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 grape growing 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.
Oat Hill Estate Zinfandel
The current vineyard at the home estate was planted in 1996 and reportedly was plant stock from the famed Monte Rosso vineyard in Sonoma County. Additionally, plantings were added in 2007-2010 and more in 2014 and 2016. Michael takes great pride in the home vineyard. His attention to detail results in a balanced crop that yields excellent acidity and sugar. This approach leads to less manipulation on the crush pad and in the barrel room. The resulting wine is well balanced, moderate alcohol and very food friendly zinfandel.
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 Whitehall Farms 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. Purchased and planted to all five Bordeaux varietals in 1994, Barlow Vineyards sits in the heart of the 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 Pinot Noir. Making a small quantity of Pinot Noir has been on Laura’s radar screen for a very long time. The Hennebert vineyard supplied the 2020 and 2021 vintages. Laura prefers a more burgundian 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 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.