Wine Awards & Ratings
Seattle Wine and Food Experience - February 2014
Best in Show: Brian Carter Cellars 2011 Opulento, Yakima Valley
Gold Medal: 2009 Tuttorosso, Yakima Valley
Silver Medal: 2008 Solesce, Columbia Valley & 2012 Oriana, Yakima Valley
Bronze Medal: 2009 Byzance, Columbia Valley
Seattle Times - Top 50 wines of 2013
Chuck Hill - November 25th, 2013
Brian Carter Cellars
Winemaker Brian Carter sourced the Cabernet Sauvignon for his signature Bordeaux-style blend from two Red Mountain vineyards (Klipsun and E & E Shaw) since that Washington appellation is his favorite for the Cabernet varietal. Other portions of the blend come from the Wahluke Slope and the Yakima Valley and represent the other four major Bordeaux grapes. The wine is plush and inviting, showing aromas of blackberry and blueberry and tingling the palate with flavors of cassis and black fruits. A finish of vanilla and toasty oak completes a flavorful pairing with lamb and other hearty meats. View full post
Tri Cities Wine Festival - November 2013
2011 Oriana - Best of Varietal
2009 Byzance - Best of Varietal
2010 Opulento - Gold
2009 Trentenaire - Silver
2007 Solesce - Silver
2008 Le Coursier - Silver
2009 Tuttorosso - Sliver
2009 Corrida - Silver
Chuck Hill - October 23, 2013
Brian Carter Cellars
2008 Le Coursier
Washington’s master of blended wines, Brian Carter has worked his way along the many paths that lead to success in the wine industry. Crafting wines that three times won the Grand Award at the Pacific Northwest Enological Society annual festival, he honed his talents at Paul Thomas and Apex Wineries. His passion for blended wines led to his current line of “European-style blended wines made from Washington grapes.” This Merlot-dominant Bordeaux-style blend, Le Coursier, includes 52% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon and smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. While maintaining a solid core of Merlot plum and cherry, this blend also offers rich cassis, spicy herbs and notes of vanilla and mineral – a well-balanced complement to our savory sausages. View full post
Wine Enthusiast - November 2013 Issue
2009 Le Coursier 92 Points - Cellar Selection
2011 Oriana 92 Points - Enitors' Choice
2008 Solesce 91 Points - Cellar Selection
2009 Byzance 91 Points
2012 Abracadabra Rosé 90 Points
2009 Tuttorosso 90 Points
2010 Corrida 88 Points
Great Northwest Wine - July 8, 2013
Brian Carter Cellars 2009 Le Coursier, Columbia Valley, $34
Proprietary blends are the focus of longtime Washington winemaker Brian Carter, and he dubbed this for the French word for “the steed.” In 2009, Stone Tree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope contributed the most of the seven sites that contributed to his blend that traditionally leads with Merlot (54%), followed by Cabernet Sauvignon (18%), Cabernet Franc (16%), Malbec (8%) and Petit Verdot (4%). It shows huge extraction in the nose, bringing black cherry, boysenberry and Almond Joy aromas. The entry is hedonistic with a continuation of ripe boysenberry, dark blueberry and plums, and its medium structure rides more toward food-friendly acidity than tannin.
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Chuck Hill - July 10th, 2013
Brian Carter Cellars
Columbia Valley AVA
As Washington’s most accomplished artist of the blend, Brian Carter is especially at home in crafting his Southern-Rhone-style Byzance. The construction of this wine demands skill and knowledge of each varietal and growing site (seven different vineyards contribute to the wine) and the ability to assemble a blend that will equal more than the sum of its parts. Byzance offers aromas of rich dark cherry and plum with distinct notes of toasty oak and spice. The palate is rich with ripe black fruit flavors, vanilla, earthy mineral and a complex finish that lingers to accompany rich grilled meats or other savory fare. View Full Post
Wine Advocate June 2013
2010 ONE Malbec
91 The flagship bottling, the 2008 Solesce is a classy, beautifully made blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon (all from the sandy loam soils of Red Mountain), 22% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 9% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. Aged for 30 months in 50% new French oak, it offers up a complex array of cedar, spice box, roasted meat and dusty earth to go with an elegant, polished and moderately concentrated mouthfeel that shows juicy acidity, medium to full-body and polished tannin. Certainly delicious now, it will also evolve gracefully for 12-15 years or more given its overall balance. Drink now-2023.
2010 ONE MALBEC
90 The 2010 Malbec (100% Malbec aged for 20 months in 40% new French oak) comes from the Olsen Vineyard in the Yakima Valley AVA. A big, fleshy effort, with loads of bramble, pepper, leather and berry fruit, it flows onto the palate with a full-bodied, mouth-filling and rich texture that’s hard to resist. Layered and plush enough to be enjoyed now, it should evolve gracefully for 7-8 years or more. Drink now-2018.
89 The 2009 Corrida is a blend of 62% Tempranillo, 12% Graciano (this is a Spanish red wine grape grown mostly in Rioja), 11% Merlot and 6% Grenache. Spending time in 30% new French and European barrels, it possesses a light ruby color as well as peppery, spice-driven aromas and flavors of dried cherries, licorice and tar. Medium-bodied, balanced and downright delicious, with a touch of dry tannin on the finish, it should drink nicely for 7-8 years. Drink now-2017.
89 The only white I was able to taste, the 2011 Oriana is a blend of 51% Viognier, 35% Roussanne and 14% Riesling that was one-third barrel-fermented and two-thirds stainless steel fermented before aging, on lees, for six months. It did not go through malolactic fermentation and offers a clean, pure bouquet of white peach, honeysuckle and pear to go with a medium-bodied, juicy and lively mouth feel. Borderline outstanding, it’s a delicious white that will be perfect for drinking over the coming year or two. Drink now-2015.
89 A big, dense effort that’s an interesting blend of 61% Petit Verdot, 14% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2009 Trentenaire delivers blacker fruit, roasted meat, cigar wrapper and chocolate aromas and flavors. Aged in 40% new French and European oak and showing the density and meatiness of its Petit Verdot component, it is medium to full-bodied, supple and surprisingly polished, yet shows a solid kick of tannin on the finish. Borderline outstanding, it will have upwards of 10-15 years of longevity. Drink now-2025.
89 Starting off the reds, the 2009 Tuttorosso is Brian’s take on a super Tuscan. Made from 68% Sangiovese, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah and aged for 22 months in French and European oak, it offers spice and vanilla-tinged bouquet of black cherries, cedar and smoke to go with a medium to full-bodied, supple palate. Up-front and ready to go, with a soft, easy texture, it should be enjoyed over the coming 5-6 years or so. Drink now-2019.
87 Moving into a southern Rhone-like blend of 53% Grenache, 23% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre, 4% Cinsault and 2% Counoise, the 2009 Byzance spent 24 months in a combination of French and American oak, 20% being new and the balance one-to-four-year old barrels. Juicy, jammy and loaded with fruit, it offers notions of spiced cherries, blackberry, bramble and potpourri along with a medium-bodied, straightforward palate. Cotes du Rhone-like in its easygoing, fruit and spice-driven profile, it’s a solid drink and should be consumed over the coming 4-5 years. Drink now-2018.
2009 LE COURSIER
86 Brian’s take on Bordeaux and a blend of 54% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, the 2009 Le Coursier was aged 22 months in 40% new French and European barrels. Slightly heavy and cumbersome, it nevertheless had solid aromatics (blackberry, chocolate, licorice and tar), medium to full-body and a rich, plush texture. Easy drinking and loaded with fruit, enjoy this straightforward effort over the coming 3-4 years. Drink now-2018.
Featured Winery – Brian Carter Cellars (the art of the blend)
Thursday, June 06, 2013
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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.
Seattle Wine Awards:
Double Gold - 2010 Opulento
Double Gold - 2011 Oriana
Gold - 2009 Tuttorosso
Bronze - 2009 Byzance
Pacific Northwest Wine Summit:
Gold - 2010 Opulento
Silver - 2007 Solesce
Silver - 2011 Oriana
Bronze - 2009 Byzance
Chuck Hill - May 3, 2013
Brian Carter Cellars
Oriana (Latin for “golden lady”) is Brian Carter’s blend of 51% Viognier, 35% Roussanne and 14% Riesling, crafted to highlight fruity aromatics and to present a palate that complements a wide variety of cuisines. It is sometimes difficult for consumers to remember proprietary names for wines, but it would be wise to make a note of this selection. A delightful accompaniment to our French mixed grill, I discovered that it was also one of 20 finalists in the Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition, which I judged last week. Look for aromas and flavors of ripe pear, tangerine, white peach, jasmine and spicy mineral. View Full Post
Washington Wine Blends Celebrated at Third Annual Event -
More than 40 Washington producers pour for a sell out crowd
White Blends Over $20
2nd Place (TIE) - Brian Carter Cellars Oriana 2010, Columbia Valley
Red Rhône Blends Over $20:
3rd Place - Brian Carter Cellars Byzance 2008, Columbia Valley
People's Choice Best White Blend:
2nd Place - Brian Carter Cellars Oriana 2010, Columbia Valley
Rand Sealey - Review of Washington Wines
2009 Brian Carter Cellars “Corrida” Red, Columbia Valley ($30)
Corrida is Spanish for bullfight, and this is a Tempranillo-based blend (68%, with 15% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Garnacha and 5% Cabernet Franc). Deep purplish colored, it emits intriguing aromas of black cherry, black currant, mulberry, anise, black roses, tobacco, Spanish lavender and sultry perfumes. On the palate, the dark fruit flavors are coated with licorice, dark cocoa, black tea and loamy earth minerals. The back reveals sensations of roasted berries, spiced dried cherries, orange peel, mocha and toasted almonds, followed by a lingering, dryish (typical of Tempranillo) tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2008 Brian Carter Cellars “Trentenaire” Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($39)
This is an unusual Bordeaux-style blend in that it is Petit Verdot dominated (53%, with 17% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Malbec). Deep ruby colored, it is highly aromatic (typical of Petit Verdot) with a nose of wild raspberries, plums, cassis, attar of rose, orange peel and musky oriental perfumes. On the palate, the flavors are thick and chewy, with interspersions of dark fruits, licorice, mocha and variegated earthy minerals. The back picks up notes of macerated berries, dried orange peel, spiced cherries, and touches of leather, ground clove and recurring earth, all melding together into a rich, savory, fulfilling wine. Supple, grainy tannins and moderate acids make the wine approachable, yet it will merit 3-5 years aging. 19/20 points.
2010 Brian Carter Cellars “One” Grenache, Yakima Valley, Lonesome Springs Vineyard ($48)
This is the latest in the winery’s “One” single vineyard bottlings. It displays a deep ruby color and a seductive nose of wild raspberries, black currants, mulberry, orange peel, crushed roses, violets, garrigue and oriental incense. On the palate, the flavors are simultaneously lush and penetrating, imbued with black licorice, baker’s chocolate and basaltic earth and minerals. The supple yet intense character continues on the back, with sensations of framboise liqueur, squeezed currant juice and recurring orange peel, and then turns savory (chewy, spicy) on the moderately oaked (25% new French) lingering sweet-dry tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
Stephen Tanzer - November 2012
90 - 2011 Brian Carter Cellars Oriana White Wine Yakima Valley
($25) (51% viognier, 35% roussanne and 14% riesling): Pale bright yellow. Aromas of crisp apple, anise, mint, brown spices and citrus zest. Juicy, fresh and pure, with apple and lemon fruit flavors framed by ripe acidity and lifted by a delicate floral quality. A white blend with a light touch. Finishes with a positive bitterness and a hint of brown spices that should make it flexible at the table.
89 - 2010 Brian Carter Cellars Abracadabra Red Wine Columbia Valley ($20) Bright red-ruby. Musky, reduced aromas of redcurrant and smoky oak. Then juicy, spicy and nicely vinous on the palate, showing more energy and lift than the red wines I tasted from 2008 and 2009. Fairly intense redcurrant and spice flavors show good extract and a light touch. Finishes with firm tannins, hints of pepper and herbs and very good length. This wine makes me eager to taste this producer's more important 2010 bottlings.
88 - 2009 Brian Carter Cellars Corrida Red Wine Columbia Valley
($35) (a blend based on 65% tempranillo): Bright red-ruby. Musky aromas of dark berries and chocolate. Sweet and smooth on the palate if a bit chunky, showing a more energetic primary fruit character, and more depth, than the 2009 Byzance blend. Plenty of chocolate and mocha oak here but buffered by black cherry and dark berry fruit. Very ripe, but the wine's acids and tannins are nicely integrated.
88 - 2008 Brian Carter Cellars Trentenaire Red Wine Columbia Valley ($40) (a Bordeaux blend based on 53% petit verdot): Bright red-ruby. Musky, smoky aromas of currant, tobacco, chocolate and nutty oak. Fat and smooth, with a restrained sweetness to its moderately ripe flavors of redcurrant, licorice, tobacco, herbs and menthol. I wanted a bit more definition and nuance. Plenty of oak here but the tannins are smoother than those of the 2008 Le Coursier.
88 - 2007 Brian Carter Cellars Solesce Red Wine Yakima Valley
($50) (a Bordeaux blend based on 54% cabernet sauvignon and 32% merlot): Medium red-ruby. Aromas of plum, mocha, chocolate, woodsmoke, spices and menthol. Sweet, plush and smooth, with good concentration to the redcurrant and mocha flavors. Nice volume in the mouth. Shows a slightly disjointed porty/herbal quality on the finish but the serious building tannins retain good sweetness.
87 - 2009 Brian Carter Cellars Byzance Red Wine Columbia Valley ($35) (a southern Rhone blend based on 53% grenache): Good medium red. Slightly roasted aromas of dark berries, chocolate, tree bark and pepper. Smooth and sweet but a bit monolithic, with very ripe dark fruit and chocolate flavors dominating the mid-palate. Finishes with dusty, slightly green tannins.
87 - 2008 Brian Carter Cellars Le Coursier Red Wine Columbia Valley ($35) (a Bordeaux blend based on 52% merlot): Good red-ruby. Musky black cherry, cassis and nutty, chocolatey oak on the nose. Sweet, smoky and slightly port-like, with herbal nuances and disjointed acidity giving the middle palate a disjointed quality that carries through onto the drying, lightly saline finish.
87 - 2009 Brian Carter Cellars Tuttorosso Red Wine Yakima Valley ($35) (68% sangiovese, 22% cabernet sauvignon and 10% syrah): Bright medium red-ruby. Musky, slightly porty aromas of currant and nuts could use more lift. Supple and fine-grained, showing more nuts, chocolate and coffee than primary fruits. In spite of some free-floating acidity, this wine could use more definition and nuance. Finishes with fairly smooth tannins and a strong element of nutty oak.
Seattle Met - Best Washington Wines 2012
2007 Le Coursier 91 Points
"Winemaker Brian Carter is devoted to blends. Here he has created a Right Bank Bordeaux-style wine that benefits from a full five years of age."
Sean Sullivian - Washington Wine Report
Brian Carter Solesce Columbia Valley 2006 $50
(Excellent) Medium ruby. A perfumed wine with toasty oak spices, black currant, floral notes, and high toned herbal notes. The palate is broad with red and black fruit flavors. 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, and 5% Malbec. Klipsun, Ed Shaw, StoneTree, Alder Creek, and Elerding vineyards. Aged 30 months in French oak (40% new). 14.4% alcohol. 530 cases produced.
Legends of Washington Wine - Announces 2012 Winemaker
Prosser, WA - The Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center is thrilled to announce Brian Carter as the 2012 Legends blend winemaker. Brian is the sixth winemaker to make an exclusive red blend to commemorate this year’s induction into the Washington Wine Hall of Fame.
Brian Carter’s 2012 Legends blend is truly a tribute to Dr. Walter Clore. Carter says, “During my first couple of decades in the industry, I was fortunate enough to have spent quality time with Walter, both in and out of the vineyards. This blend is a tribute to Walter Clore's vision and his dedication to the success of Washington Wine. I know Walter would be thrilled to see so many distinctive varieties contributing to the wondrous wines being made in Washington today.” The 2012 Legends blend consists of 32% Counoise, 20% Mourvedre, 20% Syrah, 16% Cinsault, and 12% Grenache.
Brian Carter’s career began with study of microbiology at Oregon State University followed by two years at the University of California-Davis School of Enology.
Brian’s impact on the Washington wine industry began with his work at Paul Thomas Winery where he was twice touted as “Winemaker of the Year” by Washington Magazine. Brian then began expanding his career as a consulting winemaker for a series of young wineries including McCrea Cellars, Hedges Family Cellars, Randall Harris, Silver Lake, and many more.
After years of producing wine for others, Brian created a small production of his own wine “Solesce” in 1997 at the Apex winery where he was winemaker and co-owner. This initial production quickly sold out and lead to the introduction of his signature series of wines, and the opening of his Woodinville tasting room in 2006. “It’s great to see my passion for blended wines transformed into these new European-style blends using Washington State grapes,” he says. The Brian Carter Collection epitomizes his commitment to quality, taste, and terroir.
Since his 1980 arrival into the Washington wine industry, Brian has earned numerous accolades including being the only three-time recipient of the Pacific Northwest Enological Society’s Grand Prize, and being chosen as the Honored Vintner at the 2007 Auction of Washington Wines.
The Legends blend will be released at the 2012 Legends of Washington Wine Gala on August 10, 2012. An annual fundraising program in support of the Clore Center, Legends honors those whose contributions to the community and the wine industry are of historical and lasting significance. This garden party style event features the induction of the newest member of the Washington Wine Hall of Fame, release of the newest Legends blend, and a live auction. For more information or to purchase tickets visit www.theclorecenter.org or call 509-786-1000.
Wines Northwest By Chuck Hill
Brian Carter Cellars
Winemaker Brian Carter continues to excel at blending wines of character from the same grapes used in Europe. His Byzance Rhone-style blend includes a base of Grenache with ample amounts of Syrah and Mourvedre and touches of Counoise and Cinsault. Complex and elegant, look for aromas and flavors of blackberry, cherry, raspberry, citrus, vanilla and spicy oak – delicious with smoky meats from the grill.
Seattle Wine Magazine Best Washington Wines 2011:
Best Red Rhone Style Blend over $20 2007 Brian Carter Cellars Byzance
Best Red Proprietary Blend under $20 2007 Brian Carter Cellars Abracadabra
2010 Washington State Wine Competition
Double Gold for 2007 Byzance
Seattle Wine Awards
2010 Wine Entusiast Accolade Recap
2007 Le Coursier
2007 Le Coursier
2008 ONE Stone Tree Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Wine Advocate Accolade Recap - October 2009 & August 2010
2006 Le Coursier
2007 ONE Malbec
Wine Spectator Accolade Recap - June 2010
2006 Le Coursier
Seattle Wine Awards May 2009
2006 Tuttorosso received the highest honor of Outstanding; 2005 L’Etalon and 2007 Oriana were awarded Gold Medals, 2005 Solesce and 2006 Byzance were both awarded Bronze medals.
This year marked our ninth annual Platinum Judging, in which we attempt to identify some of the best of the best in the Great Northwest. By far, this was our largest judging, as we received 329 entries in this by-invitation-only competition. This surpassed last year's record number of 259. All wines in the Platinum earned their way in by winning a gold medal or equivalent in any of about 30 regional, national and international competitions we track.
Brian Carter Cellars 2004 Solesce, Columbia Valley, $58 After a couple of decades making wine for others, Brian Carter has emerged with his own brand and is focused on producing blends of elegance and distinction. This Bordeaux-style blend is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) and also includes Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The result is a wine that offers aromas of toffee, mushrooms and blackberries, followed by harmonious flavors of marionberries, black tea, black plums and dark chocolate. Washington State Wine Competition (gold). (347 cases, 13.8% alc.)
Brian Carter Cellars 2005 Tuttorosso, Yakima Valley, $30 This is Brian Carter's version of a Super Tuscan. It's dominated by Sangiovese (65%) and includes Cabernet Sauvignon (23%) and Syrah. It provides aromas and flavors of cherries, raspberries and baker's chocolate. It's a beautifully made wine that is well balanced through the long finish. Washington State Wine Competition (gold). (834 cases, 13.7% alc.)
"The 2002 Tuttorosso is one of the best American Super Tuscan-style reds I have ever tasted."
- Dan McCarthy, noted Seattle wine retailer