokiness.
This is a dry sparkling wine. But not overly so, providing a soft and smooth mouthfeel. Rounded in body, it’s balanced yet crisp, with the acidity cutting through the richness of an oily texture.
Friendly flavors richly-flavored apple, peach, apricot and always these fragrant floral notes. It’s like a bouquet of fresh flowers combined with a basket of fresh citrus fruit.
Soft and creamy, this is a very elegant and extremely drinkable, versatile sparkling wine good for any occasions.
Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Rosé
Rating: 90+/100 points
Made from 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, including Pinot made as a saignée and some as a red wine in a similar fashion to Taittinger’s Prestige Rosé Brut Champagne wine.
The color of this rosé is slightly pale, delicately glamorous salmon pink color.
Aromas are rather delicate in somewhat an introvert fashion, fresh blueberry and a little bit of strawberry with a hint of biscuit and butter.
The palate is super soft, rich and smooth with fine textural bubbles. While the nose was discrete, there’s an explosion of flavors, fresh berry fruits, citrus, grapefruit, and sweet biscuit spices.
Domaine Carneros Rosé is a soft feminine bubbly with a smooth texture on a dry backbone of acidity.
Slightly drying tannins and a touch of savoriness to finish.
2013 Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Ultra Brut Sparkling Wines
Rating: 91/100 points
50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay. 4.5 grams per liter of sugar at dosage only (against 9 grams for the previous two wines).
Bright and shiny lemon-yellow color with discrete green hues.
The nose appears a little bit more austere with a vegetal edge, fennel and lime are the dominant aromas.
Lemon flavors to the palate, super smooth bubbles on a bone-dry acidic and mineral feel.
Flavor expression is restrained, floral and delicate lime. A sparkling wine meant to be paired with food, like rich canapés, seafood, oysters, creamy pasta, or a herbal salmon dishes.
2011 Domaine Carneros by Taittinger Le Rêve
Rating: 93/100 points
100% estate grown Chardonnay, ‘the dream’, the signature sparkling wine by Dom. Carneros.
This is 2011 vintage, so this is a seven-year-old wine that spent a full six years ageing on its lees in bottle, but the winery tells us this wine can be aged and let to develop/mature further through cellaring for a few years.
Bright and intense yellow color with subtle golden hues.
The aromatic profile is very citrusy, intense lime and rich lemon. Pungent nutty toasty hazelnut and macadamia.
Massive amount of concentrated flavors, very smooth texture that coats your palate yet with a great tension from the acidity amplifying the fruity freshness. Peach and pear, crisp apple.
Rounded body provides a nearly perfect balance. Like a cloud of fruity finesse, Le Rêve develops towards a nutty and creamy, long and buttery finish, slightly spicy too. An utterly-complete tasting experience.