I guess I’m excited about my upcoming Sonoma trip because it seems lately, every time I’m scouring the wine aisle for inspiration, I’ve been immediately drawn to Sonoma or Napa wines. And when you see a name like Domaine Carneros, well, it’s in the name right? Wine from the heart of Napa Valley. And so it is that I came across Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir.
Ok, let me start off by mentioning that Domaine Carneros was founded by the same family responsible for Champagne Taittinger, so it’s no surprise that Domaine Carneros’s claim to fame is their sparkling wine (remember, when not made in Champagne, it cannot be called Champagne). They’ve got everything from their Estate Brut, to a super-French-y Vermeil-Demi-Sec, and a well-known American style Blanc de Noir. And they celebrate the still wines that encompass this broad range of sparklings, including — yes — Pinot Noir.
About the Wine: Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from — you guessed it — Domaine Carneros estate-owned vineyards throughout the Carneros region in the Napa Valley AVA.
According to the spec sheet, the harvested grapes were gently de-stemmed, meaning much of the fruit was left whole, then cold-soaked for five days before fermentation. Fermentation took place in small, open-topped vats for 9 to 12 days with must being punched at least three times each of those days. The wine was then pressed and transferred to French oak barrels where it rested for ten months until bottling.
Flavor Profile: Let me start off by saying the aromas were, though typical for a Pinot Noir, were more than pleasant. There’s a definite bouquet of berries — from blackberries to red cherries, maybe even cranberry — with a hint of something darker, perhaps plums. Then there’s a secondary aroma that speaks to that oak barrel aging with a subtle wet-wooodsy essence that just kind of lingers in the background.
On the palate, the flavors are just the same. If you’re expecting textbook Pinot Noir, then you are in a safe haven with Domaine Carneros. There’s no one flavor, texture, or feeling that really pops at any point. It’s a medium-bodied red wine with low tannins and a medium amount of acidity — everything is absolutely proportional and there’s no real fault one can point to.
That being said, the night I was drinking Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir, I had my palate primed and ready for something that would pop and, thus, my experience is that this Pinot Noir just fell a bit, well, flat. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m looking for something that’s a steady line from start to finish, and I came across this bottle again, I may just pick it up. But, I’m not sure that it’s something I’d seek out or work a whole meal around.
Food Pairing: Because the palate of the wine is somewhat lackadaisical, pair it with something that’s going to super-amplify those flavors. The night I drank Domain Carneros Estate Pinot Noir I had a grilled salmon fillet, adding weight and body to the wine, alongside a strawberry salad garnished with fresh herbs and light feta, which amplified the fruit flavors as well as a bit of earthiness hidden in the wine. For a dressing, I made my own honey-balsamic vinaigrette, which actually did an excellent job and bringing forward the more woodsy notes from the oak.
More Info: At the end of the day, this wine is good for what it’s good for — a casual, literally light-hearted, red wine. I think I’m more curious to try what Domaine Carneros is known for — their sparklers. And having tried their Pinot Noir, I’m curious what these grapes can do in Blanc de Noir form. I’m not a regular sparkling wine drinker — but I’m willing to put myself out there and try it. I’ll keep ya’ll posted.
For more information about Domaine Carneros, their still and sparkling wines, please do visit the Domaine Carneros website.
I purchased Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir from Safeway (Sale Price: $23).
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