TRIBUTE TO A WINEMAKER AND HER SPARKLING WINE

By Maggie Walters

I recently had the opportunity to work at a champagne/sparkling wine event. Not only were the wines spectacular, but the people representing them were as well. 

There is one representative, in particular, that stood out to me.  I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Fontaine from Domaine Chandon, who is one of the youngest winemakers in the world right now, and a woman at that! As a lady starting out in this beautiful world of wine myself, this was a highlight of my career thus far.  

Fontaine is impressive. She grew up in wine country in the south of France and received her National Diploma of Oenology (study of wine), as well as a Masters of Science in Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Bordeaux. She was hand-picked to be a winemaker out of 700 applicants, and is one of three female winemakers at Domaine Chandon in Napa. All three winemakers are women, and they are all from France. They strive to hold their winemaking to the standards of French winemakers, but in a California style. How can you not love this winery?? 

Fontaine oversees the day to day operations in the cellar including blending, creating some of the tastiest sparkling wines coming out of California, many of which are under $30 (under $20 if you catch them on sale!).

Now that you know about Fontaine and the winery, let's talk about some of the wines!

Just like in Champagne, France, the three grape varieties used to make these wines are Pinot Noir, Pinot Munier and Chardonnay. They are using the same classic grapes, and fermentation process, just creating a more unique, California style wine. 

Their flagship wines are: 

Chandon Brut

Brut is their classic, dry bubbly that refreshes the palate and expresses a flavor profile of apple, pear and citrus flavors.

Chandon Rosé

Their rosé expresses more fruit flavors with the additional contact of grape skins, which gives it a beautiful hue of pink. This delicious bubbly expresses intense ripe strawberry, juicy watermelon and fresh red cherry fruit aromas and flavors.

Blanc de Noir

This wine is made completely from red grapes, but the skins are immediately separated from the juice, leaving it very light in color, but complex in flavor. In the glass you will find cherry, currant and strawberry aromas and flavors. These red fruit flavors build in the mid-palate and finish with a soft, lingering creamy texture.

Chandon Extra Dry Riche

The Extra Dry Riche, is their softer, and sweeter sparkling wine. This bubbly is blended with muscat, lending a luscious and fruitier style. On the nose is an inviting floral bouquet followed on the palate by rich, honeyed fruit flavors of peach and apricot. This is great for wine lovers who find brut wines a little too austere and acidic! 

Domaine Chandon also has two amazing Cuvees that are laid down for 5 years before release. Believe it or not, these special blends are less than $50! 

These Wines are:

Etoile Brut

This wine lends a bouquet of ginger and brown spice. On the palate, baked apples, honey and cinnamon flavors meld with nutty, creamy flavors gained from extended sur lie aging (time on yeast). This a very balanced wine of pleasing creaminess and refreshing acidity. 

 Etoile Rosé

"The wine is elegant and restrained with fresh aromas of plum, raspberry and nutmeg. These aromas follow through on the palate and are layered with subtle and delicate flavors of cocoa powder. The wine finishes with excellent length and richness." – Domaine Chandon

In addition to being great wines both in taste and production, they are excellent food pairing wines. From sashimi, to popcorn, and even roasted lamb, there is a wine here for your menu. Plus, who doesn't love some bubbly? It just makes life a little more cheerful, and of course great for the holidays!

I really hope you enjoy these wines as much as I do and support the women of the wine industry! 

 Cheers!