A Visit to Domaine Carneros

Los Carneros – “the rams” in Spanish –  is a viticultural area spanning southern sections of Napa and Sonoma Counties. The region is defined by its cool climate influenced by its location just north of San Pablo Bay and frequent morning fogs during the growing season. With high winds, low precipitation. and shallow clay soils, grape vines struggle to grow. However, the fruit they do produce is packed with depth and complexity. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the most common grape varietals planted here, many of which are blended to create sparkling wines. Los Carneros is home to around 20 wineries in total, including some of the top sparkling wine houses in the country. This region also offers some of the best views in wine country, with tasting rooms perched up on hills allowing visitors to admire sweeping views of vineyards, wetlands and the bay. 

About Domaine Carneros

Domaine Carneros was founded in 1986 by the Taittinger family of Taittinger Champagne, giants of the French Champagne world who were drawn to Carneros by the growing promise of the California wine industry. From the beginning, Domaine Carneros’ winemaking has focused on producing methóde traditionnelle sparkling wines, where the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle to create perfectly delicate effervescence. In recent years, they have expanded their range to include a smaller selection of Pinot Noir and other still wines. Their grapes are primarily grown on their estate vineyard where 350 acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are planted.

The château at Domaine Carneros is one of the most striking and palatial estate buildings in wine country. The property is an ode to romantic French design, with a grand staircase surrounded by fountains and manicured landscaping leading up to its large outdoor patio and entrance to the tasting room. The extravagance of the château can seem to overshadow the wine itself, and Domaine Carneros is certainly not a place to visit just for a casual wine tasting. Domaine Carneros is often compared to an adult Disneyland, popular for bachelorette parties, marriage proposals and taking Instagram photos. 

Fountain and birds
Our friends Jamie and Max in front of the château
Empty patio on a chilly day
Domaine Carneros’ estate vineyard

Planning Your Visit

Reservations are required to visit Domaine Carneros. For tables in their main tasting room, reservations can usually be made the day before if you are flexible on times. Reservations for tours, which are offered three times daily, can fill up more quickly. Tours are priced at $60 per person and include a sparkling wine and red wine tasting. On the tour, you will be guided through the vineyard, winemaking and bottling areas of the château and learn about the history of Domaine Carneros. You can make a reservation on Domaine Carneros’ website or by calling 707.257.0101 ext 150.

Wine Tasting

Domaine Carneros offers four wine samplers: the Sparkling Wine Sampler (sparkling wine only), the Red Wine Sampler (Pinot Noir only) the Chateau Sampler (two sparkling wines and two Pinot Noirs) and the Grande Tasting (two premium sparkling wines and two premium Pinot Noirs). Wine samples are served all at once in a flight, as opposed to tasting wines one-by-one. 

If you are a sparkling wine fan, don’t hesitate in choosing the Sparkling Wine Sampler, which is priced at $40. 

  1. 2014 Ultra Brut – $46. Refreshing citrus notes of lemon and passion fruit. 
  2. 2014 Estate Brut Cuvée – $36. Floral nose, flavors of melon and pear. 
  3. 2016 Brut Rosé – $44. Aromas of watermelon and toasted nuts, flavors of peach and grapefruit. 
  4. 2014 Verméil Demi-Sec – $39. Lightly sweet, notes of lychee and apricot. 
Sparkling Wine Flight. Our table was a bit crammed.

If you’re less of a sparkling wine fan and need some convincing, go for the Grande Tasting, which costs $50. 

  1. 2013 Late Disgorged Brut – $57. Classic notes of brioche, honeysuckle and vanilla. 
  2. 2012 Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs – $120. Complex notes of white flowers, grilled fruit and Crème brûlée. 
  3. 2017 Le Ciel Serein Pinot Noir – $60. Notes of plum, berries and cigar. 
  4. 2017 The Famous Gate Pinot Noir – $90. Violet aromas, flavors of raspberry and cherry. 

Domaine Carneros also offers a selection of cheese, charcuterie and caviar designed to pair with sparkling and red wines. A vegan pairing plate is also available. 

Final Tips

Domaine Carneros’ Chateau Society Wine Club offers a variety of perks in addition to two-bottle shipments to your doorstep every other month. Membership also grants you access to their member-only club room and special events throughout the year. You’ll also receive discounts on additional wine shipments and all menu items and experiences at the château. 

If you aren’t able to make it to the tasting room, you can order Domaine Carneros wines online at domainecarneros.com. Many of their wines are also available for purchase in wine shops nationwide.

If you are planning a trip to Los Carneros, it is likely you’re looking to visit more than just one winery. Los Carneros is the closest wine region to San Francisco and makes a great day trip. We recommend wine tasting at Gloria Ferrer, Cline and Viansa Wineries, as well as visiting Cornerstone Garden Center. 

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