Napa Valley Wine Tasting / Wineries

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Domaine Chandon

 

Domaine Chandon – Yountville, CA
Tiny Bubbles

By Heather Irwin

You are hereby granted permission to sip bubbly and nibble on duck pate in the middle of the afternoon for no reason other than the fact that you deserve it. You're welcome.

Sitting in the sunny tasting room of Domaine Chandon in Yountville with nothing to do but watch the bubbles rise in your champagne flute is a luxurious dalliance any day of the week. Paired with small plats from the famous Chandon kitchen—like salmon, duck pate or a plate of farm cheeses—it becomes a dreamy excuse to wile away the afternoon in Wine Country among the vines.

Owned by French sparkling wine house, Moet-Hennessey, Domaine Chandon is a rather sprawling Yountville complex that includes a large tasting room, education center, winery, restaurant and sculpture-studded grounds. It's easy to get a bit lost, so start by heading up the stairs, past the wall of green bottles, to the tasting salon for a glass or two…or three of sparkling wine.

Flights are broken into several choices, from the Prestige Cuvee tasting of the beautifully crafted etoile (which means star in French) sparkling wines to the winery's reserve, classic and still wine selections. Small plates can be ordered at the tasting bar, designed to pair well with the bubbly selections.

Made from a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a rare (at least in America) grape called Pinot Meunier, each of the wines has a unique characteristic. The etoile wines, which allow the vintners to escape from appellation designations and other constraints of everyday winemaking, are some of the most creative of the Chandon wines, with complex elegance. The etoile Brut, with a slightly sweeter taste and hints of almond, honey and floral notes, is a particular star of the lineup.

The winery has recently diversified its collection to include still wines made from its sparkling wine varietals. Among them, the Pinot Meunier, which is one of only two made in the valley, is a rare and unique wine with a light, delicate footprint and balanced dark fruit.

At the holidays, Chandon releases a sparkling red wine made with Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Unlike most pale sparkling wines, it is a deep garnet color with notes of berry and cranberry, slightly off dry. Made in small batches, it sells out almost every year.

Tours of the winery happen at 11am, 1, 3 and 5pm and are worth sticking around for to learn about the sometimes complex process of making sparkling wine. Open until 6pm, you can always return to your sunny seat at the tasting salon afterward to test out your newfound knowledge and test out a few sparklers.

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Domaine Chandon is also home to a three-star restaurant featuring elegant French-California cuisine. Open for lunch and dinner, reservations are recommended in advance, and the restaurant is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, and throughout the month of January.

Domaine Chandon, One California Drive., Yountville, 707-944.2280.

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