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Sparkling Winemaking

With Eileen Crane

Eileen Crane, often referred to as America's Doyenne of Sparkling Wine, has spent 38 years in the wine industry. This makes her the most experienced Sparkling Winemaker in the United States. Eileen is equally at home in the world of food and wine having both a culinary and science background.

Eileen Crane is widely regarded as the doyenne of American sparkling wine – the most respected woman in her field, and is active in numerous wine organizations and local health non-profits.

"Let me tell you the story of Domaine Carneros," says Eileen. "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. And like Taittinger, our cuvées focus on the elegant and long-lived Chardonnay.

"Those who know our sparkling wines speak of their balance, depth of flavor and wonderful finish; their great aroma, elegant style and little, tiny bubbles. Classic. Sophisticated. Timeless. Think Audrey Hepburn in a little black dress," she says.

We are a small grower-producer crafting our wines from grapes grown in our estate vineyards. This ensures full control and enhanced depth of flavor and balance from our healthy, estate-grown fruit. Our grapes are hand-harvested at night or early in the morning to minimize astringency and gently transported in shallow bins and loaded into a membrane press without crushing or de-stemming. We use only the first pressings.

Making great wine is a passion, which means never stinting on the details, never settling for second best. There is no formula. You have to be attuned to the rhythm of the grapes, the pulse of the wine.

"True to méthode traditionnelle, the second fermentation takes place in individual bottles where the naturally occurring bubbles are trapped for future enjoyment.

"I especially love blending trials because they give me to opportunity to use the skills and palate I have developed over 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 (pruning, harvesting, 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.

"Two stories underground, our cellar is a cool, dark environment perfect for the long aging needed for fine sparkling wine. Our Brut, Rosé, Ultra Brut and Blanc de Noir sparkling wines are aged three years in the bottle 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," she says.

Read more on the exacting méthode traditionnelle.