| December 1, 2010 | Food & Drink
Nick and Teil Allen
“Daddy’s family beer,” grins three-year-old Austin Allen as he points to a bottle of Cabernet. He’s in the flowered courtyard of a charming yellow West End Victorian, where several servers are putting the final touches on the debut presentation of Nicholas Allen Wines’ boutique label, Carte Blanche. Once the site of Charlie Sheen’s infamous Aspen arrest, the home on this particular evening is filled with joy, as evidenced by Austin’s playful smile. He knows his quip stirs laughter, though he’s not yet old enough to comprehend the purpose of the evening’s festivities, which is some serious wine tasting.
Nick Allen and his wife, Teil (a former full-time Aspenite), spend summers in Aspen, escaping the heat of their Tampa home. Driven by a passion for fine wines and the desire to test his own vintner skills, Nick founded Carte Blanche in 2007 and released his first wines in 2010. The limited California cult wines result from Nick’s collaboration with Luc Morlet, an acclaimed third-generation winemaker from Champagne. Nick’s winemaking ancestry also travels decades; his great-grandfather acquired the esteemed Bordeaux first-growth estate Château Haut-Brion in 1935.
Given both Nick and Luc’s reverence for French wines, Carte Blanche “exhibits hands-on viticulture, classical French winemaking adapted to Northern California,” as Nick explains. “I wanted to touch and taste each part of the winemaking process, and I endeavor to produce artisanal, luxury wines of consistent, high quality. They are produced with no time or expense spared, a generations-old commitment towards creating only limited, hand-crafted wine.” Together the duo secured proprietary vineyard sites in Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Russian River and the Sonoma Coast. The result is a collection of outstanding wines, including a Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, Sonoma County Proprietary White, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Napa Valley Proprietary Red.
“The high quality comes from vineyard selection,” says Roger Carlson, manager of the Great Western Grog Shop and a guest at the soirée. “The style from the winemaker produces very open, plush, textured and layered flavors, showing incredible varietal and blending technique.” Other attendees included Jimmy Reiss of New Orleans and Aspen, Susanne and Colby Denison of Austin, Walt Harris, owner of Ute City and Syzygy Restaurant, Rustique owner and county commissioner candidate Rob Ittner, Karen and Courtney Lord, Lady and Chip Fuller, Alain Degraeve, Sal and Francesca Amery, musician Cameron Williams and Jeremy Barbin of Southern Wine & Spirits of Colorado, among others.
Each Carte Blanche wine was paired with cuisine by local chef Alison Richman, who “was drawn to items that were not only in season but not readily available in Aspen.” Utilizing ingredients from her organic garden, Richman’s menu included a king crab salad with apple, jicama and garden herbs (paired with the Proprietary White), smoked mozzarella, prosciutto and dried plums (Chardonnay), seared venison loin, potato latke and blackberry sauce (Cabernet) and Sichuan black pepper chicken with pea tendrils (Proprietary Red).
“When I get the chance to taste a new vine creation, it inspires all of my senses,” adds Richman. As dusk settled over Ajax Mountain and a toast was made to Aspen’s remarkable summer, most guests would agree that their senses were heightened, too. nicholasallenwines.com
PHOTOGRAPH BY RICCARDO SAVI