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Brian Carter Cellars
December 9, 2020 | Brian Carter Cellars

Brian Carter shares the highlights of our 2020 Harvest

Time to take a deep breath (hard to do with this mask on), relax a bit and assess the harvest 2020. Harvest time is inspirational and exhausting all in one big two-month mind and body expanding package. 

Actually, it is hard to separate out exactly what harvest means; it always seems like the rest of the year is either a big lead up to harvest or dealing with the results of the harvest.

From inspecting the vineyards and working with growers to trying to make the best grapes possible, to cleaning the grape bins and tanks, to running analysis on the wines, racking, topping and finally bottling, it is one continuous cycle of winemaking that never seems to stop. Indeed, since we now have wines in the barrel from both 2019 and 2020 vintages (and even some 2018 Solesce and 2014 Opulento), multiple vintages are pulling the winemakers in many directions at a given time. OK, OK, let’s focus on what happened this year the grapes were coming in the door. 

We had a good one, no major hic-ups, no one was injured, no serious breakdowns in equipment, the crew was excellent and overall things went smoothly.  And, by the way, we made some really good wine!  Harvest started a little ahead of schedule with Syrah and Tempranillo from the warm site of Stone Tree coming off on the 3rd of September. That was well before Labor Day which was late this year on the 7th, so no extended summer vacations for the harvest team.

From there, grapes came in steadily until October 24th when the last of the Sangiovese was plucked from Solstice Vineyard, just as a big freeze was arriving in the state, pushing all the winemakers to finish up. Overall quantity was down, partly because we cut back a bit this year but also because the crop was smaller than normal.  In the end, we brought in 106 tons of grapes, just over half of which was for Brian Carter Cellars and the balance was used for our custom-crush clients.

Reducing the harvest down turned out to be a good policy, in part because we were not able to crush as large a quantity of grapes per day as we normally do. This is because we had to ‘social distance’ on the ‘JACK’ picking line. We used plastic screens to separate the crew which meant there just was not enough space to have as many personnel and, as a result we had to run more slowly and crush less tons per day.

Fortunately, there never seemed to be a big rush, things got ripe in an orderly fashion and I was able to keep on top of my trips to the vineyard, walking the rows, tasting the grapes, bringing back samples for analysis and making keen decisions on when to harvest. Overall conditions in the vineyard were pretty optimal this year, with very few really high temperatures that could have caused much sunburn or burned up acidity, but with plenty of heat units for the size of the crop, allowing everything to ripen up on schedule.

These more moderate temperatures optimized both fruit character in all the grapes and color in the red grapes. The resulting wines have plenty to offer. Some really good varietal characters, excellent balance, and dark colors in the reds. Of course, we are still assessing the quality, but the whites and the rosé wines are particularly exciting along with Tempranillo.

We started the first post-malolactic rackings at the begining of December, and we were done by the end of the year which it was a great head-start. Now will be time to start getting Oriana and Abracadabra Rosé ready for bottling. Then there is my favorite time of the year when I get to start blending the 2020 wines. The cycle continues…

Drink some great wines this season. Stay Safe.  Hope to see you soon.

Brian Carter Cellars
August 10, 2018 | Brian Carter Cellars

A Trip to the Vineyard: Veraison is Here

Having just returned from the vineyards in Eastern Washington, I can report that veraison is underway. Veraison is when grape berries change color and texture on their way to ripening. Before veraison, the berries are hard and green, while after the berries are soft and red or light yellow, depending on the grape variety. This transformation is much easier to see in red varieties where it is easy to see the percentage of berries have changed color. In the picture to the left, about half the berries are either starting or are through the process of veraison.  This picture was taken at Stone Tree Vineyard, Wahluke Slope, where veraison was the most advanced of the ten vineyards I visited this week.

Veraison can be a critical time for winemakers and growers. It marks an essential transition for the ripening process. There are a couple of thoughts on how long it takes between veraison and harvest, all of which depend on the area, weather and the grape variety. Some people say six weeks is a good measure, but it indeed can be longer or shorter. In any case, it is time to start getting the picking bins and tanks ready; harvest is right around the corner!

 Veraison can also be an important time to start the process of ‘green thinning.’  Winemakers and growers work together to determine if the vine is in balance: is there the appropriate amount of crop on the vine for the fruit to ripen in a timely way and maximize quality? If the crop is too large, this is a particularly good time to trim some of the clusters as it is easy to see which ones are lagging behind. When the greener clusters are thinned in favor of the redder ones, it evens out the ripeness of the clusters on the vine and is an important quality consideration as it will lead to more uniformly ripe clusters when picked.  Some varieties tend to ripen more evenly than others, so this process is more important in varieties that tend to have uneven ripeness such as Petit Verdot. It is important to time ‘green thinning’ so that you can see the lagging green clusters. Often this is when about 80% of the berries have completed veraison. On my latest trip, most of the vineyards were still little early for green thinning to occur. I will be returning in a few weeks to walk the vines and talk to the growers on how to proceed. 

~Brian Carter, Winemaker

Time Posted: Aug 10, 2018 at 9:59 AM Permalink to A Trip to the Vineyard: Veraison is Here Permalink
Brian Carter Cellars
December 18, 2017 | Brian Carter Cellars

Happy Holidays

Holiday Gifting Ideas

With Chanukah already here and just a few days left till Christmas, Santa is making his list and checking it twice. Brian Carter Cellars has you covered for all the wine lovers on your gift list, and of course you can always treat yourself! A little gift for yourself never hurt.

Have the crew coming over this holiday season? Our large format bottles, now on special, will make the wine lover on your gift list very merry...they might even share!

  • 10% off 1 Bottle,
  • 15% off 2 Bottles,
  • 20% off 3+ Bottles

Which is your favorite? We have large format bottles available in the following veriatals: 2012 Corrida, 2010 Tuttorosso, 2010 Le Coursier, 2010 Trentenaire, 2010 Solesce and even a few 2009 Solesce available. (Wine Club pricing is 20% off 1 bottle, 25% off 2 bottles, and 30% off 3+ bottles).



Drawing a blank on what to give that special someone on your list? How about an Opulento vertical holiday gift pack with one bottle each of 2013 & 2014 Opulento. It makes the perfect holiday or hostess gift. The wine is deep garnet in color with aromas of raspberry, cherry and chocolate with hints of almond and orange peel. On the palate this wine has opulent flavors of chocolate and berry fruits with a long, perfectly balanced sweet finish.

Stop by the tasting room for your gift packs today.
Reg: $80  Sale: $56 - a 30% savings!


We are closed on the following days to allow our employees to enjoy the holiday
with their families.
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day




Winery News!!

Now that grapes have been harvested and pressed, the winery crew can relax a bit, but the work does not stop. Our assistant winemaker, Robert Takahashi, is busy in the lab running the 2017 wines for TA, pH, alcohol, sugar and malic acid. Kelly, our cellar hand is busy racking red barrels, while the white and rosé barrels are about to be topped off.  Brian is planning ahead for spring bottling and thinking about putting the finishing touches on a couple of final 2016 blends. So far, the 2017 wines are looking good with deeply colored reds and balanced fruit, Brian is tasting the wines daily and he has not picked his favorites quite yet.



The Carter Collection

Brian Carter Cellars is the first Washington State winery to focus exclusively on blends which arose from Brian’s passion for blended wines. He loves the process of blending, starting with walking the vineyard thinking about how a varietal of grape will contribute to pairing these wines with seasonal food. As great as blends are, Brian acknowledges that some of the best wines in the world are 100% varietal.  Some of the best examples being Pinot Noirs from Oregon or Chardonnays from Burgundy. Although Brian might be slightly biased, he has been known to stick his neck out and say that blends are among the finest wines made in Washington.

In 2010, Brian Carter Cellars released our first ONE series wine, a 2007 Malbec from Stone Tree Vineyards. Since then we have been making limited releases of single varietal wines that complement our classic European-style blends. The ONE designation is used to denote a line of wines made entirely from ONE varietal and from ONE vineyard.  It is important to note that each lot of grapes is brought into the winey as a varietal, and fermented, barreled and racked as a single vineyard, single varietal.

As Brian is evaluating each lot during the spring and summer blending, there is occasionally a lot that separates itself from the rest.  Many times, this special lot goes into the blend because it adds that special touch. Sometimes the varietal intensity is so outstanding that Brian doesn’t use it all in the blend. For example, when he needs the Cabernet Franc character in the Le Coursier but doesn’t want the Cabernet Franc to overwhelm the blend. Brian might blend two barrels of a six-barrel Cabernet Franc lot and keep the other four barrels to be released as part of the ONE series. Other times, Brian might have two great Cabernet lots he is evaluating for Solesce and the one works best for blending, and the other is exceptional on its own, then he may set it aside for ONE.  So far, we have made between 1-3 ONE wines per year, each being small lots of 50 to 150 cases each. Most recently we have released three ONE wines, all three of which are outstanding examples of their variety:

2012 Sangiovese:  These grapes came off the vine in late October, looking like a great wine was going to be made. Indeed, most of this lot went into our 2012 Tuttorosso blend which is a stand-out wine from this stand-out vintage. Brian did manage to pry away three barrels of his favorite Sangiovese from the Boushey Vineyard. It isn’t the easiest grape to grow, it takes a particularly special site to do well, and in only the best years can it make a stand-alone wine worthy of the ONE label.

Dark in color, the wine opens with a very European perfume showing of pie cherries, dried herbs and flowers with a touch of wild game. Classic Chianti flavors and food friendly acidity associated with the great wines of Italy make this wine a standout with red tomato sauces and high fat meats such as short ribs or cinghiale (‘wild boar’ in Italian).

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon: Red Mountain has long been Brian’s favorite source for Cabernet Sauvignon and the E & E Shaw, vineyard, owned and operated by Ed and Eve Shaw has ranked up there near the top. The 2011 vintage was much cooler than usual resulting in Brian making the decision not to make any 2011 Solesce. This spectacular wine, however, stood out above the rest and demanded to be bottled on its own.

Very dark in color, the wine has classic varietal characters of cassis and blackberry with added notes of cedar and coffee  in the aroma, running seamlessly  onto the palate. A Bordeaux like balance of well-integrated tannins and acids shows off a wine of both dimension and charm.  

2013 Merlot: This is our first Merlot under the ONE label.  Coming from the Olsen Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, this is one of the most outstanding blocks of Merlot in a state that makes a lot of great Merlot. Having tasted Merlot wines from all over the world, Brian maintains that Washington has the best expression of Merlot fruit from anywhere.

This wine is dark garnet in color, with intense and complex aromas including black cherry, blackberry, raspberry and pomegranate with hints of earth and toasted oak. The palate is round with just the right hints of tannin for aging and a balanced lengthy finish. 


Brian Carter Cellars Calendar

We are closed on the following days to allow our employees to enjoy the holiday
with their families.
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day


Wine and Chocolate Pairing Event - January 27, 2017  1-4pm 

Join us for a delicious afternoon with local chocolatier. Scarlata Untamed Chocolate will be serving up samples of their fine chocolates to enjoy with our European inspired blended wines.

Brian Carter Cellars Tasting Room
14419 Woodinville Redmond Rd NE | Woodinville, WA 98072 | 425.806.9463
Open 12-5pm, daily | Last tasting begins at 4:30pm |

Copyright (C) 2017 Brian Carter Cellars. All rights reserved.


Time Posted: Dec 18, 2017 at 1:17 PM Permalink to Happy Holidays Permalink
Brian Carter Cellars
November 15, 2017 | Brian Carter Cellars

What's going on at Brian Carter Cellars in November


We welcome you to our monthly newsletter!  We have rejuvenated this newsletter to stay connected and share with you what’s happening at Brian Carter Cellars. You’ll find that it is filled with news, helpful hints and tips, future events, and even some recipes on occasion. If ever you don't wish to continue receiving it, simply click 'unsubscribe' at the bottom of any issue. We want this newsletter to be valuable for you so please share your feedback and suggestions to help us improve. Contact Us

This past September we said “Buongiorno” to Mike Stevens.  Mike along with Brian Carter founded Brian Carter Cellars in 2005.

Mike has been a passionate ambassador for the winery,” said Brian Carter.  “His relationships with our wine club members and those guests visiting our tasting room have contributed greatly to the success that we’ve come to enjoy over the past 12 years.

Moving forward, we would like to welcome to the team, Patti Youngbluth, as Sale and Marketing Director. She is primary responsibility for marketing our award-winning wines and to further develop our growing portfolio of regional and national accounts.  Brian Carter, will remain the company’s winemaker and assume the general manager position for Brian Carter Cellars.  “With several new investors and new management in place, I am incredibly optimistic as we enter a new era for Brian Carter Cellars, said Carter.

To that we raise a glass and wish Mike the best on his next adventure!

Harvest 2017

Wednesday, November 8th marked the end of harvest 2017 as we pressed off the last of our grapes! This year will be one to remember as we experienced some things we have not seen in previous vintages. Of course, every vintage has its own unique features and no two are the same. Due to a combination of wet weather early, hot temperatures in early September, and fairly cool temperatures in October made for an up and down journey, for both the grapes and the winemakers. These unusual conditions made it harder to choose picking times as both the sugar/acid numbers, and the flavors coming from the vineyards were harder to pin to past experiences. We certainly could say that all is well as the wines are tasting good coming out of fermentation. Of course, it is still very early to tell but overall, Brian is pleased with what he is tasting. In particular, some of the later picked red varieties such as Grenache, Sangiovese and Petit Verdot seem to be shining with good color intensity, nice fruit and acid balance.

Let the real winemaking begin!

Introducing the Brian Carter
Dedication Series - 2013 ACE

Cabernet Sauvignon / Syrah

I am very proud to introduce the Inaugural Edition of our Dedication Series of wines. My passion is making great blended wines and I offer a great selection of them, largely inspired by the classical blends of Europe. Never wanting to stand still, I am offering up a new series of blended wines outside of the box (but still inside the bottle). Each wine will be unique in its blend and unique in to whom it is dedicated. For our first of the series I have made a blend of two varieties less often blended in Europe but a blend rapidly becoming a Washington State Classic: Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Brian pictured with his father and grandfather.

This wine is dedicated to my Grandfather A.W. "Nick" Carter who learned to fly before he learned to drive. During World War I he was stationed in France where he is credited with 17 air victories, earning several medals including the Distinguished Service Cross. He also had a very positive effect on my life and gave me many of my best memories as a young boy.  I have named this wine, one of distinguished character, 'ACE' after my beloved Grandfather Nick.

- Brian Carter  

More Information

Exclusive to Wine Club Members

Special Tasting with Array Cellars

November 18, 2017  2 - 5pm

Join us for an afternoon with Array Cellars in the Brian Carter Tasting Room. We have a special relationship with Array Cellars in that Brian Carter is also their winemaker. Their goal is to bring you three unique bottlings, each expressing something different but clearly Washington chardonnay. Join us for a fun afternoon of tasting.

2013 Washington State - Full ripe flavors of hazelnut, citrus, apple and vanilla. Good depth and a lingering finish with firm acidity.  Retail: $25  Wine Club: $21.25

2013 Celilo Vineyard - These old vine clones produce a wine with citrus/lemon aromas and flavors, powerful acidity, and a notable mineral finish. These vines have produced chardonnay aging well for 20 years and more, rivaling legendary counterparts Hanzell and Stony Hill in California.  Retail: $32  Wine Club: $27.50

2013 Dijon Clone - Taken from a single block of Dijon clone 76 in the Otis Harlan vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Believed to be the oldest such vines in the state. Our most burgundian wine, with a brilliant gold color, deep flavors of peach and marzipan, and a long silky finish from “sur lie” aging. Retail: $32  Wine Club: $27.50

Wine Pairings for Thanksgiving

What will you be serving with your Thanksgiving dinner?

Question: Red, White or Rose? - A good and simple strategy for Thanksgiving wine is to offer a great bottle of each to allow your guests their choice. Plus, it's a good opportunity to introduce your guests to something new that they might not have tried before.

For a white wine, look for a wine with well-balanced acidity. The Oriana is the perfect choice for those that prefer traditional white wines. With its seductive aromas and perfect balance, its popularity just keeps soaring. The 2015 vintage is a richly aromatic wine, resplendent with tangerine, apricot, ripe pear and apple with touches of honey and anise. Crisp acidity greets the palate while mouth filling fruit flavors linger making this an excellent companion to any Thanksgiving table.

Whether your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is the turkey or the sweet potatoes, a good rosé will pair well with everything on the table. Abracadabra Rosé is a beautiful electric pink in color with aromas of ripe strawberries abound with more subtle notes of peaches and orange blossoms.  On the palate is bountiful fruit backed up by deliciously crisp acidity. It’s not too big, it’s not too small; as Goldilocks would say, if she were old enough to drink, it’s just right. 

For red wine, look for soft tannins that will yield to and blend with your dishes and will delight most red wine lovers without overpowering lighter turkey flavors. The ripeness of the 2012 Byzanse with its complex nose of bright red cherries, tar, white pepper and the garigue spice that you get walking the fields of Provence is the perfect complement for Thanksgiving. The wine explodes in your mouth with lots of bright fruit and finishes with a long slightly earthy mineral note. A great balance and a hint of tannin make this wine a great match for a wide range of foods, including your mother-in-law's stuffing recipe.

Ending on a Sweet Note - Well, what pairs with traditional thanksgiving desserts like Pumpkin or Pecan Pie? We suggest a glass of Opulento. Deep impenetrable garnet color, with aromas of raspberry, cherry and chocolate with hints of almond and orange peel. On the palate, this wine has opulent flavors of chocolate and berry fruits with a perfectly balanced and satisfyingly sweet finish.

Brian Carter Cellars Calendar

Special Tasting Event with Array Cellars - November 18, 2017 2-5pm

Closed for Thanksgiving - November 23, 2017

Wine and Chocolate Pairing Event - November 29, 2017 2:30-5pm  
Local Chocolatier, Wellington Chocolates

St. Nick's "Cure-ated" Wine Tasting Night - December 1, 2017 7-9:30pm
Join Brian Carter Cellars and forty other Woodinville wineries for a festival holiday event. Special guest chef Justin Severino, James Beard Award-nominee and owner of Cure Restaurant in Pittsburgh teams up with Novelty Hill Januiks executive chef Seth Fernald to host a special evening of Cure-ated food. 
Tickets are still available:

Time Posted: Nov 15, 2017 at 9:36 AM Permalink to What's going on at Brian Carter Cellars in November Permalink
Brian Carter Cellars
August 22, 2016 | Brian Carter Cellars

2016 Harvest Update From our Winemaker, Brian Carter

Here we go again! Harvest 2016 is rapidly approaching. Chateau Ste. Michelle is harvesting Sauvignon Blanc starting this week! For Brian Carter Cellars, we are talking probably the first week of September for our first grapes. This week we start cleaning the harvest bins in anticipation of sending them out to our growers in time for them to pick into them. It is another early harvest but fortunately the warmth occurred early in April, May and June. The temperatures in July and August, at least up to now have been more moderate. For me the ideal would be to hold the daily highs between 80 and 90 degrees with nights cooling to the 50's. Those kinds of moderate temperatures hold the acidity and fruit while building deep color. Looks like excellent quality so far and a bit bigger crop than last year as well. I will keep you posted as I am over in the vineyards almost every week between now and the end of the October.

Meantime, Robert and I are putting together the 2015 blends. The Solesce, Trentenaire and Le Coursier are already racked and blended with the Corrida and Byzance happening in the next few days. And somehow I have to get a couple of days off to backpack in the mountains with my two sons (a 16 year annual tradition) before it all starts in earnest.

Valerie Valerah!

Time Posted: Aug 22, 2016 at 10:13 AM Permalink to 2016 Harvest Update From our Winemaker, Brian Carter Permalink Comments for 2016 Harvest Update From our Winemaker, Brian Carter Comments (1)