Bellingham's Coach House Cellars produces high-caliber wines in small quantities

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 10, 2013 

Have you ever tasted a food or beverage and said, "There's no reason I couldn't make something as good as this."

That thought must have been going through the minds of Whatcom County residents Paxton Rembert and Scott Whitman when they set out on their own winemaking venture. Having only the experience of being wine enthusiasts and collectors, the self-taught duo made their first wines in 2009 with the goal, as Rembert recounts, "to make something affordable we would enjoy drinking."

Those first efforts must have been pretty impressive. Rembert and Whitman and their spouses went from garagists to the formation of Coach House Cellars just one year later. After tasting their current releases, we should all be happy they decided to make enough wine to share with the rest of us.

Some of the keys, Rembert notes, have been "procuring the best fruit, using quality barrels, and developing relationships with great vineyards." Although production is small (for example, a newly released 2011 Syrah from highly acclaimed Sheridan Vineyards yielded just under 50 cases), the level of quality suggests that the Coach House team has done nothing to compromise the vineyard pedigree.

In fact, it's downright amazing they are producing wines of this caliber, given their recent step up from amateur status. Here are my tasting notes on three of their other current releases:

2012 Chardonnay (about $18) - A faintly sweet aroma of field flowers and elderberries appear on the nose while flavors of ripe apple and cantaloupe melt into an elegant finish with nuances of pineapple and tropical fruit. This is drop-dead gorgeous chardonnay that hits all the right notes. Just under 200 cases produced.

2010 Merlot (about $25) - An intoxicating blueberry and violet fragrance explodes in the glass, with juicy blueberry on the palate. It's a bit fruit-forward to start, but the extended finish allows plenty of time for the smoky undertones and whisper of chocolate to pull things into balance. Washington merlot lovers should act fast on the 170 cases produced.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $29) - There's a nice meatiness to this cab, with layers of dark berry, black cherry and black plum flavors. The lengthy finish hints at spicy, toasted oak gleaned from the combination of new and once-filled French, American and Hungarian barrels. Production totaled 235 cases.

Coach House Cellars wines are available at Seifert and Jones Wine Merchants in Bellingham and at Compass Wines in Anacortes. Additional winery information can be found at coachhousecellars.com.

Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.

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