At Domaine Carneros, Jersey girl Eileen Crane is living a dream as one of the foremost sparkling winemakers in America.
A former Bergen County resident, Crane was introduced to the hospitality industry as a 17-year old cashier at the Howard Johnson restaurant on Route 17 in Paramus. Crane earned bachelor and master degrees in nutrition and taught the subject at the University of Connecticut. She studied at the Culinary Institute of America, and attended enology classes at the University of California at Davis.
Crane eventually launched her winemaking career as an assistant winemaker at Domaine Chandon, the Napa Valley sparkling winery owned by Moet & Chandon Champagne. In 1984, she became winemaker of the new Spanish-owned Gloria Ferrer winery in Sonoma’s Carneros region.
Crane became permanently linked to Carneros in 1987, when Claude Taittinger, head of the great TaittingerChampagne house, hired Crane to create a sparkling wine in that style at the new Domaine Carneros winery. His dream was to create a California sparkling wine that paralleled Taittinger’s renowned Blanc de Blancs Champagne.
Blanc de Blancs is the Champagne term for a wine made solely from white grapes, which in the Champagne region is chardonnay. In 1992, the quality of the Carneros grapes allowed Crane to fulfill Taittinger’s dream, and the wine was named Le Reve, French for the dream.
In the early years, Le Reve was made from a blend of 80 to 90 percent chardonnay with the balance pinot blanc. Since 1995, chardonnay composes from 98 to 100 percent of Le Reve.
Last month, I tasted every Le Reve from 1992 to 2005, the current vintage, save the 1996. Most consumers never think of aging sparkling wines as they are bought for celebratory moments. But to get the full expression of wines like Le Reve and Taittinger’s Blanc de Blancs, long aging is required for their excellent fruit and balanced acidity to mature into complex aromas, flavors and persistent finish.
The 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve is 99 percent chardonnay. Its honey and pear scent is instantly appealing. A mouthful of ripe fruit flavor is combined with a pineapple-like acidity giving the 2005 Le Reve a long, pleasing finish.
This youngest Le Reve resembled the structure and flavors of the 1997, 1999 and 2002, and all received my highest rating. Like these older wines, age the 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve at least a decade from its birth and you’ll be pampered by its cashmere texture and harmonious flavors.
I enjoyed the 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve with a fish croquette and spinach salad. But its full body makes it a delightful partner with roasted chicken, veal piccata or saltimbocca, pork paillard, or grilled swordfish on a bed of grilled red onion and grilled pineapple.
Put some bottles of the 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve in your cellar and open them as your dreams come true.
The 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve retails for approximately $100.