Whether it’s the family micro-winery, Hundred Suns, or the new producer who is changing the look of Carlton, Flaneur, the same relentlessly creative, exploratory mind is responsible for the delicious wines that flow from each: Grant Coulter.
We love the guy, as a winemaker and as a wonderful human being. If that sounds all warm and fuzzy, good – we mean it that way. Grant’s wines, both Hundred Suns and Flaneur, have the feel of something deeply personal and philosophical because that’s entirely his intention.
During this strange time of physical distancing and isolation, it was great to connect with Grant, albeit by phone. After a quick check-in about our physical and mental health, the conversation turned colorful. For both Hundred Suns and Flaneur wines, Grant speaks in terms of raw materials and colors when talking about qualities and characteristics of vineyards and grapes, and of how to create the broadest color palette.
“I’m working to create layered dimensions across a vineyard, as many shades of one color, like blues or reds or blacks. Then I try to combine the layers, the colors, to make the most multi-dimensional wine possible,” explained Grant. I could relate, and could almost see the dimensions taking shape, especially after taking to late-night watching of Bob Ross painting on Hulu.
“I’m in a constant state of experimentation. Some people love to dial in a specific winemaking technique, and that is totally cool; I prefer a variety of techniques, within a very holistic context all born from the grapes and stems.”
As most wine lovers have tasted once or thrice, experimentation and exploration can lead to wines that leave you describing them in the best possible terms, often euphemistically, as “interesting” and “unique.” Something we love about Grant’s wines is that all of the experimentation is done through the lens of deliciousness. Put more simply: if it’s not delicious, you won’t see a bottle of it.
It’s critical not to confuse deliciousness with obviousness. “The biggest thing for Flaneur and Hundred Suns, which is the philosophical underpinning of my winemaking, is how do you make a wine that’s delicious and complex but where the idiosyncrasies of it don’t hit you over the head, you have to search for them,” muses Grant.
“It’s like the English 101, where you read The Great Gatsby and you think, that’s great. Then you dig deeper and find the meaning, the subtext, and it takes on another world of dimension. I want you to sit down with a meal where you have to push the leg of lamb aside and think about the wine for a second…that’s the dream.”
It’s a humble desire for a winemaker responsible for one of the highest rated Oregon Pinots ever; during nine excellent years at Beaux Freres, one of his proudest achievements was making the 2014 Beaux Freres Vineyard, #3 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2016. The recognition didn’t alter his personal connectedness to his wines and those who drink them.
“Wine has become something that’s put on a pedestal, winemakers have become celebrities. I try always to remember that when somebody chooses wine for the dinner table they are inviting you into their home at their most precious free time. It’s a humbling experience. This is my life’s work. As a human it feels good to have that kind of validation, when someone loves your wine you shouldn’t lose sight of that.”
That’s the Grant we know and love.