2009 Domaine Carneros Avant-Garde Pinot Noir

Arriving at Domaine Carneros in the Carneros AVA of Napa Valley, California, you feel as if you are touring the French Palace of Versailles. After climbing an innumerable set of stairs, you arrive at a bistro-style tasting room with pinkish-red walls and a beautiful fireplace. Of course, we were immediately drawn to the fireplace. What you will learn is that Jane LOVES fireplaces. So if the tasting room has one, you can bet she’s in front of it. And the red walls served as inspiration for our condo renovation (always good to pull inspiration from memorable surroundings)…

Jane & Kevin (Jane’s bro) at Domaine Carneros

The tasting room sits atop a hill overlooking the southern end of Napa and Sonoma counties and it’s VERY French. Even the woman serving us had the quintessential French accent and attitude (though she was very nice). It has an air of French oppulence but at the same time was very approachable and welcoming.

At this tasting room they have three pinot noirs available to taste – and like Goldilocks, we had to try them all: the Avant-Garde, which we are reviewing here, the Domaine Carneros, and the Famous Gate. We chose to splurge on three full glasses, and boy, were we glad we did!

All three pinots were delicious. We weren’t surprised because the Carneros AVA is considered the premiere region for Pinot Noir in California wine country. We found the Avant-Garde the lightest of them all. The Domaine Carneros the most balanced, with a hint of coffee and spice, and the Famous Gate, the richest – almost port-like.

Now, on to the review of Avant-Garde…

Steve says:

I tend to enjoy fuller bodied “big” Pinots like their Domaine Carneros bottle, but I found the Avant-Garde to be the most approachable. It had a fresh, lightness to it in comparison to the heavier reds found in the Napa region that I’d had been drinking on this trip. The Avant-Garde has a light ruby-red color with a fruity plum nose. You won’t find any noticeable tannin and it’s sugar and fruit seems well-balanced. For a Pinot Noir, it leans toward medium body. However, if you normally drink Cabernet Sauvignon, it would strike you as light-bodied. I think this would pair well with chicken, fish, or perhaps even your Thanksgiving feast.

3 out of 5 stars.

Jane says:

I am a huge fan of decorative arts. I don’t know why but if a museum has a decorative arts section, I’m sucked in immediately – much to the chagrin of Steve. Show me a 17th-century bed and I could dissect it for hours and dream of the servants who would pamper me at all hours. That said, the Domaine Carneros tasting room has a feel of decorative arts to me and a pampering that goes along with the French atmosphere. It’s not a typical tasting room with T-shirts and caps for sale. Instead it makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into a Parisian cafe where you can sip your wine at your leisure. Wow, all this and I still haven’t spoken about the wine… The Avant-Garde was lovely. It was light and fresh and immediately had me craving a Nicoise salad. I feel it could go with just about anything if you are a fan of lighter reds. I highly recommend it for a warm evening when you want to feel a bit Parisian.

3 out of 5 stars.

Just the Facts Ma’am

2009 Produced and bottled by Domaine Carneros, Napa, California (Carneros AVA)

100% Pinot Noir

10 Months in Burgundian French Oak

14.1% alcohol

$24.00/750ml bottle

Available only at Domaine Carneros winery and their Web site.


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