The gift of a microscope and curiosity started Brian Carter on his path to becoming a winemaker before he was even old enough to drive. Growing up in the blackberry-rich Willamette Valley, Brian used his foraging skills to support his scientific endeavors.
“I heard about these things called yeast and heard the way to look at them was to start fermentation. I went and picked blackberries, let them ferment and then looked at the fermenting wine under the microscope and sure enough, there were the little yeasts. I’ve been looking at yeast under the microscope ever since,” he said.
And at age 15, it really was more about the science than the wine, though when people responded positively to the byproduct of his experiments, Brian decided to make more. Still foraging to gather ingredients, he began making wine out of a variety of different plants, though very little of it was grape, he said. Given the chance to drink Brian Carter wine back then, your tasting menu may have included dandelion, rose petal, rosehip and the aforementioned blackberry wine.
It wasn’t until years later, while earning his degree in microbiology at Oregon State University that Brian decided he wanted to become a professional winemaker. As a result, he went down and spent two years at UC Davis School of Viticulture & Enology and then worked in California at Mount Eden Vineyard and Chateau Montelena for a couple more years before the call of his native Pacific Northwest would no longer be ignored. Having visited wineries and vineyards in Washington and Oregon during his years at OSU and Davis, he sensed a great deal of potential in the region and accepted a job offer at Paul Thomas Winery in Bellevue in 1980.
“[Napa Valley] is a pretty place mind you but I prefer the Northwest and so Oregon also intrigued me. I was a little bit less sure that I wanted to spend the rest of my life making pinot noir," he said. "I kind of like diversity and there was more diversity up here then, and now there’s a tremendous amount more diversity.”
The significance of that diversity shouldn’t be taken lightly; in 2010 Brian Carter Cellars harvested 20 varieties of grapes—an amount Brian never imagined when he first moved to Washington–to be made into its catalog of about a dozen wines with some wines containing as many as five different grapes.
Brian is known in the community for his mastery of the art of blending. Having over 30 years commercial winemaking experience, Brian feels he has gotten his formula successfully down. Working with grapes from a variety of different terroir, he strives to create nuanced, well-balanced wines that compliment the food with which they’re served.
“My goal when I’m blending is to make European-style blended wines. They’re not light wines but they’re balanced wines. No one characteristic will hit you over the head. That’s what makes them really good with food.”
And how does he know when the wine has achieved that balance? At the end of the day, Brian doesn’t pull out his microscope to tell him if he’s compensated for the effects of a cooler year on his Tuttorosso sangiovese blend by altering the amounts cabernet and syrah used to balance the structure and color.
“I just have to rely on my taste and ultimately I know if somebody comes into the tasting room and tastes the wine and says, ‘This is great.’ Then I know,” he said.
Here’s Woodinville Patch’s Guide to this week’s events, April 29 – May 6
- Edmonds Winery, 2009 pinot noir
- Sparkman Cellars, 2008 Wilderness, 2008 Ruby Leigh, 2008 Stella Mae, 2008 Kingpin cabernet sauvignon
- EFESTE, 2008 Big Papa cabernet sauvignon, 2010 Evergreen reisling, 2010 Feral sauvignon blanc
- Dusted Valley, 2010 Ramblin' Rose, 2008 Stained Tooth Syrah, 2008 Rachis Syrah, 2009 Squirrel Tooth Alice, 2008 BFM, 2008 VR Special
Friday, April 29
- Edmonds Winery, 19501 144th Ave NE, Suite D700, hosts an evening of candles and wine during this PartyLite Ladies’ Night from 5:30 – 8 p.m. Email your RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, April 30
- DiStefano Winery, 12280 Northeast Woodinville Drive, hosts its Spring Cigar Dinner and Bonfire beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the newly remodeled cellar room. Owner/winemaker Mark Newton pairs four courses with wine and fine cigars to accompany the dinner. Space is limited. These dinners always sell out, so make your reservation in advance by calling 425.487.1648 or visiting the website.
Wednesday, May 4
- Woodhouse Wine Estates, 15500 Woodinville Redmond RD NE, Suite C600, hosts a Mothers and Daughters and Petit French Cakes class with for mer Salish Lodge and Spa pastry chef Laurie Pfalzer from 6:30 – 9 p.m. In this hands-on class you will learn to mix and bake the cakes using a variety of pastry molds and work with seasonal fruits. You will leave with recipes, the knowledge to make these at home, and your freshly baked petite French cakes. Wines will be perfectly paired with each cake. $70 includes Hands-On class, food tastings, and fabulous wine pairings
Thursday, May 5
- , 14450 Woodinville Redmond Rd, invites you to uncork your creativity with the Corks and Canvas: Cherry Blossoms evening from 6 – 9 p.m. Event fee includes paint, brushes, canvas, instruction and one glass of wine. You’ll also receive 20% bottle purchases this evening. The cost is $45, register online or pay with cash at the door.
Tasting Room Happenings
Friday, April 29
- , 14450 Woodinville-Redmond Road, Suite 109, is giving away asparagus fresh from the family farm with any purchase of four or more bottles of wine this Friday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
- , 14111 NE 145th Street, hosts Wine & Women in Woodinville, an evening of award-winning wine, local artisans and live music from 5 – 8 p.m. Local author Jane Porter will be present for a book signing. This event is complimentary.
- , 16116 140th Pl NE, hosts Friday Night Live from 7 – 9 p.m. featuring music by local musician Rob Pearsall and complimentary appetizers. Glass pours begin at $6.
- , 19501 144th Avenue NE, E400, celebrates the release of 3 wines with food by Chef Peter Levine and music by Ben Sheffield and his mobile DJ lounge. Stop by Friday 6 – 9 p.m. or Saturday 1 – 5 p.m. (food and music will be most prominently in play on Saturday).
Saturday, April 30
- , 19501 144th Avenue NW Suite D300, is pairing chocolate and wine from 1 – 5 p.m. $5 tasting fee, waived with wine purchase.
- , and , each have winery dogs that are featured in the new book, Winery Dogs of Washington. Stop by any of these wineries from 1 – 5 p.m. with a copy of the book, or buy one there, meet the dogs, and even get their “pawtographs.”
- , 19501 144th Ave NE, Suite D700,is releasing its 2009 Pinot Noir from the Yakima Valley. Stop by between 1 – 5 p.m. to try it.
- , 19730 144th Ave NE, is releasing its 2008 Big Papa cabernet sauvignon to the public from noon – 5 p.m. along with the 2010 Evergreen reisling and the 2010 Feral sauvignon blanc, which is made using native, wild yeast for fermentation.
- Northwest Totem Cellars is pouring a sneak preview of its upcoming release. You’ll have to come in from noon – 4 p.m. and try it to find out what it is and your only hint is it’s the winemaker’s favorite.
- , 14465 Woodinville-Redmond Road, invites you to join in the Spring Release Weekend celebration on Saturday and Sunday noon – 5 p.m. This is a wine club open house event that is open to the public as space allows so pop in while you’re visiting nearby wineries. You’ll taste through the complete new line-up and see what it means to party Dusted Valley style.
Wednesday May 4
- , 15608 NE Woodinville-Duvall Pl, hosts its weekly Wine Wednesday from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Red Sky Winery is the featured winery this week. $15 gets you wine paired with classic Italianissimo appetizers.
Thursday, May 5
- , 14465 Woodinville-Redmond Road, is pouring Squirrel Tooth Alice, a wine club offering, along with their regular tasting room offerings to celebrate Cinco de Mayo from noon – 5 p.m.
- , 16116 140th Pl NE, is offering 2-for-1 tastings on Cinco de Mayo between 1 – 6 p.m. which means you and a friend both enjoy a tasting for only $10. So gather your crew and join the Matthews staff as they celebrate Mexican culture and traditions.