Last week, I published the first part of my conversation with Remi Cohen, the relatively new head of, perhaps, the best sparkling wine producer in the United States. I had every intention to publish the rest of the conversation yesterday, but two unrelated events delayed that post until today.
First, I realized that there was way too much content in the rest of the conversation to be handled in a singular post. The other? I received my second shot of Moderna this week and it had me out of commission for a while.
Now, back to normal (as much as one could say that I am “normal”), I decided to split the remaining conversation with Remi into two posts. Here is the introduction to the conversation that I posted for the first installment of our conversation:
Domaine Carneros was the second wine club I ever joined (in case you were wondering, Cosentino was the first, which involved a sordid tale that included a married woman and, well, let’s not go there). For those that have never been, the French-inspired château at Domaine Carneros is stunning, only surpassed, perhaps, by the stunning view that it commands over the vineyards in its shadows.
The wines at Domaine Carneros, as far as I am concerned, have always been stellar but as several of the other Champagne outposts (e.g., Mumm Napa, Domaine Chandon) have changed hands, DC has remained steadfast as under the Taittinger family umbrella. In addition, the house has had remarkably consistent leadership–Eileen Crane served as winemaker and CEO of Domaine Carneros since its founding, in 1987, until last Fall when the indefatigable Remi Cohen took over as CEO.
While I have never actually met Remi, I feel as though we are already friends (and not simply due to the fact that she now heads arguably the best producer of sparkling wine in the U.S. [but I’m not going to lie, that helps]). We have already had a couple of hours together on Zoom, which we all know in this new normal, is simply the best way to get to know someone (yes, I wrote that with more than an ounce of irony).
A few weeks ago, Remi, Kimberly Charles (Domaine Carneros’ PR person) and I tasted through a few of the current releases from Domaine Carneros and chatted a bit about her new position, the wines, and yes, even New Jersey.
Today, we start off with a conversation about one of the newest developments at Domaine Carneros and what has to be considered one of Eileen Crane’s greatest accomplishments (although Eileen’s impact was so vast and impactful, that last statement is a bit, well, dumb): ensuring that all the fruit used for Domaine Carneros’ wines were estate grown (and therefore had complete control over the entire process).
Next, we touched on global warming, a topic that just about every winery talks about, but it seems to affect them in different ways. For Domaine Carneros, where the emphasis is on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, two varieties that tend to do poorly unless they experience cool nights in particular (so that they can retain their acidity), a warming climate is an immediate concern:
On the heels of that topic, I asked Remi about one of the topics that concerns me personally: heavy bottles. Many still wine producers use unnecessarily (and at times, stupidly) heavy bottles for their wines. With sparkling wines, heavy bottles are critical since they would likely explode otherwise due to the pressure of the wine inside (usually about 6-8 BAR or roughly the pressure of a bike tire, i.e., 85-120 psi).
For so many people in the wine industry, you can’t just talk about what is in the bottle; just about every conversation I have ever had with a winery type also involves food. It seems as though Remi agrees with what I have said for many years now: sparkling wine is the most versatile of all wine types when it comes to pairing wine with food:
Finally, we got to the wine that I was so eager to try: Le Rêve Rosé. First introduced in 1998, while it shares some characteristics with its slightly older sibling (Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs, first vintage 1992), unlike Le Rêve, which is 100% Chardonnay, Le Rêve Rosé is majority Pinot Noir (aka my wheelhouse):
2015 Domaine Carneros Le Reve Rosé, Carneros, CA: Retail $140. 55% Estate Pinot Noir, 45% Estate Chardonnay. Like the Cuvée de la Pompadour Rosé, the (ever-so-slight salmon) color from this wine comes from a portion of the Pinot Noir macerating for a few days on the skins (as far as I know, that is particularly rare). While this wine is certainly above my pay-grade, it is incredible. While I feel it might need a bit more time, it is incredibly rich, laden with red berry fruit, perfectly balanced yeasty notes. Whoa. While I double-down on the fact that this wine could use a few years in the cellar, it is gangbusters. I would put this down for at least another 5-10 years. Incredible. 96 Points.
Lastly (at least for today), I asked Remi a question that has tormented me for some time now. Relatively early on in my wine writing “career” I learned that when tasting a bunch of wine with other wine professionals, it really is not “cool” to swallow the wine. You spit it out. All. The. Time. Even at wine dinners, every place setting will have a spit cup and a dump bucket. There are times though, when the wine is just so darn good, that I buck convention and, gasp, swallow the wine (in my mind it I justify this by seeing it as “respect” for the wine). So I wondered, am I the only one that feels that way?
Next week, I will be back with the rest of my conversation with Remi, this time focusing on Domaine Carneros’ still wine program.
My favorite California sparkler producer. Great winery to visit.