When I sampled the inaugural releases from Lauren Ashton Cellars last year (notes here), I was considerably impressed. The new wines from the winery however, are a revelation – as impressive an across the board lineup as I’ve tasted from any winery this year along with some of the best wines I have tasted in 2013 period.
Winemaker Kit Singh skipped the cool, challenging 2010 vintage and went straight to the even cooler, perhaps even more challenging 2011 vintage. “The economy kicked my butt in 2010,” Singh explains. I have a feeling many tens of millions of people across the country and around the world know exactly what he’s talking about.
Singh started off ambitiously with his first releases, crafting eight different wines spanning from white to rosé to red. For the follow up, Singh – a practicing dentist in Redmond by day – expanded the lineup even further, producing seven different red wines alone.
“My challenge here was to produce seven distinct wines and not just seven wines,” Singh said. He has more than ably succeeded. There is good delineation across the lineup with discernable flavor and stylistic differences throughout.
In terms of the Bordeaux-style blends, there’s the Cuvee Estelle – a Merlot dominant blend; the Cuvee Arlette – a Merlot and Cabernet Franc heavy blend; and the Cabernet Sauvignon-centric Proprietor’s Cuvee, along with a varietally labeled Cabernet Sauvignon. Of these wines, the Estelle is a new addition.
“I had not intended to produce it,” Singh says of the wine, adding, “It was as though the three wines wanted to exist on their own. I decided not to fight with them and possibly diminish them so I created the Cuvee Estelle.” While each of these wines is of very high quality, the Cuvee Arlette and Proprietor’s Cuvee in particular are both wines that you say, “Wow that’s a good wine!” after each sip. How often does that happen?
In terms of the Rhone-style wines, Singh is making a Grenache-Mourvèdre-Syrah blend called the Cuvee Mirabelle, sourced from Ambassador and Den Hoed vineyards. The blend leans heavily toward Grenache and Syrah with just a pinch of Mourvèdre (5%) adding spice. It’s flat out gorgeous – easily among the best wines I’ve had this year. Singh also made a Syrah and Reserve Syrah from Ambassador and Dineen Vineyards.
“The Reserve Syrah had something special going for it from the start,” Singh says. “It would have been tragic to just put that juice in the Syrah.” Indeed, it’s a beautiful wine, more than deserving of its reserve status.
While many winemakers were challenged by the cool 2011 vintage, Singh took it as an opportunity. “I looked at as a way to produce a slightly different style of wine,” he said. “A style that was lower in alcohol and driven by the fruit. In many ways it forced me to expand my wine making style. That turned out to be very good for me.”
Indeed. Better still, while I found each of these wines to be accessible shortly after being opened, I checked in on them over the course of a week and they simply shined throughout. These wines will age beautifully in the cellar for many years to come. Did I mention that the white wines far from disappoint?
Overall, considering the variety of wines produced, there are very (very) few wineries in the state producing at this level of quality with this diverse of a lineup in any year. Considered with the challenges of the 2011 vintage and the relative youth of the winery, the results are nothing short of jaw dropping. Putting all that aside…the results are jaw dropping. These new releases move Lauren Ashton straight to the front of the class.
Picture of Kit Singh courtesy of Lauren Ashton Cellars.
NB: Sample the red wines around 62-64 degrees to see them at their best. Lauren Ashton’s Tasting Studio is open Friday through Sunday from 1 to 6pm at the Hollywood School House, 14545 144th Ave NE Suite 211, Woodinville, WA 98072.
Lauren Ashton Reserve Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2012 $NA
(Excellent) An aromatic Chardonnay with abundant toast notes along with coconut shavings, dried pineapple, mineral, and spice. The palate is full bodied with rich fruit, textured flavors and abundant oak influence. For fans of a rich, full bodied style, look no further; this wine brings it. Give time to open up. 100% Chardonnay. Wautoma Vineyard. Aged in new and neutral French oak with partial malolactic fermentation. 14.2% alcohol. 150 cases produced. Note: To be released in one year. Sample provided by winery.
Lauren Ashton Cuvee Meline Columbia Valley 2012 $27
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with a predominant toast note, slightly underripe pineapple, stone fruit, and barrel spices. The palate is medium-plus bodied with a textured feel. 75% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Semillon. 14.0% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Lauren Ashton Semillon Columbia Valley 2012 $27
(Excellent/Exceptional) Draws you into the glass with dried fig, dried papaya, caramel, and oak spices. The palate is broad and textured in feel with great depth of flavors. Dineen Family Vineyard. Barrel fermented and aged in neutral French oak. 14.2% alcohol. 138 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Lauren Ashton Roussanne Columbia Valley 2012 $25
(Excellent/Exceptional) Lightly aromatic initially, it opens to reveal toast, almond butter, pear, and whiffs of tropical fruit. The palate is medium-plus bodied, textured with a creamy feel and a lingering finish. Among the finest examples I’ve had from the state. Aged in one third new oak, one third neutral, and one third stainless steel. Dineen Family Vineyard. 13.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Lauren Ashton Cellars Rosé of Sangiovese Stillwater Creek Vineyard Washington 2012 $18
(Excellent) The vineyard has changed from the 2011 vintage – Stillwater Creek instead of Red Willow – but the grape remains the same. A pale salmon color, it’s directly appealing with notes of cherry, wet stone, and spice. It has richness and texture but – even with the listed alcohol level higher than often seen outside of saignee-style roses’ (this one is not) – still manages to move deftly. 14.0% alcohol. Sample provided by winery. Reviewed August 22, 2013
Lauren Ashton Cuvee Mirabelle Columbia Valley 2011 $50
(Exceptional) Lightly aromatic when first poured but quickly picks up steam with notes of coffee, abundant white pepper, herbs, and huckleberry that show a lot of detail. On the palate, the soft texture belies incredible density and depth to the seamless fruit flavors and mouthwatering acids that carry it all along to a long, luscious, fruit-filled hyper-extended finish. A complete ‘Wow!’ wine that is one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year by a good stretch with all the stuffing to last in the cellar for a long time to come. 55% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 5% Mourvèdre. Ambassador and Den Hoed vineyards. Aged 20 months in neutral oak. 14.5% alcohol. 103 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Sample provided by winery.
Lauren Ashton Syrah Columbia Valley 2011 $35
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine, locked up at present but when it opens reveals a lot of complexity with char, smoke, spice, marionberry, and light herbs. The palate is tart and tightly wound with lithe berry flavors that glide on the finish. Give one to two years. 100% Syrah. Dineen and Ambassador vineyards. 50% whole cluster fermented. Aged 20 months in neutral French oak. 14.5% alcohol. 266 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Lauren Ashton Reserve Syrah Red Mountain 2011 $40
(Exceptional) An aromatically expressive wine with abundant mineral notes, chocolate, pure huckleberry, lavender, and slate. The palate is silky soft in feel while possessing great depth to the boysenberry flavors and a smoke filled finish. There’s a very pretty sense of understateness and suppleness to the wine that seeks to charm rather than overwhelm. But make no mistake: it’s shockingly good and will only benefit from some extended time in the cellar. Give two-plus years. 100% Syrah. 50% whole cluster fermented. Ambassador and Dineen vineyards. Aged 20 months in neutral French oak. 14.5% alcohol. 140 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Lauren Ashton Cuvee Estelle Columbia Valley 2011 $50
(Excellent/Exceptional) An aromatically intoxicating wine with notes of espresso, chocolate, raspberries, high toned herbal notes and graphite, showing a precision and detail that is absolutely captivating. The flavors are rich and dense, showing minimal excess alcohol with a good sense of structure holding it all together. A gorgeous wine that should lay down well in the cellar for as long as you care to keep it. Give at least two years. 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot. Stillwater Creek, Klipsun, Ambassador, and Dineen vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak (approximately 40% new). 14.3% alcohol. 142 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Lauren Ashton Cuvee Arlette Columbia Valley 2011 $50
(Exceptional) Moderately aromatic, complex, and compelling with barrel spices, coffee, floral notes, raspberry, cherry, coffee, and scorched earth. Again here, this is a lot of weight and intensity for the fruit flavors while still showing a lot of elegance and precision. Sticks around for a long, coffee-filled finish. 49% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 19.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2.5% Petit Verdot. Stillwater Creek, Klipsun, Ambassador, and Dineen vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak (approximately 25% new). 14.5% alcohol. 261 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Lauren Ashton Proprietor’s Cuvee Columbia Valley 2011 $50
(Exceptional) An aromatic and appealing wine with notes of vanillin, roasted coffee beans, high toned herbs, floral notes, and dark cherry. The fruit and savory flavors are dense and chewy with a supple feel and enough tannic structure to lay down in the cellar for decades to come. Give at least two years or a long decant. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, and 9% Petit Verdot. Klipsun, Ambassador, Dineen, and Copeland vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak (approximately 40% new). 14.1% alcohol. 158 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Lauren Ashton Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2011 $50
(Good) This one hundred percent varietal wine brings notes of braised poblano pepper, mineral, cherry, and toast. It brings a lot of appeal with supple fruit flavors and chewy tannins. Give one to two years. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Ambassador Vineyard and Klipsun vineyards. 14.5% alcohol. 176 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.