Monday, October 22, 2012

Carter Cellars, August 24th, 2012

Winery - 6 / Wines - 8
Range:  1 to 9 (9 is best, 5 is average)
Small productions of excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and blends.

I discovered Carter Cellars when browsing half-bottles of Merlot online and came across the 2005 Carter Cellars Merlot.  I bought one to try and opened it young.  While the wine was clearly too young and tannic, the “stuff” was there for the makings of a great wine, including a fragrant nose.  I decided to plan a visit to this winery at the north end of Calistoga to try more of their wines and get a few more half bottles.  As it turns out, as good as this Merlot was, the real masterpiece from this winery is its Cabernet Sauvignon, especially the To Kalon vineyard wines.  The wines are terrific and they are priced accordingly, so don’t look for any bargains here – just well-made wines that stand up against the best that the valley has to offer.

Envy Wines and Carter Cellars Winery

Carter Cellars shares its operations and tasting room with Envy Wines in Calistoga.  Most of the amenities are geared toward the Envy customers that make up the majority of the tasting room business.  The outside of the building seems like a California suburban homage to a Tuscan villa, with arched windows and a veranda surrounding the front.  There is a patio where you can enjoy your wine in the warm Napa Valley sun if you prefer.  When I arrived (on a Friday), there was a live band playing, though I expect this is mostly an end of the week offering.  Inside there is a comfortable feel to the place.  Warm neutral colors are accented by black leather seats, deep red curtains, a table set up for the Carter Cellars tasting, as well as a tasting bar.  During this visit to the winery, a fellow by the name of Mark Carter (the winery operator) joined us for a bit and poured us a couple of the tastings.  I discussed how long I had been drinking their wines and revealed a couple of gems of his making in my collection.  He was quite proud of his latest offering from the To Kalon vineyard in Oakville, and I was duly impressed by it.

Inside the tasting room at Envy Wines and Carter Cellars

During my first visit to Carter, they poured five different wines, one of which they poured twice to compare a freshly opened bottle with one that had been open for several hours.  That was when I learned the importance of counting your pours and limiting yourself.  On this occasion (to my relief), they poured just three wines from the 2010 vintage.  They started with the Hossfeld Coliseum Red Blend (Cabernet plus Merlot), followed with the Coliseum Block Cabernet Sauvignon, and then the “Three Kings” To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon from the famed Oakville vineyard.  The To Kalon was my favorite for the wow! that it offered.  But, the Hossfeld Red Blend is a lovely wine that is ready sooner and is luscious and well rounded.

Based on this experience, I would rate the winery as a 6 and the wines offered as an 8.  This is consistent with all of my previous visits.

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