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Aluel Cellars

Wine brings good things

From bonding over wine to making wine to opening tasting rooms, wine has brought many good things to Alex Oh and Samuel Hilbert, co-owners of Aluel Cellars. And there's more goodness on the way.

Alex (left) and Samuel

Their new Queen Anne tasting room is expected to open in late February. "We live on Queen Anne and always said if this space opened up, we'd be interested. We weren't really looking to open a third tasting room, but when it came available, we moved on it," says Samuel. "It's smaller than our other locations, but it will have a similar look and feel." They'll do one cork wall and will add a small bar along with tables and a stand-up bar. It fronts along Queen Anne Ave N in a condominium building.

Their second location is in the Hjarta condominiums in Ballard and opened in late July 2022. "We looked at a few neighborhoods for our expansion, but we like to do things differently. At the time, there weren't many wine bars in Ballard and we found a spot that fit our needs. It's worked out really well. We even made a sparkling rosé exclusive to that location called Hjarta. It was a one-off, but if we have some left, we might take it to Queen Anne when we open to celebrate."

Capitol Hill was their first tasting room in 2016. They were living on the hill and, at the time, there were no other tasting rooms there. "Most tasting rooms were in Woodinville or South Seattle. We wanted to do something ultra urban. We're on the ground floor of a building there as well, and the tasting room has been well received."

When Alex and Samuel met, they each brought a wine to share. They clearly made good choices, as they're still thriving over 12 years later. "Alex has a chemistry background, and I have an agricultural and restaurant service background. We both love wine and our interest kept growing. When I first moved to Washington from Indiana in 2006, I lived in Woodinville. I sold radio advertising, and was on the launch team for Clearwire Internet. Then I got into real estate. I loved living in Woodinville. I came from a small town, and it was nice to be close to a city like Seattle, but still be close to agricultural areas. I got involved with the Chamber of Commerce. Being involved with the communities we're in is something both Alex and I believe in doing."

A graduate of Shorewood High School and the University of Washington, Alex has called Seattle home for over 20 years. When they decided to get serious about commercial wine products, Alex attended the winemaking program at the University of California, Davis. "His chemistry background has been so helpful. I'm currently in the Washington State University wine program which gives more Washington-specific winemaking techniques/information. We're as hands-on as possible with our wines and have had great mentors."

They began working small production with a winemaker friend in 2012, sharing his production space in White Center. They made one wine, their 2012 Malbec. In 2013, they added a few varietals and made their first Bordeaux-style blend named the "Coat of Arms." The 2014 vintage of their "Coat of Arms" won the 2018 Platinum's Best of the Best award. In 2014 they ramped up production, making 7-8 different wines. This year, they'll top 1,000 cases for the year, with 13 wines.

Coat of Arms Bordeaux-style blend

In creating their crest, they each chose two symbols. For Alex, it was the Scales of Justice since he's a lawyer, and a lion since he's a Leo. Samuel chose a helm of a boat since he used to race sailboats competitively, and a key, since he's a realtor.

"We source from great vineyards and have been fortunate in having contacts early on who introduced us to others, and we kept building on that. We got some good advice one time from a person who told us that if you're nice, pay your bills, and follow through, people will want to work with you. By sourcing wines from the same vineyards year-to-year, we're delivering on consistency. We're known for our blends: "Regalia" is our Rhōne-style blend with grapes sourced from Walla Walla, and "Coat of Arms" is our Bordeaux blend, sourced from Rattlesnake Hills. Our white grapes come from the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA.

"We decided early on that we wanted to sell our wines through our tasting rooms. In 2018, we were named New Business of the Year by the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA). We received a $5,000 grant, which we used to launch a new wine called "The Scholar." We donate a portion of the sales of this wine to the GSBA Scholarship & Education Fund which awards scholarships to LGBTQ+ and allied students. We launched the wine in 2020 and price it at $19.90 per bottle because 1990 was the year the fund began. So far, we've donated over $10, 000. We sell it at the tasting rooms, and it's also offered on the glass pours list at some restaurants."

Their wine club allows members to use their benefits at any of the tasting rooms. There are discounts on wine, food, merchandise, and events. "We're hoping to do more events this year. We have collaborated with organizations such as the Consulate of Mexico in Seattle where we've done comparative tastings of our wines with those sourced from wineries in Baja California." Their Capitol Hill location has a loft which can be rented for private events on any night they're open. All tasting rooms can be fully bought out, especially on nights they're normally closed.

"We're really proud of two major accomplishments: winning the New Business of the Year and the 2014 "Coat of Arms" which won "Best of the Best" at the 2018 Wine Press Northwest's Platinum Awards. Wines must have already won a gold or better in another competition. We were the top wine out of those. Looking ahead, we're excited to open our Queen Anne location and can't wait to meet new neighbors and friends in our community."

Connie Adams/February 2023

Aluel Cellars

Capitol Hill
801A E Thomas St
Seattle, WA

1528 NW Market St
Seattle, WA 98107

Queen Anne
1629 Queen Anne Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109

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