This Carneros-designated Blanc de Noirs has a delicate copper color and fruit aromas of strawberry and cherry overlaid with warm cocoa from Pinot Noir. Its softer cousin Pinot Meunier contributes a warm spice, almost clove character with overtones of orange peel and freshly baked bread. To enhance this Cuvee 391, wines from the 1991 vintage were blended with selected 'vin de reserve' held back from previous years. 1991 was characterized by cool conditions during maturation and harvest, critical to flavor development for sparkling wine. Three years of aging lends this wine breadth and body, while retaining its freshness and fruitiness. The balance is stylishly crisp, reflecting the Carneros region's full ripe flavors.
Domaine Chandon Winery
As the first American sparking wine venture by a French Champagne house (Moet & Chandon), Domaine Chandon has been a leader in sparkling wine production since 1973. Bringing hundreds of years of winemaking tradition and experience to the Napa Valley, Chandon's principal achievement has been to craft a range of sparkling wines that reflect California's vibrant regional character, yet remain true to the practices of methode traditionnelle. In 1990, the winery parlayed its experience with the classic Champagne varieties into an exciting varietal wine collection. Domaine Chandon continually strives to seek new ways to heighten its reputation as the fullest hospitality experience in Napa Valley, and to provide its guests with inspiration to entertain with Chandon at home.
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Technically a part of Napa Valley, the Carneros region straddles both Sonoma & Napa counties. It's the Napa region closest to the San Francisco peninsula and the San Pablo Bay, which is instrumental in controlling the climate of the area. The winds from the San Pablo bay create a cool weather pattern ideal for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Carneros are delicate, yet complex, with firm structure and acidity. And while the pair are the most popular varieties of the region, some winemakers have branched out, particularly with Syrah. The cool climate Syrah of Carneros is well structured and stylistically similar to Syrah from the Northern Rhone, though often fuller-bodied.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.