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Napa Valley

Celebrity Chefs, Cocktail Recipes, Food + Recipes, Travel

Weekend in Napa: Bottega & Domaine Chandon

August 12, 2010
chandon_garden_sculptures
The Venetian 75 is one of the lovely, Italian-themed cocktails at Bottega in Yountville.

The Venetian 75 is one of the lovely, Italian-themed cocktails at Bottega in Yountville.

I’m tired of waiting for summer to start here in the part of the California Bay Area that includes San Francisco and Oakland. You’d be hard pressed to melt a Popsicle in this grey and chilly clime. So this weekend, I drove up to a place where it’s about 10 degrees warmer and the mood is always resort-y and light. I’m talking about the Napa Valley.

As if you needed any enticement, here are a couple more great reasons to make the trip yourself.

Bottega Napa Valley is the grand new restaurant by Michael Chiarello of NapaStyle fame. Located in the tony burg of Yountville — home of The French Laundry — it’s set in an imposing building with a two large outdoor fireplace on the wrap-around porch. Inside, we sat at a long rustic communal table flanked by buttery yellow chairs.

When I opened the cocktail menu, I knew I’d order the Venetian 75, an Italian take on the classic French 75. Instead of champagne, this drink got its sparkle from a splash of prosecco, the sparkling wine of Italy’s Veneto region. And the drink’s gorgeous shade of pink makes me think of the vivid hues created by Venetian painters like Titian, Bellini and Tiepolo.

Venetian 75
2 ounces 209 Gin
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 ounces hibiscus syrup
1 piece candied ginger
2 ounces prosecco
fresh basil leaf, for garnish

Add the gin, lemon juice, hibiscus syrup and candied ginger to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well-chilled. Strain into a champagne coupe or small martini glass with a sugared rim. Top with the prosecco and garnish with the basil leaf.

After enjoying house-made salumi and some of the ridiculously good salsa di Parmigiano — a mix of finely crumbled Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, olive oil, fresh parsley, garlic and a hint of red pepper flakes — I’d wander over to Domaine Chandon, the LVMH-owned winery just over the highway from downtown Yountville.

Domaine Chandon has always been one of my favorite places to unwind and sip bubbly in a beautiful setting. The winery is modern yet feels like its part of the landscape that includes beautiful old oaks, gentle slopes and a moat filled with aquatic life. As they approach the entrance, visitors are greeted by a patch of rock sculptures that resemble beige mushrooms.

The newest feature is an installation of 21 large metal wind sculptures throughout the grounds. Designed by Utah sculptor Lyman Whitaker, the copper and steel pieces inspired by natural motifs are designed to move with the wind.

I can almost taste the bubbly now.

A series of wind sculptures is the newest art installation at Domaine Chandon in Yountville.

A series of wind sculptures is the newest art installation at Domaine Chandon in Yountville.

Sparkling Wine

Meet Winemaker Eileen Crane of Domaine Carneros in San Diego

March 29, 2009
Eileen Crane, CEO and winemaker of Domaine Carneros in the Napa Valley, has been crafting French style sparkling wines longer than anyone else in America.

Eileen Crane, CEO and winemaker of Domaine Carneros in the Napa Valley, has been crafting French style sparkling wines longer than anyone else in America.

Winemakers come and go, but few are as worth meeting as Eileen Crane, the winemaker and CEO of Domaine Carneros in the Napa Valley. She’s in San Diego on Tuesday March 31, for a Bubbly Night Out cocktail party and dinner showcasing her sparkling and still wines at The Winesellar & Brasserie.

She’s a font of fascinating historical and cultural information on champagne; she also crafts some of  the most distinctive and satisfying sparkling wines made in America. Whether the Brut Cuvée, the dreamy Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs (my favorite), or the Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour (my other favorite), all the Domaine Carneros sparkling wines share a French toastiness and structure balanced with the ripe juiciness of California fruit. It’s quite something to visit the gorgeous chateau style winery, which recalls the Louis XV style Chateau La Marquetterie near Epernay, France where Domaine Carneros parent company Taittinger hosts its Maison de Champagne receptions.

Whether the Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs or the Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour, all Domaine Carneros sparkling wines share a French toastiness and structure balanced by juicy California fruit.

Whether the Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs or the Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour, all Domaine Carneros sparkling wines share a French toastiness and structure balanced by juicy California fruit.

Crane has been blending fine sparkling wine for 30 years — longer than anyone in the country. She studied nutrition and attended the Culinary Institute of America when she became fascinated with winemaking. So she picked up an enology degree at UC Davis and then made wine at Domaine Chandon and Gloria Ferrer before Claude Taittinger selected Crane to lead Domaine Carneros.

As much as I’m looking forward to tasting her wines, I can’t wait to ask her about the organic cultivation at their estate vineyards. As Crane explains in this Q & A in The Organic Wine Journal, they’ve been quietly working towards the organic certification that their four Carneros vineyards received in late 2007 from the California Certified Organic Farmers.  Domaine Carneros sparkling wine made from organic grapes can’t be far behind!