We have closely followed the development of Washington’s DeLille Cellars since near its beginning. We will always remember a stunning 1998 DeLille Chaleur Estate Red, a Cabernet Sauvignon dominated Bordeaux blend that not only thrilled, but helped cement our love of Washington State wine; a love that has endured ever since.
Since that first encounter, DeLille has grown in both size and in stature. We think they might have only made two wines when we first tasted DeLille, that Chaleur Estate Red and their Merlot dominated D2. Today their portfolio has over a dozen wines and has gone beyond just Bordeaux style blends and includes whites, Rhone style wines and even a sparkling. What has remained constant throughout this time is their focus on quality.
Lots has happened at DeLille since our last visit in the fall of 2016. At that visit we were fortunate enough to have been invited to a tasting the winery hosted by founding winemaker Chris Upchurch to taste through a retrospective of 20 years of Chaleur Estate.
That delicious 1998 was in the lineup and after 18 years it was still a brilliant wine with great concentration and even more complexity than when we first tasted it shortly after release. The winemaker torch has been passed twice now, first from Chris Upchurch to Chris Petersen, and in 2019 to Jason Gorski, when he was promoted to the top job after starting as an assistant there in 2011. (Chris Petersen left to co-found Avennia, another winery that stands among the very best in Washington State.)
We met Jason at DeLille’s new and very chic appearing multi-functional building in Woodinville, just north of Seattle. The building used to be the site of the former Red Hook Brewery. It has been totally remodeled, with the winery in the back two separate spaces up front dedicated to hospitality.
There is also a new restaurant, simply (and aptly) named The Restaurant at DeLille Cellars. We stopped in there for lunch before our meeting with Jason. The exposed ceilings and polished concrete floors give a converted warehouse vibe, very much in keeping with techie workplaces in nearby Redmond. But thoughtful decorative touches add warmth and overall, there is a feeling of comfort.
Our lunch there was delicious. Their wine list features the complete DeLille lineup as well as a few selections from other producers from California and from France.
After lunch we walked around the corner to the tasting room. This is a beautiful two-story venue that goes for a different decorative theme than the restaurant. Downstairs is the wine shop that has the same polished concrete floors but a less industrial look overall. Modern furniture gives it more of an artsy vibe. Upstairs is the Club Members lounge where we met with Jason. Hardwood floors, tasteful furniture and a fireplace take luxury up a level here.
Jason joins us at a set of couches next to the fireplace.
Though Jason is a big man (he was on the wrestling team at Duke) he has a real warmth about him that quickly counterbalances his imposing physicality. We started our conversation with a glass of the Chaleur Estate Blanc 2022. We told him how well these whites age and that we had recently drank our last 2011 Chaleur Estate Blanc. Jason told us how 2011 was his first vintage working at DeLille and the challenges he faced. “I came from the white wine team at Chateau Ste. Michelle and was quite used to dealing with Washington whites. But 2011 was such a cool vintage that it really challenged us to make a wine that had enough fruit to match the acidity. I feel really good about how that wine turned out.”
Jason is very aware of the legacy he has inherited at DeLille. The house has been making Chaleur Estate for 30 vintages and over that time frame certain traditions have been established.
“You have to kind of imagine what viticulture was like in 1992” Jason tells us as he explains how he sees his role in carrying on that tradition. “…as the vines age, as viticulture evolves, as the vintage conditions happen, we’re still trying to emulate that style with Chaleur Estate. Our approach here is that to try and have that level of consistency and style.”
Jason is clearly proud to be carrying on that tradition. He recognizes the style that Chris Upchurch created and why it has endured so well after three decades. And Jason is quick to acknowledge how today he benefits from working with fruit that is 30 years older. He also has more vineyard sources to work with today. “We have fruit from Red Mountain, from Ciel de Cheval, from other sites in the Yakima Valley. We choose the very best to put into the Chaleur blend. But we always maintain 65% Cabernet Sauvignon.” Cleary it is a formula that has passed the test of time.
We finished our time with Jason and were also joined by his assistant winemaker, Mari Rossi. They told us about how DeLille has expanded over the years and how important this new facility is to creating guest experiences that allow their wines to be enjoyed in the most memorable way.
Their lineup of reds includes Cabernet Sauvignon based wines from various single vineyard sites in Washington, particularly those that have older vines. Harrison Hill, where they make a beautifully elegant wine from, has the oldest vines in the state.
Klipsun provides a different expression of Red Mountain and shows this vineyards power and structure.
Red Willow provides DeLille with some of Yakima Valley’s best Syrah.
Grand Ciel is one of the top sites on Red Mountain and produces spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
DeLille has grown over the last 3 decades and with creation of the new tasting room and restaurant they have created and excellent place to come and enjoy their wines. They have stepped beyond their original Bordeaux blend focus and shown they continue to have a winning hand with their Rhone wines as well. DeLille remains among the top tier producing wines in Washington and now compliments that with a terrific place to visit and taste their wines.
2022 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc
This is another winner for this wine from DeLille. Based upon the traditional Bordeaux white wine blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, this is a beautifully textured and very detailed vintage for Chaleur Blanc. Though the proportions are 69% Sauvignon Blanc and 31% Semillon, we thought the Semillon might have actually been the dominant variety, so textured is this wine. Flavours of apple, grapefruit and just a hint of gooseberry are backed up by a solid streak of minerality. The acidity is medium+ and forms just the right counterpoint to the texture.
Excellent+ (USD $46)
2019 DeLille Cellars D2
Named after the road in Bordeaux that connects many of its more famous wineries, the D2 is always a crowd pleaser.
Merlot always dominates this blend (57% this vintage) and gets support from Cabernet Sauvignon and lesser amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Medium red in colour, it has a heady nose of plum, black cherry and baking spices. Rounded and almost plush in texture this just envelopes your palate with its dark fruit flavours and shows hints of mocha on the long finish. Medium+ body and medium tannin, this is delicious right now but we have opened many from our cellar after a decade and they have always been going strong.
Excellent (USD $55)
2020 DeLille Cellars Four Flags Cabernet Sauvignon
Four Flags takes its name from the fact that it is a blend of four of the most prestigious vineyards on Red Mountain: Grand Ciel, Upchurch, Ciel de Cheval and Klipsun. Red mountain is a very open and exposed area and receives a lot of wind and direct sunlight. This often results in wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, possessing rustic tannins that need time to settle in. But not the case with this gorgeous vintage of Four Flags. Here the theme is elegance aligned with power and everything in near perfect proportions. Only 3 years after the vintage and yet it comes across as seamless and very well textured. Showing dark cherry and black currant with hints of mocha an espresso, each taking a turn at centre stage and then fading back to let another flavour dominate. Very seductive. Excellent+ (USD $80)
2020 DeLille Cellars Klipsun Cabernet Sauvignon
When contrasting this wine with Four Flags that preceded it, we get a bit more red fruit here. That plush texture is again in evidence and is nicely defined by the ripe tannins. The long finish is infused with hints of vanilla.
Excellent (USD $80)
2020 DeLille Cellars Red Willow Syrah
Red Willow is one of the State’s oldest vineyards and has a history of making top quality Syrah. Dark purple in colour, we get notes of blackberry, olive brine, and hints of cracked pepper. Full body, with medium+ tannin and medium acid, this is a powerful structured wine that will reward long aging. Different tones of black and blue fruits bring lots of complexity to this young wine. There is a great ripeness here but it is kept in bounds by all that structure. A reference point for Washington Syrah.
Excellent+ (USD $70)
2020 DeLille Cellars Doyenne
This is exactly the sort of wine that makes us ask “Why don’t more vignerons blend Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah?” It is a combination that really works, as this wine amply demonstrates. Very complex we pick up notes of blackberry and blueberry with secondary notes of dried flowers (violet) and cracked pepper. This wine is more than just approachable, it literally invites you for another sip. The body is medium+ and the tannin and acid are medium, and that structural combination results in a warm, inviting wine that is pleasure-driven. While it can certainly age from here, this was one of the most approachable reds in their line up.
Excellent (USD $50)
2020 DeLille Cellars Grand Ciel Cabernet Sauvignon
100% Cabernet from this very prestigious vineyard on Red Mountain, this is definitely a very special wine. The intensity is dialed way up with this wine and its blackberry and black cherry primary flavours receive lots of support from the earth, mocha and dried flower elements that stay just in the background. The finish is incredibly long. Very powerful wine but evokes more of a gymnast than it does a linebacker. The complexity is quite something for such a young wine. There is real sophistication here; an elegant, refined but powerful wine that will be right at home on the finest dining tables in the country.
Excellent+/Extraordinary (USD $160)
14300 NE 145th Street, Suite 101
Woodinville, WA 98072
T: (425) 489-0544