Wine of the Week; 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve

The Winery

Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 by Champagne Taittinger of France in partnership with Kobrand Corporation. It is located in the heart of Carneros in Napa Valley, along with Gloria Ferrer. The Carneros terroir is ideally suited to producing Chardonnay,and Pinot Noir, typically the backbone of both Champagne, and California Sparkling wine.  That’s because Carneros offers cool nights, foggy mornings, and sunny, breezy days offering fruit of extraordinary elegance, complexity, and intensity.

Domaine Carneros is a beautiful Chateau that was built in 1988. The building was inspired by historic Chateau de la Marquetterie in Champagne France, which is the estate home of the Taittinger family.

 

The Wine

Domaine Carneros sources 95% of their fruit from organic estate vineyards, and all of their wines are labeled with the Carneros appellation.  Eileen Crane is CEO/Founding Winemaker.

This wine is a Blanc de Blancs,  which means the wine is produced from all white grapes. Le Rêve, which translates to “the dream” in French, is considered to be the tête du cuvee  (flagship wine) of the winery.  The wine is aged 6 years in Domaine Carneros’ cellars, carved into the hillside beneath the winery, before release.

2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve

2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve

My tasting notes follow

Light straw color with persistent bead of tiny bubbles, with brioche baked pear, tropical fruit, and a touch of mineral aromas. On the palate it shows a soft creamy mousse, and is elegant, balanced, and complex with stone fruit, apple, tropical fruit, and mineral flavors. Long finish – 93pts.

Rating: Highly recommended!

Pair with: It makes a great apéritif, but is also fantastic with fresh oysters and other shellfish, crab cakes,  and ceviche.  Try with an aged Gouda or other hard cheeses. And it makes a delicious counterpoint with triple cream cheeses.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Alcohol: 12% alcohol.

Closure: Cork

AVA: > CaliforniaNapa / SonomaCarneros

Varietal(s): 99%% Chardonnay, 1% Pinot Blanc

Cooperage: Aged on lees in the bottle for five and one-half years

Retail: $95

Cases produced: 4,450

Purchased for review

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Wine of the Week: Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Reserve

The 2010 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Reserve is my Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for September 22-September 28.

The Winery

The Robert Mondavi Winery was established in 1966 by Robert Mondavi, one of the most influential and esteemed winemakers in California history (Click here for his story).  It was the first major winery built in Napa Valley. For decades it was California’s most famous winery.  It was acquired by Constellation Brands in 2004.

It’s a beautiful property with classic California mission-style architecture, with an expansive archway and bell tower.  I must confess I haven’t been in a long time.  I recall visiting on one of my first trips to Napa.  Nowadays, I tend to visit the smaller wineries.  But, I’ve been impressed with their reserve wines.  I’ve also been impressed with a few of their entry-level wines  In particular the Napa Valley Merlot, and the Private Selection Meritage provide very good to great price quality performance.

The Wine

The grapes for this wine were sourced from the Hyde Vineyard in cool climate Carneros AVA in the southernmost part of the Napa Valley.  The grapes are pressed as whole clusters, then fermented on native yeasts in French oak where the wine undergoes partial malolactic fermentation.

What struck me most about this wine is how balanced it is.

2010 Robert Mondavi Reserve Chardonnay, Carneros

My tasting notes follow:

Pale golden-yellow color with beguiling apple, butter, floral along with hints of honey, oak and tropical aromas. On the palate it’s med-bodied and impeccably balanced, with a creamy texture, very good acidity, with apple, tropical fruits and a bit of honey flavors. Med long finish. – 91pts

 

Chardonnay is not top of mind for me when it comes to wine and food pairing, but this is a very food friendly Chardonnay.  There is a judicious use of oak, and very good acidity. It was fantastic with a Five Spice Chicken and Asian Style Noodle salad!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Alcohol: 14.5% alcohol.

Closure: Cork.

AVA:  > California > Napa / SonomaCarneros

Varietal(s): 100% Chardonnay

Cooperage: Aged in French Oak (68% new) for 8 months, neutral barrels for 7 months

Retail: $40

Cases produced: 704

Media Sample

Many thanks to Folsom & Associates for providing the wine.

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T.G.I.F. Champagne And The Like…NV Domaine Carneros Cuvée de la Pompadour Brut Rosé

Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 by Champagne Taittinger of France in partnership with Kobrand Corporation. It is located in the heart of Carneros in Napa Valley, along with Gloria Ferrer. The Carneros terroir is ideally suited to producing Chardonnay,and Pinot Noir, typically the backbone of both Champagne, and California Sparkling wine. Domaine Carneros sources 95% of their fruit from organic estate vineyards, and all of their wines are labeled with the Carneros appellation.  Eileen Crane is the winery’s first and only sparkling winemaker.

Domaine Carneros is housed in a beautiful Chateau that was built in 1988. The building was inspired by historic Chateau de la Marquetterie in Champagne France, which is the estate home of the Taittinger family.

For my vegan friends, to my knowledge, Domaine Carneros is the only sparkling wine producer in the U.S. that makes vegan-friendly wines. And their entire 350 acre estate is all certified organic. 

From Domaine Carneros…

The Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour, celebrates the life and times of Madame de Pompadour (the great courtesan and mistress of Louis XV) who is credited with introducing Champagne to the court and was an influential tastemaker in the matters of art, architecture and philosophy–famous for her comment, “Champagne is the only wine a woman can drink and remain beautiful.”

NV Domaine Carneros Cuvée de la Pompadour Brut Rosé

Where it’s from: California>Napa Valley>Carneros

The grape(s) Pinot Noir (58%), and Chardonnay (42%)

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 12.%

Dosage: Brut

Retail: $36

My tasting notes follow:

Pretty pink-orange color aromas of wild strawberries, sweet yeast, and a slight floral note with a persistent bead of tiny bubbles. On the palate, it’s displays a creamy mousse, is medium-bodied and fruity, yet dry with fresh wild strawberry, cherry, and a bit of citrus peel flavors.  Medium long finish – 90pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This one would be wonderful as an aperitif , and also with appetizers and lighter fare such as watermelon-goat cheese bits, cheeses like Brie, or Fontina, or try with a  Nicoise or Cobb salad.  It would make a great wine to bring along on a picnic!

Highly recommended! Would purchase again!

Cheers!

T.G.I.F. Champagne And The Like…2007 Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut

Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 by Champagne Taittinger of France in partnership with Kobrand Corporation. It is located in the heart of Carneros in Napa Valley, along with Gloria Ferrer. The Carneros terroir is ideally suited to producing Chardonnay,and Pinot Noir, typically the backbone of both Champagne, and California Sparkling wine. Domaine Carneros sources 95% of their fruit from organic estate vineyards, and all of their wines are labeled with the Carneros appellation.  Eileen Crane is the winery’s first and only sparkling winemaker.

Domaine Carneros is housed in a beautiful Chateau that was built in 1988. The building was inspired by historic Chateau de la Marquetterie in Champagne France, which is the estate home of the Taittinger family.

According to Domaine Carneros:

Ultra Brut is considered a specialty style, very little is produced either nationally or internationally. It is a more contemplative wine and most often appeals to the true sparkling wine aficionado…It is very dry It enlivens and refreshes the palate, stimulating the appetite for the pleasures of the meal ahead.

2007 Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut

2007 Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut

Where it’s from: California>Napa Valley>Carneros

The grape(s) Pinot Noir (60%), and Chardonnay (40%)

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 12.95%

Dosage: 0.5%

 Retail: $39

My tasting notes follow:

Very light straw color with persistent tiny bead of bubbles and toasty stone fruit aromas. On the palate, very dry, approaching medium-bodied with a creamy mousse and pear, and citrus peel flavors. Medium-long finish. – 90pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This one would be wonderful as an aperitif , and with shellfish, smoked fish, or raw oysters.  I had it with raw oysters and it was an outstanding pairing!

Recommendation: Recommended.

Cheers!

Along The Napa Sparkling Wine Trail – Domaine Carneros

We recently took to an overnight trip up to Napa. On our agenda? Make our last stop along the Napa Sparkling Wine Trail – in our case Domaine Carneros.

If you’re not familiar with the “Napa Sparkling Wine Trail“, it’s composed of five sparkling wine houses in the Carneros and Napa Valley areas. They are Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon, Gloria Ferrer, Mumm Napa, and Schramsberg Vineyards. Each is enchanting in its own way. What they all have in common, besides sensational sparkling wines, is that they each take pride in serving up praiseworthy still wines. And that’s what I appreciate about going tasting at a sparkling wine house, you can taste sparklers with the option to taste still wines too!

Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 by Champagne Taittinger of France in partnership with Kobrand Corporation. It is located in the heart of Carneros in Napa Valley, along with Gloria Ferrer. The Carneros terroir is ideally suited to producing Chardonnay,and Pinot Noir, typically the backbone of both Champagne, and California Sparkling wine. Domaine Carneros sources 95% of their fruit from organic estate vineyards (a couple of the sparklers I tasted were vegan), and all of their wines are labeled with the Carneros appellation. Eileen Crane is the winery’s first and only sparkling winemaker.

Domaine Carneros is a beautiful Chateau that was built in 1988. The building was inspired by historic Chateau de la Marquetterie in Champagne France, which is the estate home of the Taittinger family.

Domaine Carneros

My tasting notes follow:

The Sparklers

  • 2007 Domaine Carneros Brut – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Very light straw color with active stream of tiny bubbles and sweet bread dough, citrus and red fruit aromas. On the palate light bodied, dry, and crisp with moderately soft mousse, and tart cherry, apple and citrus peel flavors. Medium finish. Blend of 60% Pinot Noir/40% Chardonnay. 12.95% ABV. Aged 3 years in the bottle on lees. Vegan. (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé – USA, California, Napa Valley, CarnerosLight salmon color, with a persistent bead of tiny bubbles, and light yeast, red fruit aromas. On the palate medium bodied, balanced with red raspberry, cherry, and a hint of citrus peel flavors. Medium finish. 62% Pinot Noir/38% Chardonnay. 1% dosage. 12.6 ABV. Vegan (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Very light straw color with persistent tiny bead of bubbles and toasty stone fruit aromas. On the palate, very dry, approaching medium-bodied with a creamy mousse and pear, and citrus peel flavors. Medium-long finish. Can’t wait to try this one with raw oysters! (90 pts.)
  • 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve Blanc de Blancs Late Disgorged Brut – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Light straw color with persistent bead of tiny bubbles, and baked pear, tropical fruit aromas. On the palate a creamy mousse, balanced, complex with stone fruit, tropical fruit flavors. Long finish. Aged on lees in the bottle for five and one-half years. Made from 20 different clones. 99% Chardonnay/1% Pinot Blanc. 12% ABV (92 pts.)

The Reds

  • 2008 Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir Avant Garde – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Ruby color with cherry, cola, and a touch of cocoa aromas. On the palate, light-bodied, elegant, and smooth with velvety tannins, and tart cherry, earth dark chocolate and spice flavors. Lengthy finish. (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Dark ruby color with earthy, cherry aromas. On the palate, heavier than the Avante-Garde line- approaching medium-bodied, smooth, with velvety tannins, and cherry, earth, and cocoa flavors. Long finish (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Domaine Carneros Merlot Avant Garde – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Medium garnet color with plum, spice and black tea aromas. On the palate, medium bodied with easy plum, earth and spice flavors. Shortish finish (86 pts.)

Inside Domaine Carneros

It was a great tasting with table service that included a nice dried fruit and nut plate. I heartily recommend a visit to Domaine Carneros!

Full Disclosure: When I identified myself as a wine writer, my tasting fee was waived.



Sonoma in the City Recap…

Last week, I attended an amazing event called Sonoma in the City (“SITC”) hosted by the Sonoma County Vintners Association (“SCV”), and Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, for the benefit Share Our Strength.   I’m a huge fan of Sonoma County, and SITC is the largest tasting of Sonoma County wines outside of the county.  It was a superbly organized event with comprehensive representation of the 12 appellations within Sonoma.

The event was held at the Westin St. Francis Hotel.  Inside the Grand Ballroom of the hotel, the wineries were grouped by major appellations (Dry Creek, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley,etc.) which was nice because the appellations tend to dominated by certain varieties of grapes which are better suited for particular locations.  Looking for Pinot and Chard? Head over to the Russian River Valley area of the ballroom.  If you’re a fan of Cabs and Zin, then stroll on over to the Dry Creek area.  But, before you even entered the Grand Ballroom, in the foyer, there was a themed tasting area where you could explore the influence the diverse terroir of Sonoma on different styles of wine.  For example, there was a table for “Powerful Pinot” that showcased the difference between Pinot from a warm weather site, compared to a cool weather site. My favorite “theme” though was one that featured one vineyard, the Dutton-Ranch Manzana Vineyard.  It was interesting for me to see how the same grapes, from the same vineyard, and same vintage taste so different when made into wine by  different wine makers.   It was a chance to experience, at some level, how a winemaker’s choices manifest themselves in the taste and texture of a wine.

I had mixed feelings about the event.  On one hand, I was excited about attending the event because it was a chance to taste wines I’ve always wanted to taste, and to try some wines from producers unfamiliar to me.  On the other hand,  SITC is an enormous event, by my count 123 wineries, and probably 400 wines to available for tasting. In 3 hours!  So the sheer scale of the event created some anxiety for me because I was trying to figure out how I was going to maximize the opportunity.  I decided to spend an hour sampling whites, and the rest of the time with reds.  I also decided to minimize sampling wine from producers I’ve previously enjoyed (Dashe Cellars, Everett Ridge/Esterlina, Freestone, Hanna, Quivira, Sausal, and Seghesio).  Still, I ended up sampling about 100 wines from 47 different producers!

Favorites I heartily recommend follow (which includes links to the wines on Cellar Tracker where you may get details about  the wines such as ratings, tasting notes, and cost, etc.):

A sample of great food served...unfortunately I was too busy tasting to try!

Whites:

Chardonnay

2008  Fort Ross Fort Ross Vineyard

2009 Landmark Chardonnay Damaris Reserve

2008 Robert Young Alexander Valley Chardonnay

2009 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay

2009 Roessler Big Bend Chardonnay

Sauvignon Blanc

2010 Kunde Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Magnolia Lane 

2010 Roth Sauvignon Blanc

Other Whites

2010 Joseph Swan Gewürztraminer Saralee’s Vineyard


A packed Grand Ballroom at the Westin St. Francis

Reds:

Pinot Noir

2007 Ceja Vineyards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

2009 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Fox Den

2007 Fort Ross Pinot Noir, Fort Ross Vineyard

2007 Fort Ross Symposium Pinot Noir

2008 Kosta Browne Winery Pinot Noir, Gap’s Crown

2009 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

2009 Siduri Pinot Noir Ewald Vineyard

2009 Siduri Pinot Noir Van der Kamp Vineyard


Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander’s Crown Vineyard

1992 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley (from magnum)

2007 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley

2007 Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon, Christopher’s Alexander Mountain Estate

Zinfandel

2008 Dashe Old Vine Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch 

Sparklers:

NV. J Brut Rose

My wine-stained tasting journal...

Conclusion

SITC, though a bit overwhelming for me, was the best wine event I’ve been to so far, especially when I consider the breadth, depth, and quality of wines offered!  I always enjoy discovering new (at least to me) producers – in this case, Fort Ross, Kunde, Landmark, and Stonestreet are now on my radar screen.  Likewise, when it comes to Kosta Browne, and Siduri Pinots, it exciting to know I can ”believe the hype” !

Still, I know I missed other amazing wines…Oh well there’s always next year!!


T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like – N.V. Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Brut

It’s Champagne this week! And by one of the most widely recognized names in Champagne, Piper-Heidsieck, (I can’t be the only one who has wondered how to pronounce this!) which was founded in 1785.   They make about 5 million bottles of Champagne a year. To my surprise, I learned they do not have their own vineyards.  Rather, they source their grapes from a multitude of vineyards in the region. In addition to this week’s “Red Label” Champagne, they also make 5 other Champagnes.

As non-vintage Champagne, not only is this comprised of various vintages, but Piper-Heidsieck also combines fruit from 50 rigorously selected growths, and 20% reserve wines from earlier years to create a consistent style, and flavor from year to year.  The blend is aged at least 24 months on lees.

Piper-Heidsieck Red Label Brut

Region: France>Champagne

Variety - 55% Pinot Noir, 30% Meunier and 15% Chardonnay (incl. 20% reserve wines)

Dosage – 13g/Liter

$30, 12.9% a.b.v.

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Light golden yellow color with plenty of pin prick bubbles

Aromas: Recalcitrant nose offered faint apple and toast notes. Yeasty/dough aromas were conspicuously absent

Body: On the palate soft creamy mousse, medium bodied, and closer to off-dry, than dry for me.

Taste: Ripe apple and a touch of red berry flavors

Finish: Medium-long

Pair with: Sparkling wines are probably the single most versatile wine to pair with a wide variety of foods. Try this one with cheddar cheese popcorn, raw almonds as an aperitif, and then grilled scallops, or fried calamari for your entreé.  Still have some Champagne in your glass?…this would be nice with and angel food cake topped with fresh seasonal berries!

At $30, this is an entry level Champagne.  It’s very good, but I didn’t care for it as much as I have others in the same price range, and many below.  I’ll be skipping this one.  86 pts

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like – N.V. Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs

I’m going back to Cali this week with the Blanc de Noirs from Gloria Ferrer.  Blanc de Noirs (a French term literally meaning “white of blacks”) are sparklers made with black, or red-skinned grapes.

Gloria Ferrer was established in 1986, and was the first sparkling wine house in the Carneros AVA.  Since it’s cooler in Carneros than in the other Napa sub-appellations,  grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive there.  So, while Gloria Ferrer is primarily known for sparkling wines, they also produce estate-grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The fruit for this one if from the Sonoma side of the Carneros (which straddles both Sonoma, and Napa counties).   According to Gloria Ferrer the “cuvée is a blend of 18 different base wines” .  It spent 18 months aging on lees during the secondary fermentation.  It gets its copper, almost rosé like color from vin gris of 5-7% cold-soaked Pinot Noir blended into the base wine.

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir

NV Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir

Region: USA>California>Sonoma>Carneros

Variety – Pinot Noir (90%), and Chardonnay (10%)

Dosage – 13g/Liter

$15, 12.9% a.b.v.

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Light copper color with salmon hue.  Loose bead with tiny bubbles

Aromas: Cherry, strawberry, and warm biscuits.

Body: Refined mouth feel with a creamy mousse.  Light bodied, fruit forward, with straight forward, but enjoyable flavors, and good balance.  

Taste: Cherry, sweet apples with a subtle vanilla.

Finish: Short

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food.  We enjoyed this with a bucket of KFC, cole slaw, and mashed potatoes and gravy! It paired well with that diverse palate of flavors, spices, and textures.  It should also pair well with Thai food, crab, and roast fowl.

I really enjoyed and it’s a good value at $15.  I will be buying this again – and I recommend you do too! 87 pts

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like – N.V. Chandon Blanc de Noirs

This week’s selection is an old favorite, a “go to” sparkler that I’ve enjoyed over the years – Chandon Blanc de Noir.  Blanc de Noirs (a French term literally meaning “white of blacks”) are sparklers made with black, or red-skinned grapes – in this case Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.

Domaine Chandon was the first French-owned sparkling wine producer in Napa Valley. They were also the first domestic producer to introduce Pinot Meunier into their sparkling wine. The  grapes for this cuveé come primarily from their Carneros property in the Napa Valley.

It’s very common to paint Napa Valley with a broad brush, but the reality is that there are 14 sub-appellations within Napa Valley, each with it’s own micro-climates, soil types, elevations, etc. which make each unique. The Carneros AVA (sub-appellation) lies in both Napa and Sonoma County.  It’s cooler in Carneros than in the other sub-appellations, and grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive there.  Since Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are mainstays in sparklers, there are other sparkling wine producers in the area.  Aside from Domaine Chandon, Domaine Carneros, and Gloria Ferrer also set up shop in Carneros.  Looking to add some sparkle to your wine tasting experience in the Napa area?  Carneros is a great place to start!

NV Chandon Blanc de Noir

NV Chandon Blanc de Noir

Region: USA>California

Variety – Pinot Noir, and  Pinot Meunier

Dosage – Unknown

$13, 13% abv

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Golden straw color. with persistent stream of tiny bubbles.

Aromas: Red fruit, and yeast.

Body: Refined mouth feel with a creamy  mousse.  Fruit forward style, approaching off-dry with good balance of fruit and acidity.   

Taste: Raspberry, cherry, and a bit of spice.

Finish: Medium

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food. This one is no exception.  It’s enjoyable as an aperitif, and with food.  We enjoyed it with Chicken, and Pork  Salvadoran Tamales, but since it’s mostly Pinot Noir, it should pair well with virtually any foods you would pair with Pinot, including Roast Chicken, or pork. It should also pair well with Asian cuisine, and Southwestern cuisine.

I’ve noticed that I prefer Pinot-Noir dominant sparklers, rather than Chardonnay based sparklers.  What about you? Have you noticed a preference for sparklers made from a certain blend of grapes?

The list price is $22, but I picked up a bottle at Costco for $12.50, and I’ve frequently found it on sale for substantially less.  I recommend! 87 pts

Everything you wanted to know about Champagne (Rick Bakas)