Wine Awards & Ratings
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.
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
2009-2010 Tanzer-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