Weatherborne Wine Corp.
Anderson Valley AVA
There is a bright future for the one-time garagiste winemaker
Thirty-six-year old Cris Carter hails from a family of aviators. His grandfather, uncle and father were pilots, and the young Californian grew up fully expecting to follow in his family’s footsteps into a career in aviation. At the approach of his high school graduation, Cris accompanied his father Nick on visits to the likes of Stanford, Cal Berkeley and others. His father also made another suggestion – Northern California’s esteemed UC Davis and its penchant for producing numerous world-class winemakers. Oh yes, the sprawling 5,300-acre campus also included one important element – a working airport that supported its student flying club!
“I had always been interested in chemistry and the idea of making wine intrigued me,” confessed Cris Carter. “When you threw in the fact I could also work toward my pilot certification while in school, I felt like UC Davis seemed a good fit for me.”
Carter graduated shortly after 9/11 happened, and the market for new pilots suddenly evaporated. There were too many applicants for flying jobs and most had more experience in the air. Cris turned to the wine industry and landed a cellar position at Napa Valley’s influential Cakebread Cellars.
“I was fortunate that Cakebread welcomed a group of around a dozen interns,” Carter remarked. “It was a first class operation and I learned a great deal about the business while I was there.”
A number of other stops included wineries in California, Oregon and New Zealand. Along the way, Cris Carter developed a passion for the world’s most difficult grape (to make), the inflexible Pinot Noir of France’s Burgundy region. “I loved the Pinot Noir and what it produces because it is ethereal – sometimes light on the palate and sometimes brooding,” added Carter. “Some vintners in California attempt to imitate Burgundy’s winemakers, but trying to force a predetermined style onto a
completely different set of variables is folly – this ain’t Burgundy and I’m okay with that.”
In 2012, Cris Carter’s longtime dream of producing his own wine came to a reality with the introduction of Weatherborne Wine Corp.’s first Pinot Noir, all 225 cases. Carter successfully sourced four tons of fruit from the nearby Sta. Rita Hills AVA (Carter is originally a native of Santa Barbara and currently resides there) and produced his first wine under the Weatherborne Wine Corp. label. Weatherborne is the obvious tribute to his family’s long-time prowess in the air and also a more veiled reference to the fact that the weather plays an incredibly important role in the development of high quality grapes.
“Take a place like the Sta. Rita Hills AVA where my grapes originated,” he explained. “The steep hills are duly influenced by the ever present winds off the (Pacific) ocean. The vines work harder and produce more quality fruit and that quality is the single most important facet in making great wine.”
Carter called on his wife, Anya Farquhar (a Scottish name to be sure) for help in designing the Weatherborne Wine Corp. label. The graphic designer and mother produced a label that is more abstract than literal and tends to portray the direction arrow found on roofs and wind gauges. She utilizes a minimalist technique that wraps around the bottle that adds a dimension of intrigue to the product.
The initial release was greeted with an exceptional response and Weatherborne Wine Corp. was on its way. Two years later, and the company will soon have a new home.
“We looked all up and down the coast for an opportunistic site,” informed Cris Carter. “We finally settled on a thirty-one-acre site in Anderson County near the town of Philo. Pinot does well in this location and shows wonderful tension and complexity. We have two knolls on the top of the property that have southern exposure and good drainage. We are about to plant two or three acres and see how it develops.”
The future is bright for the one-time garagiste (often a winemaker who utilizes his garage for making wine). Along with his dad and partner Nick Carson, the pair does most of the work on Weatherborne Wine Corp. while Anya handles the company’s marketing, web design and social media aspects.
It is a rarity that a consumer can truly enjoy the beginnings of a great wine career, but such is the case with Cris Carter and Weatherborne Wine Corp. These magnificent wines will continue to develop and will one day grace the echelons of estate-produced wines.
Hats off to Cris Carter and Weatherborne Wine Corp!
A Note from Cris Carter
Dear Platinum Series Members,
Midnight sessions on the computer learning accounting software.
Lugging wine around from shop to shop. Filling endless forms with
various bureaucracies. Few winemakers call these activities fun.
Necessary, but decidedly unglamorous. Luckily, actually making wine
is tremendous amounts of fun. Harvest, while a lot of work, is the best time of the year; the winery abuzz with activity, fueled by caffeine and camaraderie. Despite usually going home tired, hungry, and wet, the satisfaction of seeing one’s wine progress throughout the year is very satisfying. A few years out, it’s finally possible to put it into perspective.
2012 was a special harvest for me. The weather was textbook Central Coast perfect – foggy spring, warm summer without big heat spikes, no early rains. After working for a half-dozen other winemakers in California, Oregon, and New Zealand, I had finally squirreled away enough money to give it a go and make the wines I always wanted to make. So, the 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir you received is special to me. I only made 225 cases, so it’s quite rare, but also it’s like a first child to me – never again will things feel so new and exciting.
With Weatherborne, I wanted to make wines that represent the best the Sta. Rita Hills can give you – fresh red fruit, wonderful spice, bright acidity and great balance. This blend of John Sebastiano and Melville Vineyards meets my goals. Once you try it, I think you will agree.
Winemaker and Founder