featured winery – brian carter cellars (the art of the blend)

Thursday, June 06, 2013

I don’t remember exactly when I first sat down and tasted wine with Brian Carter, but it’s probably going on 30 years ago. He was a young fresh face in Washington, working for Paul Thomas winery. As I wrote in the 1993 Pocket Guide to Northwest Wines, “this winery has had its ups and downs. Under the direction of founder Paul Thomas and winemaker Brian Carter, it produced some of Washington’s best Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons in the mid-1980s, along with a pair of impressive, bone-dry fruit wines (Bartlett Pear and Crimson Rhubarb). The quality slipped when Carter left in 1988, and soon after that, the winery changed hands.”

Well, enough ancient history. Brian went on to numerous consulting gigs and has worked more vintages in this state (33 and counting) than all but a handful of veteran winemakers. In 2006 he founded Brian Carter Cellars, and has carved out a comfortable spot for his winery and tasting room across from the Hollywood Hills in Woodinville. His production has steadily climbed, and he currently sources 20 different grape varieties from a dozen vineyards scattered across the Columbia Valley.

As you might expect, his vineyard sources are first rate (Klipsun, Stonetree, Boushey, Olsen and Upland among them), and he knows them all quite well. But Carter himself believes his talent is best expressed via blending, and his portfolio includes a most demanding and exacting number of globally-inspired, regional wine styles. Here are some highlights from a recent tasting of current releases.

Brian Carter Cellars 2011 Oriana White; $24
2011 is another excellent vintage for this unique and aromatic blend – 51% Viognier, 35% Roussanne and 14% Riesling. Lemon skin, beeswax, orange peel, tangerine, succulent lime and ripe pear are all in play in a luxurious, long and lissome white wine.

Brian Carter Cellars 2010 Corrida Red Wine; $33
Modeled after a Rioja crianza, this is a blend of 62% Tempranillo, 12% Graciano, 11% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Grenache. Showing generous acidity, hints of apple, peach, cranberry and herb, it’s a fresh and fruit-driven young wine, perfect for warm weather enjoyment.

Brian Carter Cellars 2009 Tuttorosso Red Wine; $33
This is Carter’s take on a SuperTuscan blend – two thirds Sangiovese, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah. The lovely aromatics capture a sense of the elusive Sangiovese rose petal accents, while the fruit leans toward wild currant and raspberry.

Brian Carter Cellars 2009 Byzance Red Wine; $33
This is Carter’s Southern Rhône-influenced blend – 53% Grenache, 23% Syrah, 18% Mourvèdre, 2% Counoise and 4% Cinsault, sourced from seven different vineyards. Somehow it all comes into focus, yielding a seductive wine with a gentle intensity to both scents and flavors. Tart red currant, pomegranate and raspberry fruit is lightly spicy and dusted with pretty herbs.

Brian Carter Cellars 2009 Le Coursier Red Wine; $33
This five-grape Bordeaux-style blend is 54% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cab Franc, 8% Malbec and 4% Petit Verdot. Sleek, subtle and sporting an overall elegance, it’s a sophisticated take on a Right Bank Bordeaux style, with black olive and cassis, espresso and dark chocolate in perfect proportion.

Pick of the Week – Brian Carter Cellars 2012 Abracadabra Rosé; $20
This barrel fermented rosé is mostly Sangiovese and Grenache. A beautiful, rosy peach color leads into comparable flavors, along with oranges and citrus. It’s bone dry, yet has the ripeness to feel fully rounded out in the mouth. One of the best rosés of the season.

Brian Carter Cellars

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