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"Making great wine is about passion," says Founding Winemaker Eileen Crane. "There is no formula. You have to be attuned to the rhythm of the grapes, the pulse of the wine."

At Domaine Carneros, winemaking begins with impeccable Carneros fruit, most of it grown in our estate vineyards. Gentle handling and attention to detail at every step preserve the purity of each distinct variety and clone. Our sparkling wine cuvées are crafted from a wide array of clones – an exacting and time-consuming art, honed from decades of experience.

Eileen Crane, founding Winemaker

Sparkling Winemaking

Founded by the Taittinger family of Reims, France, Domaine Carneros is first and foremost a sparkling wine house, and with a heritage as distinguished as that of Champagne Taittinger, it's no surprise all of our sparkling wines are produced using the exacting méthode traditionnelle.

While méthode traditionnelle is the most time consuming and costly way to produce sparkling wine, we knew there was simply no other option, for it produces the world’s finest sparkling wines: rich and complex with bubbles that create a pleasant, tingly, and creamy sensation on the palate.

The X-Factors
And yet, méthode traditionnelle is only one important factor in our finished product. As with all great wines, the difference begins in the vineyards. The finest sparkling wines are crafted from cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and our homebase of Carneros, just like Champagne, France, is considered "Region 1," the coolest of the five designated regions. Our grapes are also harvested in the cool of the night to ensure minimal bitterness and tannin in the resulting juice.

Once in the cellar, it’s time for blending. Our sparkling wines are first made like still wines, which are then blended into cuvées. "I especially love blending trials because they give me the opportunity to use the skills and palate I have developed over the years to produce cuvées or blends," says Eileen. "With the myriad factors that affect each vintage—weather conditions, vineyard age, clones and rootstocks, viticultural practices, etc.—blending can be daunting, but I relish the opportunity to connect with and shape our wines to produce our distinctive style year after year."

And Now, for the Long Finale
Once the blends have been established, we start the long, patient process of méthode traditionnelle. The best known distinction of this technique from other sparkling wine processes is that the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle. Tirage, the addition of sugar and yeast to each bottle, is what ignites the second fermentation and creates those lovely little bubbles.

Our vintage-dated sparkling wines are aged in the bottle for at least three years, while the esteemed Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs is aged a full six years. Even three years is a rarity among sparkling wine houses, but the extra time on the lees (spent yeast cells) yields the rich complexity, seamless balance and delicious mouth-feel for which Domaine Carneros wines are known and loved.

Zak Miller

2020 Vision

After an incredibly successful career spanning 42 years, noted sparkling wine industry pioneer Eileen Crane, CEO and head winemaker at Domaine Carneros, will be stepping down from her role as CEO at the end of summer 2020. Eileen will continue as lead sparkling winemaker through 2020 harvest and cuvée blending.

Stepping into the role of sparkling winemaker will be Zak Miller, who has worked for over a decade with Eileen as a member of the winemaking team. He will be at the forefront of daily sparkling operations ranging from harvesting, cuvée blending, and tirage, seeing it all through the final sparkling wine process of disgorging. Working with Pinot Noir Winemaker TJ Evans, Zak plays an integral part in producing all the luxury sparkling wines produced at Domaine Carneros.

Still Winemaker TJ Evans

Still Winemaking

“Everyone knows we’re a sparkling house, but what they don’t know, is that we’ve been making Pinot Noir since 1992.” - Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir Winemaker, TJ Evans.

A Happy Accident

The still winemaking program at Domaine Carneros was born out of a side project from one of Eileen Crane’s early winemaking assistants, who would make a couple of barrels of Pinot Noir every year—just for fun. One day, Claude Taittinger was visiting, saw the two barrels, and asked if he could taste it. He loved the Pinot Noir so much that he brought it back to Paris and sold it through his hotel, the famous Hôtel de Crillon.

Claude’s enthusiasm for those two barrels was the start of our longstanding commitment to Pinot Noir and two years later in 1992, we released our first vintage of The Famous Gate. Named for the iconic Domaine Carneros gate (a gift from the Taittinger family, sent over from one of their vineyards in France), it’s sourced from three of our vineyards and is the highest expression of our Estate grown Carneros terroir.

Passionate About Pinot

In 2003, we furthered our investment in Pinot Noir with the addition of a state-of-the-art still winemaking facility that features 18,000 feet of solar panels. Moreover, we currently have 18 different clones of pinot noir planted throughout our six vineyards, which TJ uses to produce a diverse array of classic blends, single-vineyard expressions, and unique clonal expressions. “Clones are really important,” he says. “The dirt is the arbiter of quality, but the clone is going to express the personality of the wine.

Each block of Pinot Noir is grown, picked, fermented, and aged separately. TJ takes a traditional winemaking approach; all grapes are handpicked at night when it’s cooler, processed as gently as possible, and aged in 100% French Oak barrels for 10-16 months. "My philosophy is, let the wine express itself," says TJ. "Just as a winemaker's path is shaped by happenstance, opportunity, and luck, you have to let a wine find its own way.”