The Carneros, Spanish for ‘ram', spans the cool, southern ends of both Napa Valley and Sonoma county. Characterized by a long, moderately cool growing season sweetened by the breezes and lingering fog of the San Pablo Bay, temperatures in this American viticultural area (AVA) are slightly cooler than Burgundy, yet slightly warmer than Champagne. As such, Carneros provides optimum conditions for the slow, even ripening of and perfect balance in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes - the principal grapes in champagne and fine sparkling wine.
Situated in the very heart of the region, the Domaine Carneros estate encompasses over 350 acres in four separate sites. In fact, we are the only sparkling wine producer to use Carneros grapes exclusively.
"We've always taken an active role to preserve the health of the land," says Founding Winemaker/CEO, Eileen Crane who has spearheaded the winery's green movement for more than twenty years.
We are committed to the Sustainability of our land and have been certified by Fish Friendly Farming (FFF) as well as the Certified California Sustainable Winegrower (CCSW). We believe these two organizations constitute the best way to preserve our vineyards while preserving our natural resources.
"Our first obligation is to produce delicious wines," Eileen says. "We believe this is maximally achieved through healthy vines.”
Clones for our vineyards are selected for subtle differences in flavor, texture and intensity. Like an artist with a palette of colors, our winemakers blend wines from these different clones, each clone contributing its own flavor profile to the overall complexity depth of the final cuvée.
The vineyards surrounding the château were the first and only winery vineyard when I was hired to be the winemaker in 1987. The selection of clones and the quality of the planting (and perhaps the beauty of the site) were an inspiration to me and led to the creation of the Le Réve and the Famous Gate. Today the vineyard is still appreciated for the wonderful production of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
By 1991 Domaine Carneros was thriving and it was time to consider another vineyard. The right one appeared on the south side of the Old Napa Road (driving from the winery to the town of Sonoma you may notice on your left an unusual “Y” shaped reservoir that is Pompadour’s irrigation water). This vineyard is primarily planted in historic clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that we particularly like for our sparkling wines.
This is our smallest vineyard. It is situated east of the winery on the south side of the Carneros Highway and marked by a line of pine trees. I selected this site in 1995 for its light soils, which have proved to be exceptionally fine for historic clones of Pinot Noir that go into our sparkling wines.
Le Ciel Serein
It is easy to spot this vineyard, just west of the Old Stornetta Dairy on the Carneros Highway. I leased it from Al and Matilda Stornetta in 2001; they were both in their 90s and going strong. When we added this vineyard to our small coterie, our still Pinot Noir wines were gaining great popularity and it was planted predominately, but not exclusively, for these wines. Domaine Carneros purchased this vineyard in 2008.
In 2011 TJ, our Pinot Noir winemaker, spotted this terrific site on Ramal Road right next door to Donum. We quickly concurred with our vineyard manager Alberto that this was an ideal site for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This vineyard, which bears an historic Carneros name, is planted but not yet producing. I hope you will join us in anticipating the release of its first crop, probably in 2019 (planting vineyards and making wine are not for the impatient.).