Settling Down

There are two basic kinds of winemakers— barnacles and floaters. Extreme barnacles are so attached to a particular set of vineyards or terroir that they aren't comfortable if they haven't overseen the development of every grape from little green nubbin to fruition. Extreme floaters, like the jet-set vagrants depicted in Jonathan Nossiter's documentary Mondovino, are at home everywhere and nowhere, selling their vinous skills to the highest bidder. Among local winemakers, Brian Carter has managed to keep a foot in both worlds. As part-owner and winemaker of Harry Alhadeff's Apex label, he's developed quite a portfolio of high-end varietal wines, yet he's managed to keep his cred as a free agent, able to advise anyone who needs advice for a price. But recently Carter's been making noises about putting his own name on a label, and rumors last week that Alhadeff was quietly putting Apex on the market magnified those noises. Sure enough, Carter confirms that a Brian Carter Bordeaux-style blend is now entering the market, with a 2002 grenache-based "Rhône blend" and a sangiovese-driven "Supertuscan" just going into the bottle for fall 2005 release. A number of things moved Carter to become less of a moving target. Apex's winery is in Eastern Washington, but "my sons are at the age that I need to be on this side of the mountains a lot more to be with them," he told me last week. "I've had lots of opportunity to satisfy my creative impulses at Apex, but for a couple of reasons, I've been wanting to do more my own thing. And a lot of people have told me that taking on the entrepreneurial thing is long overdue." Carter also says that his desire to change the direction of his winemaking played a part in the decision. "I was a [University of California] Davis grad, and for a long time was like all Davis grads of my time, wanting to play very much by the science-based winemaking rules. But recently, I've been loosening up and sort of throwing the rulebook out the window and just making wine by the seat of my pants, by intuition." Carter also feels the American obsession with one-varietal wines is beginning to fade. "The excitement now is about blends; blending lets you stretch your opportunities more. My 'Supertuscan' is mainly sangiovese, but with some cabernet sauvignon and even a smidgen of syrah. I'm planning a white later on that's really a little wild and crazy, viognier and chard and maybe even a little riesling." But one thing at a time; while putting together investors for a winery of his own in Woodinville, "I'm still going to be making the wines at Apex through this fall's harvest. At least." rdowney@seattleweekly.com

 
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