Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sparkling Wine Day in Napa!

Our wedding hosts (as you'll recall, the whole reason we were in Napa)were so thoughtful and gracious to schedule a tour at Domaine Chandon for their invited guests. The morning quickly slipped away from us, so we rushed out the hotel, hopped in the red Ford Focus and drove north to the Town of Yountville for more, I mean, I mean pre-wedding festivities. There was no time for our usual morning Starbucks let alone any local pastries. We lost faith in our GPS BlackBerry and I was left to navigate with our free visitor center map. Weekend traffic and one wrong turn, we barely made it to our tour! But we were relaxed in no time with the beauty of Napa and the promise of sparkling wine.

Domaine Chandon is owned by the French company, Moët et Chandon which also owns Dom Pérignon entirely owned by LVMH - Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton. Recognize any names?? This is one big operation in mass production wine making! The grounds of this winery are absolutely beautiful with grand landscaping, intriguing art work, and interesting architecture. If you want to see one of the big wineries, I recommend you consider scheduling the tour at Domaine Chandon. Our guide was very knowledgeable and I learned so much more than if we had just done the tasting.

The ultra-modern tasting room was designed with a scalloped roof-line to represent the shape of wine barrels. Their enormous wine tanks were placed on their side instead of upright so the roof line could remain low creating less distraction to the natural environment. Our tour guide also mentioned that Domaine Chandon incorporates eco-friendly techniques such limiting the use of pesticides in the vineyards they own throughout Napa and Sonoma.

As our tour guide described their winemaker of 20 years, Tom Tiburzi, I couldn't help but wonder about the job of a winemaker. It's such a unique collaboration of agriculture, science and art. It must be difficult to discern all the various tastes to create one incredible blend. Chandon has a vast reserve collection of wine which allows them to create consistent tastes in their popular non-vintage wines. Very curious to know, and regret not asking, just how many years does their reserve collection span?? Chandon is most known for their sparkling wine, but they do make several still wines.

As our tour ended, we were led through the tasting room to the outdoor patio where several wines awaited us: Brut Classic, Chandon Rose, Carneros Chardonnay 2008, Carneros Pinot Noir 2007, and Carneros Pinot Meunier 2008. I settled on the Chandon Rose sparkling wine. We sipped wine and soaked in the California sunshine while chatting about politics, food and of course wine.
Speaking of food...we didn't eat any all day and I failed to hydrate
properly! Needless to say, the bubbles went straight to my head and my stomach was angry. As we left, we stopped by the retail store for purchases. I purchased two sparkling wines: Brut Classic and Chandon Rose. This seemed like a good idea at the time despite shipping costs and the fact that I can purchase both at my local Kroger anytime. I also purchased a still wine, Carneros Pinot Meunier, 2008 which was well received by everyone in our group and not available at my local Kroger.

I must mention a little bit about the wedding. The ceremony was a small lovely affair held on an outdoor terrace of the ultra modern and environmentally friendly Bardessono Hotel. From what I could tell, this hotel lives up to its nearly five star rating. Also, if have any interest in sustainable construction, take a moment to review their environmental initiatives which I found interesting. Their nightly rate is a little more than I usually pay, so if you are like us, and plan to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, take the time to drive up to the hotel to visit the lobby bathrooms. Trust me, the bells and whistles on those toilets are worth the valet parking!

After the ceremony, a shuttle bus transported us to HALL Rutherford Winery for the reception. By far the most breathtaking views in Napa can be seen on their
outdoor verandas. We were greeted with passed hors d'oeuvres and...more wine! For dinner, we were escorted by the winery's sommelier to one of their wine caves. She provided us with a brief history of the winery and showed us their unusual looking wine tanks. We were led down a long hallway filled with wine barrels to what I can only describe as THE most impressive room I have ever seen! The dining room was stunning and decorated so beautifully for the wedding.
Our dinner was appropriately paired with wine and our sommelier introduced each wine with our food pairing. Unfortunately, I can't speak directly about their wine. I only sipped a bit as I was completely done with wine for the day.

And by done, I mean, stick a fork in me.

So just as quickly as we rode into the sunset of Napa Valley grooving to the sounds of the 90's, it was time return our Ford Focus and catch the red-eye flight back east. Our quick whirl-wind trip provided me with some great memories, a chance to reconnect with a dear friend, and completely worth the exhaustion experienced days later.

Still to come: The recap - What I learned on my trip to Napa Valley, CA.

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