Domaine Carneros “La Reve” Restrospective, 2006-1992

domaine carneros vertical tasting 1 224x300 Domaine Carneros La Reve Restrospective, 2006 1992Eileen Crane has been called “the most experienced sparkling winemaker in the United States,” and her 35 years at Domaine Carneros are proof that she’s doing something right. Hired by Claude Taittinger in 1987, Eileen has been making La Reve, a $95 (almost)-all-Chardonnay sparkler since the 1992 vintage. In celebration of 20 years of producing this wine, she poured for a small trade and media group a selection of, well, every one that’s been released to date. The sole standout: 1996, of which no stock could be found. (2007 and beyond have not yet been released.)

The tasting, served before lunch and San Francisco’s Farallon, was unorthodox, as these wines were not served from their original bottlings but rather had all just been disgorged just 3 to 4 months ago. (Yes, the 1992 has been sitting on the lees for 20 years.) This has helped to preserve the freshness of these wines and allowed Crane to add the same sugar dosage to them all, for easier comparison. (In the ’90s, higher dosage was common, so an old bottle of 1992 La Reve will taste significantly sweeter — and “older” — than the version at our tasting.)

This was a greatly instructive tasting, showing how winemaking has (and hasn’t) changed stylistically over the years, and how wines like this retain their fruit. I was sure the younger wines would be clear favorites — and the new 2006 bottling is delicious — but my favorite of the tasting was, oddly, the 1997, a perfect balance of fruit, dessert, wood, and everything in between. (This turned out to be quite contentious, however: 1998 was also a favorite of many tasters.)

Notes follow.

Domaine Carneros Vertical Tasting, 2006 to 1992

2006 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / A / crisp apple, toasted bread, some lime; tart with lots of acidity
2005 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / A- / a touch sweeter, fig and some honey, pineapples on the finish
2004 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / B+ / bready nose, more mellow, fruit is starting to get quieter; some ginger, cake notes
2003 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / A- / lots of intensity on the nose, more of a classic Champagne style; plenty of yeast, nutty finish; some floral notes with a bit of apple and lemon
2002 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / B+ / very light, apples and fresh juice fading in the body; drinkable and lower in acid, a nod to a wine in decline
2001 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / A- / balanced, mellowing nicely; orange blossoms and apple tarts; straightforward but lively
2000 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / B+ / similar to 2001; more nutty, muted finish
1999 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / A- / lots of fizz here; muted tropical notes, green apple; creamy body, still fresh
1998 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / B+ / lots of bread notes; herbal characters with rosemary and baking spices; slightly bitter edge on the finish
1997 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / A / my favorite of the lineup; fresh, great balance of fruit; mango, honey, apple; lovely nuttiness on the nose; everything in one package
1995 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / A- / plenty of pineapple building up here; lemon body, still fresh
1994 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / B+ / somewhat musty on the nose; lots of pineapple on the body, vanilla notes on the finish
1993 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / B+ / definitively unlike the rest; fresh toast with butter, allspice; lots of acid; a little weird
1992 Domaine Carneros La Reve Blanc de Blancs / B / classic Champagne style; big yeast notes, tough on the back of the palate


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