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December 2, 2011

Carte Blanche participated in a very special weekend with Garden & Gun magazine (a staple on our coffee table), at one of our favorite Florida haunts, the Gilchrist Club. We co-hosted the opening dinner, featuring four wines paired with Gilchrist Club Chef Matt Boring’s gourmet cuisine.  Saturday’s member quail hunt and field feast was followed by the Garden & Gun post-hunt supper at this Northern Florida sporting plantation, as guests from across the country were entertained by the band Travelin’ Light.  Check it out.

TAMPA MUSEUM OF ART Pavilion XXVI Patron Party

November 21, 2011

November 5, 2011
This annual event is one of the hottest tickets of the year in Tampa, Florida. We served Carte Blanche wines at the Pavilion XXVI Patron Party, which benefited the Tampa Art Museum and was held at the beautiful home of Bretta and Don Sullivan.  Located on the first fairway of Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club, the home hosted Tampa’s top art patrons, and June Annis and Natalie Annis Goodwin chaired the event. It was a lovely evening that celebrated the arts, and we are thrilled to be supporters of such an important Tampa institution. This was the first event to stir up excitement for the Pavillion Auction.  The event raised over $240,000 for the museum’s educational and exhibition programs.  The Celebrity Chef Dinner Lifestyle Lot, with magnums of our 2008 Carte Blanche Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2008 Napa Valley Proprietary Red, fetched $17,000!

Bern’s Halfway to Winefest No. 15 Party and Auction

November 20, 2011

November 3, 2011
Sidebern’s Restaurant
hosted the exciting Bern’s Halfway to Winefest No. 15 party, with proceeds benefiting the Vincent Lecavalier Cancer Center at All Children’s Hospital. Guests joined Vinny and friends for an evening of fine wine, spirits, and cuisine by SideBern’s Executive Chef Chad Johnson. Carte Blanche donated two 2008 magnums to an incredible silent auction. The Vinny Lecavalier Foundation works to build hope for children and families battling pediatric cancer and blood disorders and to fund medical research, programming and pediatric patient care through the new Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL.


November 17, 2011

October 14, 2011
Carte Blanche participated in a very special evening that benefited Pilgrim Africa. “Jasiri: Bold Love for Africa” was the theme of this annual fundraiser, held Oct. 14, 2011, at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, WA. Pilgrim, an indigenous African Christian organization, has offices in Seattle and Soroti and Kampala, Uganda, and provides spiritual, material, social and economic support through integrated multi-sectored interventions, generating wholeness, creativity and dignity. The Jasiri dinner event featured a representative team from the Music Dance and Drama Team at the high school, Beacon of Hope, supported in northern Uganda. We were very proud to be a part of this crowd of change makers—our 2009 Proprietary White was a crowd favorite, while our 2009 Sandstone Seven, Rhone white, was gifted to the 30 patron hosts.

Robb Report, November 2011 Edition

November 15, 2011

Wine Spectator, Nov. 15th 2011

Cabernet Sauvignon and Proprietary Red received 96 points Wine Spectator

August 25, 2011

96 Points from Wine Spectator!

June 24, 2011

Tampa Bay Metro

May 6, 2011

“The Freedom To Create”
by Kevin Pelley, Certified Sommelier
View pdf

St. Petersburg Times

April 24, 2011

Tampa vintner, Bern’s Winefest newcomer uncorks a dream

Nicholas Allen, left, and his chief winemaker, Luc Morlet, toast at SideBern’s during the Bern’s Winefest. Allen’s family owns French wineries; his company is based in Napa Valley.

Nicholas Allen, left, and his chief winemaker, Luc Morlet, toast at SideBern’s during the Bern’s Winefest. Allen’s family owns French wineries; his company is based in Napa Valley.

TAMPA — Soon enough, Nicholas Allen will learn whether the four years he has spent trying to break into the wine business will pay off.

But for now, looking out over a sea of friendly faces at the 14th annual Bern’s Winefest on Sunday, the former Tampa real estate broker could only smile.

“This is sort of a dream realized for me,” said Allen, 37, during a seminar launching his new California wine label, Carte Blanche. “I’m a little overwhelmed.”

A few days before, in his first media interview, Allen said he frequently hears the old saw about how to make a small fortune in the wine business: Start with a large one.

He says he doesn’t have a large fortune but does enjoy a few advantages over your average Tampa real estate guy interested in starting a luxury-priced wine label.

There was the advice and support from the sommeliers at Bern’s Steak House and SideBern’s (and a huge wine cellar to explore). There was Luc Morlet, one of the top winemakers in the world, who agreed to join his team.

And there was his family, which just happens to own two of the most important wineries in France.

His great-grandfather, Clarence Dillon, bought Chateau Haut-Brion in 1935 (a first-growth winery operation where grapes have grown since the 1400s), and in 1983 the family company, Domaine Clarence Dillon, bought Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion. It’s the kind of pedigree that opens doors and draws wine lovers.

He grew up on the family farm in New Jersey, and fine wine from the family cellar was part of every celebration. He moved to Tampa in 2003 to be near the family of his wife, Teil.

Kevin Pelley, wine director for SideBern’s and its wine store, says he initially knew nothing about Allen’s wine background. He was just a regular customer who knew and loved wine. “He’s really down to earth,” Pelley said.

The Bern’s wine experts cheered him along as he planned Carte Blanche, gave him a prime perch at Winefest and made room on the shelves.

Allen is producing “microcult” wines, meaning they are limited and expensive. There is a 2008 cabernet sauvignon (300 cases), a 2008 chardonnay (200), a 2008 proprietary red (125) and a 2009 proprietary white (125). The proprietaries are special blends from Napa and Sonoma vineyards where Allen’s company has long-term commitments (he doesn’t grow grapes). They are priced from around $50 to $125 a bottle.

The wines are so new they have not been rated. So it will be an anxious few months ahead for Allen as the small but intensely interested (and opinionated) world of luxury wine lovers takes its measure of this new label. Morlet has had some wines with stratospheric scores, and Allen can only hope some of his magic rubs off on Carte Blanche.

Kurt Cuccaro, co-owner of Mazzaro’s Italian Market in St. Petersburg, was there as Allen and Morlet poured samples for eager festgoers inside a crowded tent. He liked what he tried and ordered what he could for the store. “I think they’re definitely geared toward the American palate,” Cuccaro said. They are riper, fruitier, not as earthy and dry as the Old World wines Allen’s family produces. Having Morlet helps, Cuccaro said. “He’s a name. You have to kind of be into wines to know who he is. He has a cult status.”

Allen told the seminar that he is running a 4-year-old startup and has four years to break even, “if I ever do.”

Tom Scherberger can be reached at or (727) 893-8312.