Carte Blanche is owned by Nicholas Allen, New Jersey born and raised, but with a big time French connection in the wine business. His Grandfather, Clarence Dillon, had the good sense to buy Chateau Haut Brion in the 1930s, and it has been in the family ever since (La Mission Haut Brion and Chateau Quintus were acquired later on). Nicholas’s cousin, Prince Robert of Luxembourg, is now president of Domaine Clarence Dillon, which includes all of the family wineries and businesses in Bordeaux.
With such deep ties to the business, Nicholas decided to throw his hat in the ring, hoping to be able to pass something on to his own children. In 2007 he founded Nicholas Allen Wines and Carte Blanche, its name representative of starting with a clean slate in California and the unlimited possibilities that allowed. When he met Luc Morlet, French by birth (with a family winery in Champagne) but firmly ensconced in the new world with a terrific track record at Peter Michael, the two hit it off. Luc came on board as Carte Blanche winemaker and got the winery got off to a fast start, achieving critical acclaim before leaving at the beginning of 2014.
Current winemaker, Helen Keplinger, took over for Luc, bringing a resume that includes work with Heidi Peterson Barrett at Paradigm, Kathy Joseph at Fiddlehead, as well as Grace Family, Claude Gros, David Abreu, and Michel Rolland. She was winemaker at Bryant for several vintages, and owns and operates Keplinger Wines along with her husband, DJ Warner (also GM at Carte Blanche).
Carte Blanche wines include Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, a white Bordeaux blend (no surprise given the Pessac Leognan connections here!), a mix of Rhone inspired wines, and several superb red Bordeaux blends. For Bordeaux varietals, Carte Blanche sources fruit from some of the top vineyards in Napa Valley, including Beckstoffer’s Missouri Hopper, ToKalon, and Orchard vineyards. To date, the wines have been very successful — fairly ripe, modern, richly expressive, and deftly crafted under the guidance of the super-talented Luc Morlet. It will be fun to see where Helen takes the winery with 2014, her first start to finish vintage. Early signs are very promising!