Wine Country Exclusive: Domaine Carneros' Eileen Crane

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eileencranedccredit1.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Champagne Taittinger's American outpost is helmed by a dynamic woman bent on improving opportunities for women in wine and putting Napa on the worldwide sparkling wine map.  Part of the founding team that literally built Domaine Carneros from the ground up, CEO/Winemaker Eileen Crane is one of Wine Country's brightest stars.    

Herein, her responses to our most pressing questions.
WC: How is Domaine Carneros unique among sparkling producers in California?

EC: The wines are all about balance, depth of flavor and a wonderful finish: they've got little tiny bubbles and a great nose, but they're also very elegantly styled.  Think of Audrey Hepburn in a little black dress!

WC: We like that comparison!  We also hear you're very much into the green movement.  Can you elaborate?

EC: We're very much estate-based, and 100% of our vineyards are certified organic.  What it does for the quality of the wine is it increases the depth of flavor, and increases balance.  Plus: we housed the largest solar collection system of any winery in the world in 2003.  

spot-sparkling-wine.jpgWC: Well done.  Because sparkling goes so well with food, we're dying to know your top sparkling-food pairings for the following:

Ultra Brut
EC: Oysters, raw bar foods, almonds...simple things.
Blanc de Blancs
EC: Scallops, crab and lobster; triple cream cheeses.
EC: All kinds of seafood, many cheeses, mushroom dishes.  Because it's 60% Pinot Noir, you can even pair it with Filet Mignon!
Blanc de Noirs
EC: Heavier and aged cheeses, washed rind cheeses; also mushroom dishes, poultry (Thanksgiving turkey, anyone?).
EC: Lovely on its own, and also versatile.  Think shellfish, salmon (great color match!), poultry and less sweet desserts.   
EC: Richer desserts, think tarte tatin...or apple pie if you're not French!

WC: We know you're a big advocate of the Carneros district.  What makes it so special for sparkling wine production?

EC: The climate, above all.  It's close to the San Pablo Bay (the northern extension of the San Francisco Bay), so it's got a cool maritime climate that gives us bright acidity in the wines.  It also gives us a long growing season and longer hang time come fall, which adds depth of character in the fruit.

domainecarneros.jpgWC: The Estate winery is absolutely gorgeous.   Which aspects of the property are you're most proud of?

EC: I'm very proud of the hospitality we offer.  We see many repeat customers because they love to relax and sit at our tables and have service.  We're in the memory business: We're all about creating the best memory you can possibly have!

WC: Sounds relaxing indeed.  Switching gears, the winery famously supports women's causes.  What drives this involvement?

EC:  Though women are underrepresented in wine, most people don't realize they've been making wine in California since the mid to late 1800s.  So through Le Rêve Foundation we sponsor women to pursue winemaking at UC Davis, and I personally mentor women who are seeking information on how to get into the industry or change careers into the wine industry.
WC: Impressive.  Anything else you'd like to add?

EC: Almost all of our wines are vintage dated, which is a rarity in sparkling production; most of ours are held back a full three years prior to release as opposed to the usual 18 months...Our mission is to be the most memorable sparkling wine experience in the world.

Open 363 days a year * Domaine Carneros;
1240 Duhig Road, Napa, CA 94559 * (707) 257-0101


This is one of my favorite places in California. Notice how I didn't say wineries... This place is so perfect!