Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Queen of Sparkling Wine

Visiting Domaine Carneros is like driving up to a castle on the edge of Sonoma County.

So maybe that's why I think of Domaine Carneros CEO and winemaker Eileen Crane as the Queen of Sparkling Wine.

She's been making bubbly since 1975 when she left college and started her career at Domaine Chandon. She later left and established the Spanish bubbly house Gloria Ferrer in Napa and next Domaine Carneros for Taittinger. No one else in the country, maybe even the world, has that on their resume.

Fot all her skills, Crane is warm, erudite and friendly -- a true Bubbly Girl. She says she decided to make sparkling wine because she couldn't imagine anything more fun. We stopped in the tasting room to taste the Vintage Brut, the Brut Rose and Le Reve, an all-chardonnay cuvee, before heading off to lunch. I thought all the wines had this incredible juiciness and lightness that makes me think of California, balanced with the caramelized, brioche notes of fine French champagne. If we hadn't been running off to lunch, I would have stopped for a plate of artisan cheese.

Over lunch at the hip and homey El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma, Crane told me that sparkling wine and champagne makers have done themselves something of a disservice by making it seem like their wines were only for special occasions. Sipping cold glasses of 1999 Le Reve with white truffle fries, we both decided to work to change that. The Food & Wine section of the Domaine Carneros website offers great ideas for making these excellent sparkling wines a part of everyday life.

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