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Carter Cellars

Calistoga AVA

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All of the grapes for Carter Cellars’ wines come from steep, hillside properties (at an elevation of around 1,100 feet) that only produce a limited amount of grapes per acre.


Carter Cellars’ successful rise to a top level California winery is a simple story of two men whose friendship evolved into a remarkable business partnership. How they became friends is a tale worth repeating.

The two men, Mark Carter and Nils Venge, met several years ago, thanks to Carter’s interest in fine wines. Carter actually began his career as a developer of restored Victorian homes in his hometown of Eureka, California. The homes overlooked Humboldt Bay, a fixture in far northern California. One success followed another and soon Carter had built a number of Victorians and created himself a successful business. A hotel property followed and then a truly thriving restaurant named 301 Restaurant was added to Carter’s portfolio of businesses. It was at the restaurant that Mark Carter established a Wine Spectator Grand Award Wine List that has continued to secure awards to this day.

In Mark Carter’s quest for wine authenticity, heralded Napa Valley winemaker Nils Venge was invited to appear at a winemaker event at Carter’s restaurant. It was the same Nils Venge of the perfect 100 score by Robert Parker in 1985 while at Goth Vineyards. That initial appearance turned into many successful return events during which Carter and Venge became close friends. When Carter finally decided to develop Carter Cellars in 1994, it was Nils Venge who provided the professional help that assured Carter Cellars a successful beginning. Fruit was secured from a number of sources and the first Carter Cellars wines were released to high scores and good acceptance from the national wine media. The original 160 cases have evolved into about 1,600 cases, still minuscule by anyone’s standards for the wine industry.

That was more than twenty years ago, and the awards and accolades have continued unabated during that period. Carter Cellars has raised its presence steadily and is now recognized as one of the top wineries in Northern California.

All of the grapes for Carter Cellars’ wines come from steep, hillside properties (at an elevation of around 1,100 feet) that only produce a limited amount of grapes per acre. The intensity and wonderful flavors the vines bestow on the grapes more than makes up for the lack of quantity. The winery only makes about thirty barrels of each wine, which really isn’t all that much. All of the wines are crushed and made at Mark Carter’s other Napa Valley winery, Envy Winery, which is located on Tubbs Lane in Calistoga.

In 2009, Mark Carter added winemaker Mike Smith, whose expertise has had an incredibly beneficial effect on the wines of Carter Cellars. Smith started his winemaking journey under the tutelage of Thomas Brown (Schrader Cellars and Outpost Wines) and has worked with a vast array of wine labels over the years.

We are proud to offer this incredible 97-Point rated wine to our Platinum Plus! Wine Club members this month. Please enjoy!


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