A Conversation with Eileen Crane

We had the privilege to chat with Eileen Crane, Domaine Carneros’ founding winemaker. Hailing from the Carneros appellation of Northern California by the Champagne Taittinger family, Domaine Carneros is a small grower-producer of ultra-premium Carneros Sparking wines and a limited production of Pinot Noirs. Crane is one of the industry’s pioneering women and we were able get her thoughts on best pairings for the holidays, how women are making inroads within the winemaking industry and what one can expect when visiting the vineyards.

HILuxury: What makes DC the perfect pick for holiday tables?

Eileen Crane: The moment you open a bottle of Domaine Carneros sparkling, it elevates the entire evening from ordinary to extraordinary. Our sparkling wines have an effortlessly elegant style with the tiniest of bubbles. It’s sophisticated, timeless; think Audrey Hepburn in a little black dress.

Although we are known as a sparkling house, we have been making small lots of Pinot Noir for the last 25 years and have developed a hallmark style that balances texture with a supple and silky mouth-feel. So, whether you are having turkey, seafood or pig we have a wide range of blends from Sparkling to Pinot Noir to complement any holiday fare.

HILux: How have you seen the industry change with regards to women representation?

EC: It wasn’t until late twentieth century that women started to become visible in the wine industry. Before that time, women in the wine industry worked in family businesses without much recognition. I was fortunate to have begun my career at a time when there were very, very few sparkling winemakers and, therefore, well positioned for my career. Today, the industry as a whole is somewhat more open to women, but still only about 15% of all winemakers are women.

HILux: As the sparkling winemaker with the most experience, how have you seen the industry evolve with regards to sparkling wine?

EC: Sparkling wine has become a significant part of the market in the US. When I first began my career in the wine industry, there were far less players in the sparkling wine category. Now, there are so many different styles, niches and producers.

The consumer’s perception of sparkling wine has changed as well. Once considered to be only for toasting special occasions it is now enjoyed for moments in life when you just need some sparkle – such as an informal gathering of friends, a quiet dinner at home or simply a moment of relaxation on the deck while watching the sunset.

HILux: In Hawai‘i, we have varied holiday get-togethers that span the gamut from elegant and formal to cozy and casual. What Domaine Carneros wine would you suggest for the following:

1. A sit-down dinner with traditional ham, turkey, rib roast or lamb and all the trimmings?

EC: The Estate Pinot Noir is the highest expression of our Estate grown Carneros terroir. With its silky texture and mouthwatering acidity this wine pairs well with any traditional holiday dinner.

2. A walk-around party with hors d’oeuvres?

EC: For a cozy, walk-around party I would suggest our Vintage Brut. It has a cream palate, complexity of flavors with a lingering finish that pairs well with raw oysters, smoked salmon, lobster, and cheeses.

3. An island family party that would include Korean kalbi, poke, sushi, noodles and kalua pig?

EC: Our Rosé or classic Brut sparkling are very versatile wines for food pairing and complements beef, seafood and pork dishes. These are focused and elegant wines that have been aged in our cellar to enhance their complexity and development.

HILux: What Domaine Carneros wines would you suggest as a hostess gift or a gift for a friend?

EC: Who doesn’t love Rosé? Our Cuvee de la Pompadour is named for Madame de la Pompadour, Louis XV’s great paramour. She introduced Sparkling wine to the court at Versailles and is famous for having said, “Champagne is the only wine that a woman can drink and remain beautiful.”

Truthfully, no matter what Domaine Carneros wine you choose, it is sure to impress the receiver.

HILux: Please tell us about the vineyards. I notice that in addition to tours and tastings, Domaine Carneros also offers elevated experiences including The Sparkling Suite. Could you tell me about these experiences? CCA can answer this.

EC: Domaine Carneros is a small grower/producer estate winery focused on providing premium wines and memorable guest visits. Located in the Carneros appellation, our six estate vineyards give us the control over the quality of the grapes that go into each of our wines. To understand our passion for our wines, we offer daily educational tours beginning in our estate vineyard and continuing with a tour of the winemaking, bottling, riddling/aging and disgorging areas at our Chateau.

If you really want to drink in the experience, we offer The Art of Sparkling Wine Paring: Bubbles and Bites. Paired with specially curated Asian-themed bites, you’ll see (or rather taste) the versatility of Sparkling wine.

Equivalent of Cracker Jacks and baseball, our Nicoulai Caviar and Sparkling wine simply go together in what we call our Ultimate Chips and Dip. To take it to a whole new level, we have included rich créme fraiche and potato chips.

For an intimate experience, the Sparkling Suite is a must. Savor our Sparkling and Pinot Noir wines with caviar and charcuterie while enjoying a private table for two on the Chateau balcony overlooking the Carneros vineyards.

Want a simple, yet just as memorable experience? Sitting on the Domaine Carneros terrace or in the Jardin (our glass conservatory) and partaking of our wines and view is something many people, including myself, enjoy.

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