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Brian Carter Cellars
March 7, 2019 | Brian Carter Cellars

Why Join a Wine Club!

When you visit a winery, chances are that you will also be getting a pitch about joining a winery wine club. Most wine clubs work the same way. Members of the wine club receive multiple shipments of wine per year adding up to a case or more of wine per year. Some wine clubs will offer different options. But, if you love their wines, enjoy the tasting room and friendly staff when you visit and find yourself always taking home a bottle or two each time you visit, orr you live out of town and want a regular supply of wine shipped to you with virtually no hassle.  Then you should join the winery’s wine club.

Benefits of joining a Winery’s Wine Club

  • Wine clubs may ship you wines before they are available to the public.
  • Wine clubs may ship you special wines such as reserve wines or exclusive releases that are not available anywhere except at the winery or to members.
  • Wine shipments are usually discounted off the normal retail price.
  • Wine club members receive a discount on any wines or merchandise they order or purchase from the winery.
  • Wine club members say they enjoy and look forward to receiving the wines and the element of surprise that comes with each shipment.
  • A convenient way to taste the latest offerings from a winery.
  • A winery may offer special events at the winery for wine club members only, or offer discounts on event tickets
  • There is often no cost to join a wine club.

Joining a winery wine club allows it’s members immerse themselves in everything the winery has to offer. It’s easy to lose sight of what draws you to wine in the first place: usually it is the complex flavors that excite the senses. Wine clubs offer bottles that are ready to be uncorked, or access to limited production wines that are not available in the market place. This might even inspire a few spontaneous blind tasting parties or an experimental food and wine pairing dinner with close friends. Regardless of where your wine experiences take you, rekindling your love of wine and the experience of learning something new can make any wine club worth joining.

Which Brian Carter Cellars club is right for you?

Club Vivant (“Life”) offers three releases per year of six bottles each, for a total of 18 bottles annually. It showcases our core collection of old-world, European-style blends.

Club Amour (“Love”) offers a truly special 9-bottle single release annually, highlighting the best of what Brian Carter Cellars has to offer. The single-vineyard, single-varietal “ONE” Collection, and limited-edition bottles to enjoy and add to your remarkable wine collection.

Club Dévotion (“Devotion”) is the epitome of the Brian Carter Cellars wine club experience. Combining the Amour and Vivant releases, you will receive a total of twenty-seven bottles annually, including wines from the core collection and the “ONE” Collection. 

The release parties are held in February, May, and October, with the Amour release in August, and are a great way to pick up your wine, meet new people, enjoy great music, and savor delicious food that complements the release wines perfectly. 

Brian Carter Cellars Benefits….

As a wine club member, you are invited to enjoy long summer afternoons on our patio while soaking in our grand view of Mt. Rainier and the Sammamish Valley. Or cozy up in our members-only Gallery on the weekends and having food delivered from one of the nearby restaurants.  Each membership receives a special tasting flight for you and two guests per visit, so you can invite your friends and family to experience Brian Carter Cellars. There is even an extra discount if you refer your friend and they join.

The Brian Carter Cellars tasting room is dog-friendly, so your four-legged family members are welcome to visit alongside you and get pets from the friendly staff. Make sure to get your pet’s photo on our “Animals of Brian Carter” wall.

Gain exclusive access to Brian Carter Cellars’ “ONE” Collection, library wines, and other limited-edition bottles, and receive information on discount codes and specials that occur throughout the year. 

Please contact our Wine Club Manager, Arielle at 425.806.9463 or with questions for more information.

Time Posted: Mar 7, 2019 at 11:39 AM Permalink to Why Join a Wine Club! Permalink
Brian Carter Cellars
March 1, 2019 | Brian Carter Cellars

Barrels & Wine

When you come into Brian Carter Cellars Winery, you are greeted by hundreds of oak wine barrels stacked to the ceiling. What is the big deal with barrels and wine? Do you need barrels to make good wine? They cost a lot of money, take up a lot of room, and they require a lot of labor to fill, top and rack. In addition, wine is lost through evaporation during aging.

Many wines, I hesitate to say a majority of wines, are probably made without using barrels. Stainless steel tanks can save a winemaker a lot of time and money. When you buy a bottle of wine for under $10.00 or $12.00 a bottle, it is unlikely that the wine was aged in oak barrels. The cost of making wine using oak barrels is too high to be able to sell a bottle of wine at that price point, at least in the United States. Winemakers can get lots of oak character in their wine without the use of oak barrels through the use of oak adjuvants such as oak chips.  So why bother? 

First a little background on oak barrels and wine. Wine predates the use of barrels; indeed, clay amphorae were the containers of choice for storing and transporting wine until around 300 BC when the Romans discovered the Gauls using barrels for beer. You can imagine the dangers of a large amphora of wine being hauled on a cart. Barrels became the favorite container for wine within a couple of centuries. It soon became apparent that barrels added some qualities to wine by imparting oak flavoring and tannins. Both elements helped wine become more age stable since spoilage of wine was a significant issue before the use of sulfur dioxide.  Ultimately winemakers also found that oak barrels, because of their porous nature helped advance the aging of wine. We now know that small amounts of oxygen permeate through the barrel and allow the wine to soften and become more complex over time. 

While all types of wood have been and continue to be used including cherry, walnut, chestnut, acacia, and redwood, oak remains the material of choice over the millennia as the choice material for making wine barrels. Few kinds of wood are as durable, resist leaking, and have the desired flavor characteristics as oak. There was a time when the highest demand for oak was to build ships rather than barrels. I have read that most of the oak forests in France were planted by Napoleon, who wanted to assure a long-term supply for his navy. Let us be thankful for the advent of steel hulls for making these forests available for barrels.

French oak barrels are the most sought after by most winemakers in France, and in this country where two oak species dominate: Quercus rober and Quercus sessiliflora. These two species are also used for barrels in Eastern Europe. American oak barrels are also widely available. French oak barrels are the most expensive and cost in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $1,400 apiece, while European oak is typically closer to $800 and American oak is closer to $500.  American oak prices have been on the rise recently because of the growth in the bourbon whiskey industry, which requires the exclusive use of American oak. One reason that American oak barrels are less expensive is that they are less labor intensive to make. French oak has to be hand split, or it will leak, whereas American oak staves can be machined because of their dense wood structure. French oak can be further categorized by the individual forests of origin such as the Vosges and Never. Each forest has its subtle differences in quality. Many winemakers are steering away from buying oak by forest and are instead focusing on the tightness of the oak grain.

Winemakers have many qualities of oak they like to specify including size, toast, length of time for the aging of the staves, and the stave thickness. A cooper or Tonnellerie is a person or company that makes barrels. Oak barrels are almost always toasted (although the heads may not be) and this adds almost an unlimited number of variables that often define a cooper’s style. Different styles can include the type of fire (propane vs. wood), time, temperature and moisture of the wood. Every winemaker tends to have his favorite coopers. The typical barrel is about 59 gallons or 223 liters. While this is the most popular size, barrels can be of almost any size imaginable. Another popular size is the 500L or so-called puncheon. Why the 223-liter barrel is popular is a bit of a mystery, but my theory is that it is the largest size that a (small) Frenchman could easily move around. The smaller the barrel, the greater the surface area to volume, and the more oxygen is transferred into the wine. Of course, an important decision for a winemaker who would like to see his wine either age quickly or more slowly.

So, back to the question, why do we still bother with this ancient system for storing wine? The best wines, certainly the best reds, are made using oak barrels. Consumers have become accustomed to the vanilla, coffee, caramel and smoke characters that oak imparts on wine. The slow oxidation makes the wine less angular and more complex. That is why here at Brian Carter Cellars all of our red wines are stored in 100% oak barrels.

Brian Carter, Winemaker


Time Posted: Mar 1, 2019 at 10:54 AM Permalink to Barrels & Wine Permalink