Ok, so can we all agree that the holidays in general are not that relaxing? I’m not being a Grinch, I just want us all to admit that the time between Thanksgiving and the end of the year can maybe drive you to a mini mental breakdown. Last weekend I decided I needed mini vacation to recover from the sugar fueled festive chaos so me and this handsome man I know that patiently puts up with me and my blogging addiction headed to Napa.
You know I am a fan of champagne so the first stop was a tour of the premium sparkling wine producer Domaine Carneros. As we approached the entrance the architecture of the building itself took my breath away and it became even more lovely as we climbed the stairs and the rolling hills of vineyards came into sight.
Domaine Carneros is the US sparkling wine brand founded by French Champagne house Tattinger. Our tour started in front of the property where there are two vineyard blocks producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, they also have an additional 138 acres in the heart of the Carneros region. All of their grapes are grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or artificial fertilizers. The decision to grow in this region was no accident either, the Carneros region of Napa receives cooler coastal air, the perfect environment for these types of grape varietals . Unfortunately we were visiting during off season so the vines were pretty empty but still a gorgeous backdrop nonetheless.
Then it was inside for the first tasting of the day! We were poured a flute of the 2009 Domaine Carneros Brut Vintage, composed of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay grapes, their most popular selling wine. You can drink this with just about any kind of food, or just drink it while you watch The Bachelor on Monday nights – perfect for all sparkling wine needs.
While we enjoyed our first taste of bubbly we got the low down on how sparkling wine production works with the gigantic stainless steel fermentation tanks providing the backdrop. The entire process from picking, pressing, fermenting, blending and carbonating was explained in detail and was completely fascinating.
My favorite moment of the tour was the introduction of the riddling rack. Riddling racks are used in traditional French champagne production after the grapes are initially pressed, fermented and blended. The still wine is put into individual bottles with yeast, sugar, and capped with what looks like a beer or soda cap for the second fermentation. During fermentation carbon dioxide is created and trapped in the bottle, this is what creates the bubbles. These bottles are placed into the riddling rack cap down at a 45 degree angle and once a day an official Riddler turns each bottle a quarter turn and slightly increases the angle to coax the yeast that was added to collect in the neck of the bottle. Eventually the bottle will end up entirely vertical and the yeast will be removed using a process called disgorging so all that is left are those beautiful bubbles. I am now also spending most of my time sourcing a riddling rack that I can use at home for a wine holder.
I had a fantastic time touring Domaine Carneros and learning about my preferred beverage for blog post writing. We got to taste a delicious range of their sparkling wines including the La Reve Blanc de Blancs made entirely of Chardonnay grapes, the Brut Rose which has a beautiful pink tint to compliment the taste, and my personal favorite the Blanc de Noir made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes.
After the tour concluded we took a bottle of Blanc de Noir and took in the view from the gigantic patio. For me sparkling wine/champagne symbolize celebration, and sitting in the beautiful setting of NapaI couldn’t help but feel excited for all the adventures 2014 is going to bring to our doorsteps. So I raised a glass for all of you, because we deserve to celebrate daily, even if it means all we did was take a shower and put on pants.