Seattle’s Cloudlift Cellars rises to new heights

Tom Stangeland is a woodworker and Seattle winemaker.          - Wine Press Northwest
Tom Stangeland is a woodworker and Seattle winemaker.
— image credit: Wine Press Northwest

By Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman
Wine Press Northwest

Tom Stangeland used the art of cooking to work his way through the University of Washington, and he’s made his livelihood creating artisan furniture.

Five years ago, he decided to put some of his creative juices toward another longtime fascination — winemaking. However, Stangeland views the debut release of Cloudlift Cellars “not as a profession, but a compulsion.”

Customers of his acclaimed woodwork shouldn’t fret anytime soon, but it’s likely many will appreciate what he’s producing at Cloudlift Cellars from his studio in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood.

He readily gives credit to his mentor, Peter Bos, instructor and winemaker at South Seattle Community College’s Northwest Wine Academy. He began attending the winemaking classes in 2005.

“In 2007, I decided, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this,’ ” said Stangeland, who graduated after the 2007 crush.

Cloudlift Cellars’ 2009 reds mark his first commercial release.

He seems to be making all the right moves, including the name and theme for his winery. A cloudlift refers to a design element in architecture that is subtle yet apparent in many forms of Asian art — and Stangeland’s furniture.

His path to creativity began in childhood. Woodworking emerged from making motorized model airplanes with chums.

“They were fast, beautiful and very technical to make,” he said. “It seemed like we’d fly them for five minutes, we’d crash them, and it would take us another three weeks to re-build them.”

That helps explain his path into his woodworking career. The road to becoming a chef in Seattle during the early 1980s was more practical and included time at Julia’s.

“It was out of necessity. My mother was a lousy cook, and my dad and I liked food,” Stangeland quipped.

It also paid the bills for his studies at the University of Washington, which took him to Universite d’Avignon for a time. After all, his focus was French history.

He found success in creating high-end furniture and became part of the Northwest Woodworkers Gallery. The business began in 1980 at Seattle’s Pioneer Square. In December, the gallery moved to First and Lenora between Pike Place Market and Belltown.

Check with your favorite wine merchant for Cloudlift wines, or call the winery at (206) 622-2004.

- Cloudlift Cellars 2009 Ascent, Columbia Valley, $23. This blend of Bordeaux varieties leads with Cabernet Franc (72 percent) from Alder Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills, which creates a spicy and tobacco leaf theme behind the cassis, Marionberry, smoky black cherry, moist earth, crushed nutmeg, green tea and cocoa powder. The racy acidity and medium body screams for pork loin or a puttanesca sauce.

- Cloudlift Cellars 2009 Halcyon, Columbia Valley, $24. This red blend features pleasing oak that provides for aromas of black cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, bean, cracked black pepper, cedar, saddle leather and baseball card bubble gum. Inside, the drink carries beautiful dark cherry undertones, accented by plums, huckleberries, licorice and refined tannins that build slowly. It finishes with hints of graphite and chocolate-covered blueberries.

- Cloudlift Cellars 2009 Panorama, Columbia Valley, $25. This blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc creates a broad expression of darker fruit. Boysenberry, black currant and cherry accents include hints of graphite, cedar and bittersweet chocolate. The medium structure shows balance of fine-grained tannins and bright acidity, backed by hints of violet and tobacco leaf in the finish.

- Cloudlift Cellars 2010 Updraft, Columbia Valley, $17. This blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon opens with aromas of vanilla, milk toast and corn silk, followed with mango and trail mix with dried apricot, pineapple and nuts. The fascinating palate carries impressive citrus and incorporates honeydew melon, filberts, minerality and more milk toast.

— Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest magazine. For the freshest reviews, go to


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