I’ve never been any good at jigsaw puzzles. Too impatient or to right-brained to try and visualize how the pieces fit together. Still, I have a lot of respect for people who can take a bunch of parts and make a sum that’s something special.
That goes double for winemakers who build layers of depth and complexity through blending. Even straight-up varietals benefit from a little bit of this and a splash of that.
One of my favorite mix masters is going to be pouring at the upcoming BLEND tasting on September 16 at Bell Harbor Conference Center. (Win tickets by answering the pop quiz at the end of this post!)
Brian Carter has been creating some wonderfully unique proprietary blends under his own label since 1997. His lineup includes nods to the planet’s most renowned blending regions, Bordeaux and the Rhone. But Carter also hits it out of the park with a white that busts any rule books. I’m talking about the splendid Oriana, of course, made with Viognier, Roussanne and Riesling. A wine that stood up to my homemade mussaman chicken curry and shouted: “Cool!”
The really cool thing about Brian’s blends is that they are made to complement food, rather than demanding to be star of the table. Hooray for restrained, elegant, fully integrated flavors!
“I didn’t grow up in a house with wine drinkers, but my mother was a gourmet cook,” he said in a recent interview. “I learned to appreciate food first, and when I got out to dinner, I always decide what I’m going to eat first and then pick a wine that’s going to complement that.”
Carter’s wines have often been described as taking an Old World approach, but he’s a true trailblazer, especially the way he fits all sorts of pieces together to create something beautiful, building on the amazing fruit he sources from trusted growers.
One of the most memorable meals I had this summer involved an impromptu burger cookout, using ground lamb from Olsen Farms, topping that slightly charred patty with a hunk of feta and serving it with a glass of Brian Carter Cellars Byzance. That’s a Rhone blend featuring Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre, Counoise and Cinsault. You’d think a nicely put-together, high-end wine like this would outshine those humble burgers, but they played well together. Like the Williams sisters in a U.S. Open doubles final.
Now, for the brain-teaser:
Which one of these blending grapes does not grow in Washington?
A. Pinot Meunier
E. All of the above
F. None of the above
The first correct answer (no fair using Google on this challenge!) entered in the comments section below gets a pair of tickets to BLEND. Good luck!