This is part of a report on the South Seattle Artisan Wineries. Additional sections of the report will be posted to the blog. Download a complete .pdf copy of the report here.
Laurelhurst Cellars is a partnership among Gabe Warner, Greg Smallwood, and Dave Halbgewachs. Smallwood says “We wanted to produce wine for ourselves originally. The process was infectious and we decided to get our license…and start producing wine.”
Laurelhurst Cellars’ first commercial vintage was 2005. Before moving to its current South Seattle location, winemaker Gabe Warner made wine in the basement of his Laurelhurst home. In a nod to their beginnings, the winery has stuck with the Laurelhurst branding. A laurel hedge maze adorns the label and two of the wines are named after botanical terms, the Laurus Nobilis and Azorica.
Laurelhurst Cellars focuses on producing red wines that showcase the vineyards they work with. These include exceptional vineyard sources, such as Kiona, Boushey, and Klipsun. Although the winery intends to keep red wines the focus, whites will be added in the future.
The winery started out making 400 cases annually but is slowly moving up to 900. Laurelhurst Cellars enjoys both the benefits and the banes of being a small production winery. In terms of benefits, barrels get individual attention and everything is tightly controlled. In terms of banes, experimentation with different techniques, styles, and barrels, is necessarily slow as each barrel is significant.
The wines from Laurelhurst Cellars are all intriguing, small production wines. Each shows good tannic structure and fruit expression as well as the hallmarks of the vineyards they come from. The wines display characteristic chocolate flavors. The taste occasionally comes off as a bit sweet but overall works on these wines.
Note: All wines sampled at 60 degrees.
Laurelhurst Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2006 $38
Rating: * (Excellent) A prototypic Red Mountain nose with earth, flowers, slate, and cherry along with pencil lead accents. A delicious palate with lots of fruit, chocolate, and a good tannic structure. Chocolate gets a little sweet at times. Klipsun and Kiona vineyards. 52 cases produced.
Laurelhurst Cellars Syrah Red Mountain 2006 $38
Rating: NR (Not Rated) Dark and intense in color. The nose is showing a lot of strange biscuit aromas along with iodine, chocolate and purple fruit. Rich with chocolate flavors on a fairly soft palate. This wine is in a strange spot right now as mentioned by people at the winery (for this reason, I have not rated the wine at this time). Perhaps it will settle down and flesh out with additional time. Ranch at the End of the Road, Songbird, and Kiona vineyards. 120 cases produced.
Laurelhurst Cellars Cabernet Franc Boushey Vineyard 2006 $36
Rating: * (Excellent) An outrageous, Boushey-only nose with earthy funk, flowers, milk chocolate, and purple fruit. A fun, engaging wine that dips slightly in the mid-palate but then comes back on for a strong finish. Fruit seems to want a bit more structure at times on an otherwise very enjoyable wine. 28 cases produced. 28 cases produced.
Laurelhurst Cellars Laurus Nobilis Red Wine 2006 $28
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Brick colored. Nose marked by red fruit, chocolate, mineral, and floral notes. A dry and pleasing palate that is chock full of fruit and chocolate. An enjoyable wine that is exceptionally well priced. 61% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. Boushey, Klipsun, and Kiona vineyards. 160 cases produced.
Laurelhurst Cellars Azorica 2005 $28
Rating: + (Good) A big nose with tons of chocolate and floral notes along with earth and licorice. Big and chocolatey on the palate with a lot of structure. Give 1-2 years. 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, 16% Syrah. Boushey, Patch of Blue, and Kiona vineyards. 100 cases produced.