Domaine Carneros, Napa, California
’Tis the season—for bubbles, that is—so we headed over to Domaine Carneros, one of the premier sparkling wine houses in the North Bay.
The impressive, French-style chateau, which overlooks much of the famed two-county winegrowing AVA for which it’s named, offers numerous tasting options. Reservations are required because each experience requires planning and preparation. We enjoyed Bubbles and Bites—four wines, five bites, each combination carefully curated—featuring cuisine from Southeast Asia (the menu changes a few times per year, so check the website to see what’s in store).
We were seated in the glass-enclosed salon, which is large and airy, giving the views and sunshine of being outside without the biting cold wind the day offered. The room was bustling with patrons toasting the start of the holiday season and otherwise taking delight in the shirking of responsibility on a Tuesday afternoon. We were happy to join them.
A food wine
If you’ve ever doubted the statement that sparkling wine pairs with everything, Domaine Carneros is out to set you straight.
We started with a 2018 Ultra Brut, Domaine Carneros’ driest sparkling wine. It paired beautifully with Vietnamese-style lemongrass-marinated shrimp, which was served on a cold rice noodle salad. The wine’s brightness balanced the shrimp’s umami, while the salad’s vinaigrette reinforced the bubbles’ crispness.
The 2018 Estate Brut Cuvée followed. It was matched with massaman curry and paneer (traditional seared white cheese curd), which offset the wine beautifully (bonus points for the crispy rice, which popped, crackled and dissolved in the mouth in homage to the wine’s effervescence). DC’s flagship wine, the Brut Cuvée is a 50-50 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay. While still dry, it has more body (and feels more welcoming) than the Ultra Brut.
Next we moved on to the 2019 Brut Rosé, accompanied by a pork bahn-mi sandwich. The smokey meat and pickled veg relish worked beautifully with the wine’s flavors of summer fruit (peach, watermelon, strawberry). This wine could easily team up with any style barbecue.
We finished with the 2019 Vermeil Demi-Sec, a lightly sweetened (“demi sec” means semisweet) wine that’s absolutely decadent. It stands up well to spicy Thai-style chicken larb, cutting through the heat and cooling between bites. To showcase its versatility, the demi-sec was also paired with a Pandan custard cake. The vibrant green dessert, topped with a basil whipped cream, highlighted tropical elements in the glass (honeysuckle, lychee), while its smooth, creamy texture let the wine shine.
Celebrate the season
The winery’s culinary team designs its Bubbles and Bites menus to showcase all the ways sparkling wines can be enjoyed. The effervescence of sparkling wine has the ability to elevate earthy flavors, echo the sharpness of pickled fare (slaws, kimchi and kraut, for example), and enhance the richness of cheeses and other creamy offerings.
Food and wine pairings are always fun. But sometimes, the elements come together in ways that create a surprising celebration in your mouth. And it is, after all, the season to celebrate. Cheers!
Did You Know?
The Le Reve is a 100% chardonnay sparkler that’s aged 6 years in the bottle with yeast. It’s a luxurious, elegant, “big moments” wine — Dec. 31 at midnight? The Blanc De Noir, on the other hand, is 100% pinot noir. It’s zesty, clean, fresh and delicious, perfect for New Year’s morning (no orange juice needed).
1240 Duhig Road, Napa
Tastings are available by appointment daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. All tastings are seated and led by an experienced wine professional. See website for prices.