Wine tasting is a fun combination of experiences: sights, sounds, aromas, flavors, even the sense of touch comes into play. When a tasting room gets the vibe just right, everything about the experience rises to the next level. Caraccioli Cellars is a great example of combining all the best elements of wine tasting into a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts!
Caraccioli Cellars in Carmel is like a beloved neighborhood pub. Everyone seems to know everyone, and the exuberance is constantly at a high level. We visited on a rainy day, but it was all sunshine once we entered. The place was comfortably crowded, with everyone having a great time. We found a spot along one wall and were quickly greeted by wine guide Kristi, who assured us that she would make the wine come to us!
We started with their 2010 Brut Cuvée, a sparkling from the Santa Lucia Highlands. We like the dry pear and mango notes, and appreciated the patience required to make an 8 year-old sparkling. Next we compared their 2014 Chardonnay and 2015 Chardonnay. The ’14 was abounding in lemon, pear, and pineapple notes; perfect for food pairings. The ’15 showed interesting butterscotch, papaya, and guava flavors. The same vineyard, the same winemaker, dramatically different wines!
The next wine was a favorite for both of us: a 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir. Kristi told us that this wine was made using their champagne press, with no skin contact, and had just a splash (3%) of Chardonnay added. This pale rosé was delicious, with apple, raspberry, and vanilla flavors leading to a mildly acidic finish. This started our “take home” list in good style.
We ended with a comparison of their 2014 Pinot Noir and their 2015 Pinot Noir. We gave the early nod to the ’14, with layered fruit and a hint of nutmeg. The ’15 had only been released the previous Monday, and it showed its youthfulness. A bit of time on the wine rack will age out the edge of tannin and leave behind the gorgeous Bing cherry and plum notes. Well worth the investment.
With one more tasting on list, we thanked Kristi for all the wine shuttling, purchased our wine and headed across the street for one last winery. Within minutes, our space was taken by another group of happy tasters.
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?