Two weeks ago, 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. Last week was Part Two, and today is the third and final installment of our chat.
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.
In this last installment, we touched on how, with several sparkling wine houses in the U.S. changing ownership on a fairly regular basis, how Domaine Carneros has managed to remain owned by the Taittinger family:
Switching gears a bit, I asked Remi what she was like at 12 and how she first got into wine, which, I have to say, was a bit surprising:
We also touched on the state of women and diversity in wine, a topic that Remi spends quite a bit of time on:
Next, we moved on to the still wine program at Domaine Carneros, which most people, unless one has visited the winery, probably does not know exists. Remi, of course, is hoping to change that.
We also briefly touched on how Domaine Carneros decides which fruit goes into still wines versus the sparkling wine program:
We tasted the 2018 Estate Pinot Noir, the widely available current release and I decided to pop the 2017 vintage on my own, which I found kicking around in my cellar.
2017 Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir Estate, Carneros, CA: Retail $44. A weird thing happened today, totally not by design–this is the second sample that I have tasted today where the following is true: I first tasted the 2018 vintage of this wine several months ago and am now on the previous iteration of the wine (OK, it might not *seem* all that “weird” but trust me, it is). I wrote the following for the 2018, which applies to this 2017 as well: “Co-owned by Champagne house Taittinger and American importer Kobrand, Domaine Carneros is perhaps the best domestic (U.S.) sparkling wine producer (I know I might catch some heat for that assertion, but I am willing to defend it). Unbeknownst to many, they also have a significant still wine program, which is about 15% of the entire production. This Estate Pinot Noir is the largest bottling in that still wine program and shows unequivocally that Domaine Carneros should be considered a top *still* Pinot producer as well.” While I certainly like this wine, too, it is not quite (only by a little) as impressive as its younger sibling. Great red fruit, eucalyptus, a hint of spice on the nose, with lovely fruit, a unifying tartness, and a smidge of earth on the palate. Fantastic. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir Estate, Carneros, CA: Retail $44. Co-owned by Champagne house Taittinger and American importer Kobrand, Domaine Carneros is perhaps the best domestic (U.S.) sparkling wine producer (I know I might catch some heat for that assertion, but I am willing to defend it). Unbeknownst to many, they also have a significant still wine program, which is about 15% of the entire production. This Estate Pinot Noir is the largest bottling in that still wine program and shows unequivocally that Domaine Carneros should be considered a top *still* Pinot producer as well. Dark cherry, pomegranate, and freshly tilled black earth on the nose, which almost garners a Whoa on its own. The palate confirms it: Whoa. Fruity, sure, but there are multiple layers of depth here, earth, a tangy acidity, length, all balanced by the unifying fruit. Whoa again. Do you have any idea how happy I am that I was sent two bottles? Outstanding. 94 Points.
Finally, we got to New Jersey and how she now feels about her home state:
Lastly, as I prepare to meet some good friends of mine this weekend, I asked Remi, who is also good friends with the couple, how they would describe her.
I would like to thank Remi Cohen and Kimberley Charles for their time and candor during our chat and I hope to see both of them soon!