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Releases from La Chanterelle Winery worth the wait

Lotte Freeman applies wax to seal the tops of wine bottles in July 2015 at La Chanterelle Winery in Bellingham. The winery, operated by Freeman and her partner, Donatas Pocus, is in the basement of their house in the Lettered Streets neighborhood.
Lotte Freeman applies wax to seal the tops of wine bottles in July 2015 at La Chanterelle Winery in Bellingham. The winery, operated by Freeman and her partner, Donatas Pocus, is in the basement of their house in the Lettered Streets neighborhood. The Bellingham Herald

Quality, patience and attention-to-detail winemaking are the hallmarks of La Chanterelle Winery, where the phrase, “small lots of handcrafted wines” has been taken to a new level.

Located in the basement of Donatas Pocus and Lotte Freeman’s home in Bellingham’s Lettered Streets neighborhood, the recently formed winery specializes in limited-production, lovingly produced wines that already have wine enthusiasts swooning.

Freeman was born and raised in Deming, where she learned the winemaking trade from friends. Pocus hails from Lithuania, moved to Bellingham in 1998, and “caught the wine bug” from Freeman soon after they became partners 10 years ago. The decision to take their winemaking skills to the next level and establish a commercial winery in 2012 seemed a natural progression.

After much thought, the name “La Chanterelle” was selected in reference to the chanterelle sites near Deming. The winery logo, a cross between a goblet and the namesake mushroom, was designed by Pocus’s daughter, Greta.

Their grapes are sourced from Eastern Washington vineyards, transported cross-state, and dropped into a bin through the basement window. There they are crushed, barrel-fermented, bottled, labeled, and packaged for distribution or enjoyed on the premises at private tastings.

Finished wines can be purchased online, in select local restaurants, and at Seifert & Jones Wine Merchants in Bellingham. Plans are being considered for minimum-order deliveries within bicycling range of the house.

Annual production is limited to about 120 cases; a true micro-boutique winery, by industry standards. But being small has its advantages. When it’s time to check on a wine’s progress, Pocus says, “We both sit down and have a little ‘board meeting’ (and) invite some friends to taste.”

Initial releases included a 2012 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (sold out) and a 2012 Wahluke Slope Syrah (still available). The syrah, termed “naughty” in the winery’s tasting notes, is gorgeous, with ultra-dark blueberry flavors, hints of juniper and sweet cedar, and slightly chewy tannins.

Future releases, most likely in late 2015, include a 2013 Cabernet and a 2013 Syrah. Allowing extra time in the bottle for the wine to develop character is a priority.

“We don’t want to sacrifice quality for commerce,” Pocus says.

It’s that kind of philosophy that will make their wines worth the wait.

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

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