"I think it was the second week on the job when Claude Taittinger said to me, 'We are of Champagne, you are of Carneros. You must not try to make an imitation.' He said great art is never an imitation. Where would Picasso be if he had tried to imitate Renoir?"
Over the years, Crane has created a unique brand of elegant sparklers with California fruit grown in the cool Carneros region by keeping her eye on the details.
"It's not one thing," Crane said. "Perfection, or doing the best you can, is dozens of little steps all along the way — or hundreds of them."
While the quality of the grapes is critical, Crane said it's also crucial to be meticulous with each and every step.
"If two chefs have the same basket of food to start with, would it make any difference whether one was very skilled or not very skilled?" she asks. "Yes, you know who you're going to want to dine with. It's the person who takes the extra effort."
Blending, Crane explained, sometimes requires making incremental adjustments of as little as one-half of 1 percent.
"Is this splitting hairs? And sometimes it is, and sometimes we think, 'No, we still have a preference,'" she said. "So that's what we do. It's a matter of looking until we're all satisfied it's the best we can do."
Crane was hired in 1987 to build Domaine Carneros from the ground up. She had fresh experience with this kind of colossal endeavor by heading the construction of Sonoma's Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards in 1984.
Crane's duties at Domaine Carneros were broad. In addition to winemaking, Crane was the point person to oversee the building and branding of the sparkling wine house with its architecture intact.
"This building is in the style of (French monarch) Louis XV, so the furnishings and the interior pieces had to be either Louis XV or neutral enough so they didn't fight with that," Crane said.
The winemaking that followed, Crane said, had to be as exacting as constructing the 18th-century-style French chateau, because sparkling wine demands it.
"With wine, if you have oak and heavy flavors and something is a little off, there are places to hide things," Crane said. "But when you're making a fine sparkling wine, you don't have those places to hide, so it has to be technically as perfect as it can be, at least in my opinion. I love sparkling wine because of this, because you have to keep at it until you get to just the right point."
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