Brian Carter Cellars Winemaker dinner at Orfeo

A Fall Soiree with Brian Carter Cellars was held at Orfeo restaurant on October 15, 2015. Brian Carter was there to present the latest releases of his wines and Chef Kevin Davis prepared the menu to accompany the wines.

Brian started making wine back in 1980 when there were only 16 wineries in Washington state. Since then, this pioneer of Washington wine has received many awards including Winemaker of the Year twice by Washington Magazine. This year Brian Carter Cellars was awarded Winery of the Year. Tonight the evening started with Brian giving us a rundown on how he came to be a winemaker.

“I came into the field of wine, not because my parents were wine drinkers, but because I was given a microscope when I was 12 years old. I heard about these things called yeast, and I wanted to see what they looked like under a microscope. I was told if you want to look at yeast you have to start a fermentation. So I picked some blackberries, fermented the wine, took a sample, and brought out my microscope — and there they were — the little yeast. I’ve been having those yeast work for me ever since.”


I enjoyed listening to Brian talk about how his winemaking career started and how far he had come. Washington now has over 800 wineries. Brian sits on the Wine Advisory Committee at Washington State University. Although much has changed in the last 30 years, everything at Brian Carter Cellars is still carefully handcrafted. Brian is a master of creating wine blends.BC17

BC15Our first wine was the 2014 Abracadabra Rose 2014. This wine was produced from 7 different grape varieties with Grenache dominating the blend. It was made by Saignee method. 377 cases were made and they all sold out! On the nose there is ripe strawberries, and orange blossoms. It was crisp and refreshing. It paired well with the wide range of antipasto we were served.

BC14The second wine of the evening was Oriana 2012. This Rhone style white blend was made from Viognier 53%, Roussanne 32%, and Riesling 15%. In my opinion this is a very unique blend. One third of the wine was barrel fermented in neutral French oak and the rest saw fermentation in stainless steel tanks. The wine was kept on the lees for six months. An intense nose of pineapple, lemon, green apple and hints of honey gave way to a rich texture on the palate. It was a well balanced wine that paired well with the antipasto.

Antipasto dishes for the evening were Charcoal Roasted Mussels, Shikoku Oysters on the half shell, Dry Pack Scallop Crudo, Burrata with Harvest Panzanella, and  Taleggio Arancini with Heirloom Tomato sauce.


Byzance is a red Rhone style blend. It’s your GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre) blend with a little Counoise and Cinsault thrown in. The 2010 was gorgeous. I loved the fruit flavors of black cherry, black currant, blueberry and plum which were accompanied by a dusting of baking spice, white pepper, and coffee. A rich, full bodied wine with a long smooth finish. Brian said he still has 50 cases of this left so grab some while you still can! This wine was served with Coniglio alla Cacciatora. The braised rabbit with Cascade Mountain Chanterelles, and olives was served over a bed of soft polenta.


Tuttorosso is Brian Carter Cellars version of a Super Tuscan. This blend is comprised of 67% Sangiovese, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Syrah. The wine spends 24 months in a combination of French and European oak with 80% used oak and 20% new oak. I love the nose of ripe raspberries, black plums, licorice and baking spice. It’s an elegant styled wine with medium tannins and a long juicy finish. Tuttorosso is always one of my favorites and the 2010 is scrumptious!

The Tuttorosso 2010 was paired with Chianti Braised Short Ribs. The meat was so tender it fell apart when touched with a fork. These ribs just melted in your mouth! Paysanne vegetables and hand made potato gnocchi accompanied the ribs. This pairing was a heavenly match.

Finally it was time for dessert. Chocolate Budino with Toshi cherries and a pistachio gelato were served with Brian Carter Cellars port styled dessert wine called Opulento. This sweet wine was made from grapes varieties used in Port. The 2012 blend consisted of 58% Touriga Nacional, 21% Souzao, 11% Tinta Roriz, and 10% Tinta Cao. The wine was aged for 18 months in neutral french oak. Aromas and flavors of black cherry, mocha, dark raisins and chocolate complemented the taste and texture of Chocolate Budino.

This was a fantastic showing of some of Brian Carter Cellars latest releases. Brian loves to enjoy a little food while he creates his blends and I think this is what makes his wines so easy to pair with various types of food dishes. This was my first time to dine at Orfeo. Chef Kevin Davis put together a star studded menu for his latest restaurant. I’ll be heading back soon to try more of his culinary works of art. Thanks to Brian and Kevin for a fantastic Fall Soiree!

Lisa Stephenson

Certified Specialist of Wine. WSET Diploma student. Slave to the Grape. Traveling the world and tasting fine wines in pursuit of my wine passion.

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