19th Oct 2023
19th Oct 2023
What’s the opposite of a shrinking violet? A stampeding rose? Whatever it is, that’s Russell Bevan. Larger than life and known for his pedal-to-the-metal winemaking style, Russell is also an incredibly creative and meticulous winemaker with a keen nose for singular vineyard sites. And he boasts one of the most squeaky-clean wineries out there, which is no doubt one of the factors in the remarkable purity of his wines.
While attending Gonzaga University in Washington, Russell began his wine career working for a Gallo distributor, selling to grocery stores. Then, in the mid-’90s, he wrote a wine column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. This gave him access to many of the great winemakers in California who later became mentors when he and his partner, Victoria De Crescenzo, moved to Northern California. In 2004, their friend Kal Showket (owner of Showket Vineyard, since sold to Peter Michael and now known as Au Paradis Vineyard) offered to sell them a ton of Cabernet Sauvignon. The couple leaped at the chance, and Bevan Cellars was born.
Bevan Cellars was established in 2004 at a custom crush facility in Santa Rosa, not far from the home Russell and Victoria then owned in Bennett Valley. By 2012, they were able to migrate a portion of their production to Napa. “That’s when things began to take off for Bevan Cellars,” said Russell. “We had a beautiful facility to host new customers and grow the brand.”
By 2017, their Napa production had grown significantly, and they were invited by the Tench family to move into their newly built winemaking facility next to the Tench Vineyard. “With our strong ties to the vineyard source and the Oakville AVA, it was an obvious choice for us,” said Russell. “The pull to be near our vineyards and the intensity of Napa was there from day one; we just needed time to build the brand first. What drew us to Napa? In a word, dirt.”
And his approach to winemaking?
“We approach winemaking from a texture standpoint,” said Russell. “We know that special vineyards will give us flavor and aromatics, but managing textural balance is where the real magic lies. We use minimal pump-overs, instead turning our fermentations with giant air bubbles. This process results in a gentler extraction of tannins and anthocyanins. We strive to make massive wines with huge tannin profiles that never come across as tannic. Let the vineyard’s voice find its own way while ensuring that the wine is texturally seductive and intense.”
These days, apart from his continued business partnership in Bevan Cellars with Victoria, Russell Bevan is the winemaker for more than a dozen wineries, and he has recently launched a label with his new wife, Heidi, called Adversity.
The other big news for Russell is he has recently taken over from Mike Smith as the winemaker for Carter Cellars.
“Mike Smith did an amazing job of managing the wines,” says Bevan as I come to taste his first vintage making the Carter line-up: the 2021s. “I changed some of the sanitation practices, but that’s all I’ve really changed. If you go back, it’s the Helen Turley style. Helen mentored Thomas Brown, and Thomas mentored Mike Smith. Also, we have a new vineyard manager at Beckstoffer Vineyards - Ricardo Costa. He’s doing a great job.”
Russell shared one fun fact that I did not know about Carter.
“You know Mark Carter is from Humboldt County, and all the Carter wines are named after cannabis strains, right? Except for the GTO. That was his favorite muscle car.”
I’ve long been a fan of Carter, so I’m pleased to report that not a lot has changed when looking at the style of these 2021s. Not that the Carter wines have ever been shrinking violets. More like stampeding roses.
Article & Reviews by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
Photography by Svante Örnberg
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