Domaine Chandon & étoile: #Napa’s Classic, Stars

August 13, 2014 at 8:19 pm

The Chevalière of the French bubbly scene in Napa is the elegant and indomitable, Domaine Chandon (WLFBTw).  It is the first French foray into domestic bubbly by the esteemed Moët & Chandon in 1973; the producer of arguably the most famous Champagne in the world: Dom Pérignon. Indeed, when many consumers think of sparkling wine in the US, they think of the name “Chandon.”  And it is at this beautiful estate, biking distance from our home, that we happily enjoyed media passes for their étoile Prestige Tour, followed by lunch at their in-house resto, also named étoile.  We attended courtesy of the winery, and oh!, what a visit it was…

Pond de Chandon

Entering Domaine Chandon, you pull through their iconic gates, just at the southwestern end of Yountville, and cruise past some of their more mature and always fastidiously maintained vineyards, streaming away in rows on your right.  As you pull up towards the winery and restaurant, you start to get an idea as to why their vineyards produce such fine fruit: a weathered, volcanic mound of a hill is the base support for all things Chandon.  The winery’s rolling rooftops fit in seamlessly with the rolling foothills along that western edge of the Napa Valley. Crossing the bridge over the pond, you enter the gift shop, but the real fun is upstairs where a giant open-walled tasting room.

Flowing winery roof, presented by tour guide Elena

The tasting area is always bustling with happily imbibing patrons, tended to by pourer extraordinaire, Evin.  Out through the northern end, alongside and behind their beautiful oak-speckled lawn, you find the winery, essentially a three story building for both their main sparklers and their newer still wine line.  The stainless steel fermentation tanks are unusually stacked on their side, perhaps for better access to all of the wine that they make in a white-wine fashion (no need for fermentation and maceration on the grape skins for weeks at a time).  Downstairs is the barrel room, mainly dug into the hillside and so easily kept at the proper low temp and higher humidity.

Sideways stainless steel tanks

Our tour guide, Elena, moved us through these different stops, giving us tidbits of info and history, and lithely continuing our tour in an a very easy and conversational manner, for a total of about 30 minutes.  The best was yet to come, however: leaving the winery behind, we walked back through the tasting area and down into a beautiful old stone grotto, replete with a bustling waterfall.  The little baby birds playing in its moss and spray were an appropriate accompaniment to our étoile Prestige Tour tasting, featuring three generous pours of their finest sparkling wine.

The Lady and I have been major fans of their  Domaine Chandon Napa-Sonoma étoile Brut Rosé NV for many a year now, but had not yet had the chance to taste it alongside the equally impressive Domaine Chandon Napa-Sonoma étoile Brut NV, which featured more of a toastier style, than its brightly, red-fruited rosé sister wine. The tasting was capped off with their flagship sparkler, the Domaine Chandon Napa-Sonoma étoile Tête de Cuvée 2003.  This wine is a great work by winemaker Tom Tiburzi and his team, truly showing where the étoile Brut could go with age, but with even better fruit, depth and balance.

étoile Restaurant at Domaine Chandon

With a bit of remorse, we bid goodbye to our flutes, but also ratcheted up some excitement for what was next: a media lunch at the only winery restaurant in the Valley: the one-star Michelin rated étoile Restaurant.  While I will leave those details up to much more capable writing hands of my Lady, Beth Fontaine, I can say this: Chef Perry Hoffman‘s culinary team did a tremendous job with our meal.  It was a gastronomic revelation if there ever was one, filled with amazing flavors and almost more amazing presentation.  All of this food could not have be fully enjoyed without the tremendous work by our waiter Scott and his shadow for the day, as well as the highly talented Sommelier & Assistant Restaurant Manager John Langano.  We left completely satiated and just exceedingly happy…what else could we possibly want for such a day?

Please do visit the lovely Lady of the Napa Valley, Domaine Chandon, with its amazing restaurant, étoile. The winery is open every day for tasting, while the restaurant has more limited hours.  You can find all of our pics from that day over at the #Vinopanion FB page. À votre santé!

Wines tasted during our free étoile Prestige Tour hosted by Elena on 03/15/14, courtesy of Domaine Chandon (WL, FB, Tw):

Domaine Chandon Napa-Sonoma étoile Brut NV

 Domaine Chandon Napa-Sonoma étoile Brut Rosé NV

Color: Medium orange/coral, with a nice fine bead and a medium mousse.

Nose: Good orange spice here to start off, then earthier tones come in, with breadiness. Deeper dried raspberries follow, alongside good, dusty strawberry notes.

Palate: This shows off a robust mouth, more full than the Brut, with orange citrus and bright raspberry fruit along with some good floral notes. The bubbly finishes with earthier raspberry, and zesty clean acidity. Good: OldWorldWK.

Domaine Chandon Napa-Sonoma étoile Tête de Cuvée 2003

Ward Kadel - @drXeNo is the founder of Vinopanion wine blog, the West Coast Ambassador & Staff Blogger for and Le Wine Buff for (CIVB). He will try any and all wines and tends to write about the parts of his life that include virtually all of it! He and his wife grew up in Napa and Sonoma and they still live in the Napa Valley. View Ward's WineLog and check out the wines he's recommended with his WKBadges. Follow him on Twitter and Like Vinopanion on Facebook. Contact him: "Ward at". Ward happily accepts samples but does not guarantee a review, positive or negative.

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