In addition to being one of the prettiest tasting rooms in Napa Valley, Domaine Carneros features an inspiring menu and lineage of women in the wine industry.
For tourists headed to Napa Valley for the first time, Domaine Carneros is likely on their list, even if they don't drink wine.
The tasting room is modeled after a grand French Chateau. The picture does not quite convey the opulence and charm that overcomes you as you stand before its entrance.
In fact, this Napa castle looks just like the Château de la Marquetterie, the 18th century residence of the Taittinger family in Champagne.
Champagne Goes West
In 1987, Claude Taittinger purchased 138 acres in the newly established Carneros AVA with the intention of making new world methode traditionelle sparkling wines.
Rather than importing one of their own French winemakers, the company wisely selected Eileen Crane, a local winemaker well versed in the terroir of Napa Valley.
Crane earned a Masters in Nutrition along with a culinary degree at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. She taught nutrition at the University of Connecticut for two years until California called, and she drove her Chevrolet Impala across the country to study eonology at UC Davis.
As recounted in the North Bay Business Journal, "she was told by a male professor that she would never get a job in the wine industry because a woman couldn’t push around heavy wine barrels. At the time, women may have had jobs in the laboratory, but weren’t seen in the vineyards or in cellar work."
Undeterred, she started her wine career as tour guide at Domaine Chandon in 1978.
She now advises women wanting a job in wine industry to just get a job, "any job--just to show your mettle, that you will work hard and be enthusiastic." (Women Winemakers of California and Beyond).
Sparkling Women in Wine
After guiding tours at Domaine Chandon, she went to the pastry kitchen, and then to the wine lab as the eventual assistant winemaker to the pioneering doyenne of California sparkling wine, Dawnine Dyer.
After 6 years at Chandon, the owners of Friexenet hired her to start their California operation, Gloria Ferrer.
Three years later, the Taittinger family selected her to start Domaine Chandon where she was the founding winemaker and eventual CEO.
She retired after 33 years and handed the reigns to Remi Cohen, another female veteran of the wine industry.
Limited Edition Pairing
This summer, Domaine Carneros is offering a limited edition food and wine pairing experience inspired by the cuisines of Vietnam, Thailand, and India.
Since it is not the usual wine/cheese or wine/chocolate pairing offered at other wineries, I wanted to preserve the menu here before it goes away.
Bubbles and Bites: A Journey to Southeast Asia
Vietnamese style Shrimp on Rice Noodles
Lemongrass marinated shrimp served atop rice noodles tossed in a cooling nuoc cham vinaigrette.
Paired with 2018 Ultra Brut
Massaman Curry with Paneer
Seared Indian paneer cheese served over a nest of crispy rice sticks and bathed in a traditional Thai Massaman curry.
Paired with 2018 Estate Brut Cuvée
Marinated thinly sliced pork piled on a homemade roll and dressed with traditional pickled carrots & daikon, fresh cilantro, sriracha aioli, and mushroom duxelles.
Paired with 2019 Brut Rosé
Thai style Chicken Larb
Ground chicken salad with lemongrass, chili, garlic, cilantro & mint, and served on a bed of crisp lettuce.
Paired with 2018 Verméil Demi-Sec
Pandan Custard Cake
Thai custard cake infused with Pandan leaves and topped with fresh basil whipped cream.
Paired with 2018 Verméil Demi-Sec
$99 (plus gratuity and sales tax)
You can probably imagine how scrumptious these sparkling wines would pair with the bold, spicy, sweet and sour flavors of Southeast Asia. Could the same flavors pair with red wine too?
Pinot and Pad Thai?
In addition to sparkling wine, Domaine Carneros has been making Pinot Noir still wines since 1992.
I decided to brave a red wine and Southeast Asian pairing with a Pinot Noir and the perennial Thai restaurant favorite, pad thai.
According to Fiona Beckett at Matching Food and Wine, a Cru Beaujolais or young Pinot Noir could work with pad thai, even though an Alsace Riesling or zesty Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc might be preferable.
Since Domaine Carneros Pinot Noirs are made in the Burgundian style and not as rich and oaky as other California Pinots, this odd couple just might work...
2017 Avant Garde Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir
100% Estate grown Pinot Noir from Carneros; green certified; 8 months in Burgundy barrels; 14.2% ABV; $30
Visual: pleasing clarity, plummy lip gloss, magenta-boysenberry hue
Aroma: dark cherries, pomegranate, sweet raspberry
Taste: roasted strawberries, red currant, soft acidity, foresty, medium body and finish
Pairing: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It does work, surprisingly. The acid in the wine matches the sour tamarind in the sauce making the pad thai sweeter. Accentuates toffee, caramel-y notes in the wine. Like Pinot had a Thai massage, making those tannic muscles relax in a different kinda way.
The Last Drop
I wonder if we'll see a Pinots and Southeast Asian Bites menu at Domaine Carneros next?
Learn more about the New World endeavors of French wineries from the #winophiles writers:
- For the Love of Pinot Noir: An American-French Partnership in Oregon by Always Ravenous
- French Roots in Dundee Hills: Drouhin Reds with Lacquered Baby Back Ribs by Culinary Cam
- La Crema CA Pinot Noir and Les Cadrans de Lassegue Saint-Emilion Grand Cru: Two Jackson Family Wines from Two Countries Paired with Pork Roast by Wine Predator...Gwendolyn Alley
- Maison Joseph Drouhin: From Beaune to the Dundee Hills by Food Wine Click!
- Southeast Asian Flavors at Domaine Carneros by Wineivore
- Tablas Creek Patelin De Tablas Blanc + a Recipe by Tablas Creek Vineyard by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- The Sun Never Sets on Chandon by Side Hustle Wino