For 30 years, Eileen Crane was at the helm as the founding winemaker and CEO of Domaine Carneros. In August, she passed the baton to a new CEO, Remi Cohen, who brings two decades of experience in all facets of the wine industry to the château. Both females are visionaries and trailblazers with a history of attention to detail to the cellar and vineyards, blazing their own trail through Carneros during their careers.
A History of Visionary Females
For decades, Eileen Crane, who was often referred to as “America’s Doyenne of Sparkling Wine,” crafted sparkling wines for Domaine Carneros (which is owned by Champagne Taittinger). Crane, who was hired by the Taittinger family back in 1986, was tasked with not only producing their first sparkling wines, but also overseeing the construction of the winery. Since then, Domaine Carneros has built a portfolio of highly ranked sparkling wines. Crane has been known for her innovation from the first wine club to the first tasting room.
Remi Cohen was most recently the COO at Lede Family Wines. Cohen is well-qualified, having spent 20 years in wine, most of it in Carneros. She holds a BS in molecular and cellular biology from U.C. Berkeley, a master’s degree in viticulture from U.C. Davis and an MBA in finance from Golden Gate University. She’s worked at Saintsbury, Bouchaine, Merryvale and owned her own vineyard management company with a proven track-record in operations and in the vineyard.
Remi and I have a great story about lunch where we planned to have great white wines and oysters, but pivoted to cabernet instead due to crazy Dallas restaurant laws with alcohol. Life happens and that is one of my best lunches and stories with a new great friend.
A Little About Domaine Carneros
Domaine Carneros is a winery founded in 1987 in the Los Carneros AVA. Domaine Carneros was established by Champagne Taittinger to create California sparkling wine with a vision of terroir-driven sparkling wine and preserving the quality tenets of the traditional method production. The business is a joint venture between Champagne Taittinger and Kobrand Corporation founded by Claude Tattinger on a 138-acre parcel in Carneros, Napa Valley.
Located entirely within the Carneros AVA, between Napa and Sonoma counties, the six estate vineyards total approximately 400 acres with 125 acres planted to Chardonnay, 225 acres planted to Pinot Noir, with the remaining acres currently in development. The winery focuses on making ultra-premium Carneros sparkling wines, largely estate grown, and limited production Pinot Noirs.
Domaine Carneros’ château has become a landmark and symbol of the region. The architecture and interior design were inspired by the 18th century Château de la Marquetterie, the historic Taittinger family residence in the Champagne region
Since the beginning, Eileen led the way with her commitment to sustainability. Her introduction of innovations such as the winery’s new electrical micro-grid, solar power, renewable energy systems, and packaging reuse programs has earned the winery many awards including the California Green Medal Business Award, Napa Green Land and Napa Green Winery certifications as well as a Fish Friendly Farming certification. All employees participate in an open-book management plan visible to all employees that comes from the Zingerman’s way of running things. The plan sets measurable goals every three years, reevaluated annually, that encourage employee involvement in managing the winery’s sustainability efforts including installing skylights to reduce electricity use, recycling bottles, corks, and foil, and introducing owl boxes in the vineyards.
Wines We Tried
The website states from Eileen Crane — “Making great wine is about passion. There is no formula. You have to be attuned to the rhythm of the grapes, the pulse of the wine.” At Domaine Carneros, winemaking begins with Carneros fruit, most of it grown in estate vineyards. Attention to detail focuses on the purity of each distinct variety and clone.
We tried four great wines that showcase the unique terroir of the region.
- 2017 Domaine Carneros Brut – notes of jasmine, apple, pear, honeycomb and fresh bread.
- 2017 Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé – notes of rose petal, strawberries, honeysuckle, stone fruit, tangerine and almonds.
- 201 Le Reve Blanc de Blancs Tête de Cuvée – the sparkling with a French meaning of “the dream,” Le Rêve is crafted from 100% estate-grown Chardonnay, and I tasted notes of toasted brioche, honeysuckle, yuzu, citrus blossoms, honeycomb, lychee and ginger.
- 2018 Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir – the winery is known for sparkling, but Pinots should be on the map. I tasted spice, earthiness, cherry and raspberry. It was silky and voluptuous.
A Little About Remi’s Focus
The thing about Remi is that she is so amazing, but so humble and focused on doing the right thing. When she was first contacted about the job, she told me she was first incredibly intrigued with the opportunity of a lifetime, but the timing was all wrong in the middle of a pandemic. Thankfully, the Tattinger family was willing to wait for her and conversations continued several months later.
She talked about how in a pandemic, discussions with the family needed to happen virtually. She told us how she started to take out personal bottles of Tattinger from her collection to show her passion to the family. In Remi’s first three weeks on the job, she had to meet 130 people masked (having to learn faces and names) followed by a fire two weeks later.
Remi talked about the amazing team that she inherited and how her focus is not changing the team, but making the employee experience even better. She talked about building a mentorship, diversity and inclusion and employee engagement program. “I see a vision for helping to build brand visibility for the Carneros region as well as showcasing how good the Domaine Carneros Pinot Noir wines are.”
Both Domaine Carneros are Remi are already known for a being progressive and innovative. The next evolution under Remi’s direction will be about making the organization better and elevating the Carneros region.