A visit to Domaine Chandon, Napa Valley

When in Yountville, Domaine Chandon is a must see.  With legendary French parents (Moët-Hennessy), Chandon was the first investment by a French Champagne house in California, almost 40 years ago. After visiting Moët & Chandon in France I was curious to experience the tour here.

I’m always looking for something different so Domaine Chandon’s Cocktail Tour sounded perfect.  We started with a tour around the winery.  The tour gives a basic explanation of how sparkling wine is made in the “traditional method” used in Champagne.  Chandon also produces still wines made from the same varieties used in the blend of sparkling wine: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.

Our guide explained that Chandon is the largest land-owner in Carneros with 800 acres of vines in this area of Napa.  Carneros is the coolest region in the Napa Valley and is therefore a good place to grow grapes intended for sparkling wine.  For still wines they also own 70 acres on Mt. Veeder and 150 acres surrounding the winery in Yountville.

After our tour, and some sipping, it was time for the main event, cocktail making!  I have always been a fan of champagne cocktails but have never taken the time to make them myself.  Seated outside in the garden, our lesson began and we learned how to make three delicious cocktails, all starting with a simple syrup mix, garnish and then topped up with sparkling wine.  These were so easy to make, impressive to look at and definitely great to taste.  This class gave me so many new ideas for dressing up sparkling wines. Here are the three cocktails we made:

  • Summer Crush: Chandon Rose with cucumber basil simple syrup, lime zest sugar rim
  • Rising star: Chandon Brut with spiced cherry pomegranate simple syrup, garnet sugar rim
  • Hibiscus Romance: Chandon Blanc do Noirs, hibiscus flower, rose water

Cocktail making at Chandon was a fun and interactive experience and I certainly was inspired to make these at home.  The tour was ideal for first timers learning about traditional method sparkling wine.

The experience at Moët & Chandon in France is very different, due to the depth of history and extensive caves there. You won’t find this at Chandon, but what the winery does have is a great lounge, garden and étoile Restaurant – the only fine dining restaurant within a winery in the Napa Valley. étoile has received numerous awards including a Michelin rating.

Expert tips:

  • If you want to try the étoile Restaurant keep in mind they are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
  • Tours are a great way to see the winery and get more information about the basics of sparkling winemaking
  • Domaine Chandon also has a lounge where you can order small bites from étoile and try the sparkling wines
  • For something different they also partner with Napa Valley Balloons and the Napa Valley Wine Train for some exclusive experiences

WineryCritic Ratings

8/10 Overall visitor experience

8/10 Knowledge of guide

9/10 Location

8/10 Architecture and design, landscaping

10/10 Other experiences: étoile Restaurant, several different tours and tasting options, lounge with food service, seated area for tastings in the garden, partnerships with Napa Valley Ballooning & Napa Valley Wine Train

8/10 Friendliness of staff

9/10 Signage & ease of access

9/10 Quality of the wines poured

Appointment required:  Appointments required for tours.   Reservations required for étoile Restaurant.

Address: 1 California Drive, 
Yountville, CA 94599

www.domainechandon.com

Tasting fees & experiences:

  • $20 per person: Prestige Tasting
  • $20 per person: Reserve Tasting
  • $18 per person: Classic Tasting
  • $22 per person: Varietal Tasting (Still wines)

Tours:

  • $40 per person: étoile Prestige Tour & Tasting.  A behind the scenes tour of the winery where you will learn how their high end sparking wine, étoile is made.  Includes tastings of the prestige étoile tier, finishing with a taste of our étoile Tête de Cuvée. Includes an amuse bouche prepared by Chef Perry Hoffman.
  • $40 per person Rosé Tour & Tasting.  A guided tour followed by a tasting of Chandon Rosé, Reserve Pinot Noir Rosé and étoile Rosé.  
Daily at 11:30am.
  • $40 per person: Vintage Tour & Tasting.  A guided tour followed by a tasting of three sparkling wines: Yountville Vintage Brut, Carneros Vintage Brut, and Mt. Veeder Vintage Brut. 
Daily at 3pm.
  • $55 per person: Private Tour & Tasting.  A 1-1/2 hour tour and tasting that includes samplings of five select still and sparkling wines from the Chandon portfolio. Complimentary logo glass included. Tasting only is $45.  15% discount on wine purchases following the tour.
  • $215 per person: Balloon ride followed by the delicious Champagne Breakfast at étoile Restaurant
  • From $114 per person: Napa Valley Wine Train.  Enjoy a three-course gourmet lunch on board the train. Disembark at Yountville where a private shuttle awaits to transport guests to Domaine Chandon. After enjoying a one hour tour and tasting directed by a Domaine Chandon host, guests return to the Napa Valley Wine Train Station.  This tour is offered Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only.

étoile Restaurant Hours: 

  • Lunch: 11:30am-2:30pm Thurs-Mon
  • Dinner: 6pm-9pm Thurs-Mon
  • Closed: January – February 9

Good for:  Sparkling wine lovers, couples, groups

Wines produced:  Sparking wines (Blanc de Noirs, Blanc de Blancs, Rose, Brut Classic, Sparkling Red, Reserve).  Premium sparkling is étoile, étoile Brut, étoile Rosé, Tête de Cuvée.  Still wines Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Cabernet Sauvignon.

What’s nearby: Yountville, Cliff Lede, Hess Collection, Ma(i)sonry

District/Appellation: Yountville, Napa Valley

Contact for appointments:  1(888) 242-6366 Monday through Friday between 9am and 5pm.

Date of visit: October 16, 2013

E-mail: mindy@winerycritic.com