Winegrowing at Laura Michael Wines
Cultivating Consistancy and Character
At Laura Michael Wines, wines are handcrafted in limited quantities with grapes sourced from some of California’s most celebrated winegrowing estates. The goal is exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel that reflects the rich history and character of the region. Laura Michael Wines’ winemaking style is inspired by a passion for creating wines as a complement to food that is shared around the table with family and friends.
As with every aspect of her boutique winery, Owners and Proprietors Laura and Michael Swanton are intimately involved in identifying the grapegrowing partners of Laura Michael Wines and encouraging the highest quality fruit from these special sites. “Because we are so small, we have the freedom to be highly selective in fruit sourcing,” says Laura. “We are committed to working very closely with our growers, to understanding their farming philosophy and working together to create wines that reveal great vineyard character and flavor.”
The winery crafts premium wines with a gentle approach that preserves the intense flavor and expansive character of the high-quality fruit. The winegrowing philosophy is to emphasize whatever the grapes give us – s consistency is key—and that consistency begins in the vineyards.
Dry Creek Zinfandel
For exceptional old-vine Zinfandel, Laura Michael Wines went to the Dry Creek Valley—a region celebrated for its long history of successfully nurturing this fickle grape variety. Zinfandel is particularly suited to the well-drained, low fertile soils found in some Dry Creek Valley vineyards. It thrives in the region’s climate, where the weather is warm enough to fully ripen the grapes, but cool enough to produce grapes with acidity. The result for Dry Creek Old Vines Zinfandel is a complex wine that is intensely flavorful, yet balanced.
From 2008 through 2015, Laura Michael Wines sourced fruit from a 62 year old vineyard off of Dry Creek Road, outside of Healdsburg. Located in the middle of the appellation in Sonoma County, the Dry Creek vineyard from which we source fruit is tucked into a pocket that protects it from the hottest days, while still providing ample sun. The vineyard is planted to 3 acres of head pruned Zinfandel, growing the fruit the Dry Creek Zinfandel for a number of years. “We are so proud of the consistent quality coming from the Roost Vineyard,” says Laura. “We’ve invested a great deal of time and energy to ensure the property is farmed in the same way we farm our estate. The results have been well worth the effort, and we wanted to acknowledge this unique place with a vineyard designate.”
Two Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons, Two Distinct Styles
Made from the premium quality fruit of neighboring vineyards, Laura Michael Wines’ Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon is crafted to reveal big berry fruit in a luscious wine with mild tannins, while its Bentley Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Beckstoffer’s Missouri Hopper vineyard is an elegant wine, with rich color and tannins made to age.
While the current trend is toward higher alcohol, the style of our Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine with balance that will complement a meal. The wines are elegant and fruit forward, fleshy wines that show the fruit and have backbone.
To achieve this style, Laura and Michael work closely with their vineyard workers to determine when to pick and then carefully consider when to press. “Cab is tannic, 20 to 30 percent more tannic than zin,” notes Laura. “When cab is in the fermentor, you’re building the foundation for the rest of the wine’s life. Tannins and color are critical because you can’t add them later, but you also have to make sure you’re not getting too many tannins. Our goal is a wine that will age, but with balance.”
The vineyard-designated Cabernet Sauvignon from Barlow Vineyards in Calistoga is another example of Laura Michael Wines commitment to grower excellence. Purchaesd and planted to all five Bordeaux varietals in 1994, Barlow Vineyards sits in the heart of the newly formed Calistoga AVA. The vineyard offers a variety of microclimates and soil profiles that add depth and complexity in the blending process.
Beginning in 2016, Laura and Michael began sourcing Russian River Pinot Noir. Making a small quantity of Pinot Noir has been on Laura’s radar screen for a very long time. The Orsi Papale vineyard supplied the 2016 vintage and for 2017, sourced from the Keresey Vineyard. Laura prefers a more burgandian style of Pinot Noir – producing it relatively low in alcohol and definitely fruit forward, the Pinot Noir will stand the test of time in the cellar.
Laura Michael Wines made its first Chardonnay with the 2004 vintage. “As passionate as I am about Zinfandel and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, there are times when nothing tastes better than a light and crisp Napa Valley Chardonnay,” admits Laura. This non-malolactic fermentation, fruit forward Chardonnay has a refreshing acidity that makes it a standout white. The Laura Michael Wines Chardonnay is available exclusively from our tasting room.
Rosè and Port
To round out the offerings from Laura Michael Wines, Laura and Michael also produce a Dry Rosè of Zinfandel, a saigneè, from the two primary zinfandels. Michael’s Muse Dry Rosè of Zinfandel is slightly spicy with more structure than most rosès and compliments raw or steamed seafood as well as poultry.
For the dessert course, they also produce a port-style wine they call Laura’s Theme. 50% estate grown zinfandel and 50% Calistoga petite sirah, this light style of fortified wine pairs beautifully with dark chocolate or baked fruit desserts, or with a rich cheese plate after the entrée is finished!
The Laura Michael Wines are aged in both American and French oak. The Swanton’s carefully considers the toast level and oak characteristics that will best complement each of the wines. The Oat Hill Estate Zinfandel is aged in American oak, as is the Dry Creek Old Vines Zinfandel. The Pinot Noir, Bentley Cabernet Sauvignon and the Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon are all aged in French oak.