From its chateau setting in the heart of the Carneros appellation, Domaine Carneros has long been a standard-bearer for luxury experiences that highlight the delicious versatility of sparkling wine, enjoyed indoors or on its sprawling outdoor terrace. Founded in 1987 by the Taittinger family of Reims in the Champagne region of France, it continues to uphold a storied tradition of excellence in the realms of viticulture, winemaking and hospitality.
The winery’s sit-down offerings throughout the year are built around decadent pairings of cheese, charcuterie, and even vegan cheese, in addition to specially themed menus designed to showcase culinary takes from around the world.
But nothing is more inviting than the caviar pairings with Tsar Nicoulai. Every experience at Domaine Carneros is elevated and refined, making this a destination not to be missed.
The Ultimate Caviar Experience ($175) is where to begin, available by appointment. Three types of Tsar Nicoulai caviar – the Estate, Reserve and Crown Jewel – are accompanied by gourmet potato chips, toast points and crème fraîche, paired with four of Domaine Carneros’s finest bottlings.
Wine tasting options are several: the Sparkling Wine Sampler is four sparkling wines from the 2019 vintage; the Red Wine Sampler is a taste of four 2021 Pinot Noirs; the Sparkling Chateau Tasting is a selection of older-vintage sparklers, while the Grande Tasting showcases two sparkling wines and two Pinot Noirs.
Bubbles & Bites: A Journey to Southeast Asia ($99) is a limited-edition food and wine pairing that celebrates cuisine from India, Thailand, and Vietnam, with four savory and one sweet bite prepared to go with four of Domaine Carneros’s wines, the Ultra Brut, Estate Brut Cuvée, Brut Rosé and Verméil Demi-Sec. The dishes include a Pork Banh-Mi and Massaman Curry with Paneer.
The Art of Sabrage ($150) is a demonstration of sabering, an ancient technique for opening sparkling wine bottles, and includes a tasting of Ultra Brut, Brut Rosé, Late Disgorged Brut and Le Rêve, paired with bites from Journeyman Meats, Cowgirl Creamery and Tsar Nicolai Caviar.
Or, make an appointment for Your Ultimate Carneros ($275), and enjoy all of the experiences in one, tasting four sparkling wines paired with five international bites in addition to Tsar Nicolai caviar, cheeses and charcuterie, finished with a demonstration of bottle sabering.
The Domaine Carneros Chateau sits on a 138-acre estate site atop a beautiful bluff overlooking the vineyards of the appellation, facing the Napa Valley. Built in 1987 by the Champagne Taittinger family modeled on a similar building in Champagne, it is fronted by a grand terrace and has long been a desired destination for visitors and locals alike.
The estate includes six vineyards across 400 acres, which predominantly grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes for both still and sparkling wines.
Sparkling winemaker Zak Miller has been with Domaine Carneros since 2008, taking the helm for sparkling wine production in 2020 from founding winemaker Eileen Crane. TJ Evans is the Pinot Noir winemaker and has also been with the winery since 2008.
Sparkling wines are Méthode Traditionnelle, a technique that takes both time and resources to do well, and results in wines of great complexity and richness. The sparkling wines are made like still wines and then blended to make the best possible cuvées before being aged on the lees from three to six years.
Most Domaine Carneros’ wines are vintage dated. Among the core offerings are several wines such as the 2017 Jardin d’Hiver Cuvée, 2017 Late Disgorged Brut, 2019 Brut Rosé, 2019 Estate Brut Cuvée, 2019 Blanc de Noir and 2018 Ultra Brut. The wine Domaine Carneros is best-known for is Le Rêve, aged en tirage a minimum of six years; a 2016 Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs and 2017 Le Rêve Rosé are currently available.
The Pinot Noirs of Domaine Carneros are made from estate-grown grapes; the first vintage was made in 1992. Winemaker TJ Evans has 30 years of winemaking under his belt from classic Pinot Noir and Syrah winemaking regions of the world.
He oversees the cultivation of over 20 Pinot Noir clones, which allow him to make wines of complexity and pure expression. The Estate, Le Ciel Serein, Tula Vista, and The Famous Gate Pinot Noirs are current.
The Taittinger family in Champagne, France, chose a sprawling site on the Napa side of the Carneros appellation on which to start a new sparkling wine endeavor in California, beginning construction on a new winery in 1987, a project that would take three years to complete.
A legend of California winemaking and female leadership, Eileen Crane was handpicked by the Taittinger family from the beginning to conceive of and run Domaine Carneros. She not only made the wines, she oversaw construction of the new winery, and is credited as one of the longest-tenured sparkling winemakers in America, with a deep understanding of not only winemaking and viticulture, but hospitality.
With Crane’s retirement in 2020, Remi Cohen stepped into the role of CEO. Of particular importance was Cohen’s extensive experience in the Carneros appellation at Saintsbury, Bouchaine and Starmont, as well as her commitment to furthering sustainability.
Domaine Carneros holds several sustainable certifications, including Napa Green Vineyard and Napa Green Winery certifications, a recognition of its efforts to conserve water and energy and divert waste through composting, recycling and re-use. The winery estimates it has recycled over a million pieces of packaging, both cases and inserts, since 2010. A compost program has been in place since 2013, leading to the elimination of 4,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
The property also boasts the largest solar collection system of any winery in the world, installed in 2003, and in 2023 it added a solar microgrid and battery system, the first in the Napa Valley, creating 75% of the winery’s power needs.
Sustainable farming has been at the core of everything in Domaine Carneros’s vineyards since the beginning. It has been certified by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance and Fish Friendly Farming, and in 2019 was given the California Green Medal Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Award. In 2023 it earned a Napa RISE Leadership Award for its Packaging Reuse Initiative.
A Visit is Definitely Worth It
Domaine Carneros is among the Napa Valley’s finest exemplars of high-end hospitality and one of California’s most prestigious producers of sparkling wines.
Devoted to sustainable practices from vineyard to winery, it has a long history of female leadership, always striving for excellence in everything it does. Its impressive portfolio of still and sparkling wines is sure to impress, especially when paired with the luxurious bites from caviar to Bahn-Mi.