DeLille Cellars: High Quality, Artisan Wine from Washington State

By John ~ May 28th, 2010.

When you attend a large public event like Taste Washington, there are a handful of wineries where the lines are extremely long and the wine runs out quickly. DeLille Cellars is in that elite group.

DeLille Cellars, located in Woodinville, Washington, was founded in 1992 by the late Charles Lill and his son Greg, along with former wine broker Jay Soloff and winemaker Chris Upchurch. It all started with three friends sitting around talking wine and then writing up a business plan for a winery on a napkin. Their discussion was about how to produce the very best handcrafted, old-world style red and white wines made in the state of Washington. Since the three friends needed financial backing for their winery venture, Greg Lill met with his father, Charles, by then retired, to ask him to invest in the new business. Charles liked the idea, and the family agreed to give it a try. As they say, the rest is history. DeLille Cellars was the fourth winery in Woodinville and the beginning of a wave of boutique wineries in the area.

DeLille Cellars began producing wine in 1992, sourcing grapes from Washington’s finest vineyards, including Klipsun, Ciel du Cheval, Boushey, Portteus, and Sagemoor. They renovated an 800 square-foot farmhouse on land owned by Charles and Lori Lill in the mid 1990s, and opened their state-of-the-art 7,000 square-foot chateau for business in 1998. As the winery expanded, the partners added their own 20-acre vineyard on Red Mountain called Grand Ciel.

Bordeaux-style blend wines from Washington State have grown in stature due in no small part to the winemaking techniques of DeLille’s Chris Upchurch (Executive Winemaker/Vineyard Manager/Owner-Partner). A self-confessed Francophile and a blender, Chris talks about his wines in terms of a “complete wine.” Qualities like opulence, mouthfeel, balance, and elegance are much more important to him than specific fruit or spice descriptors. Since 2003, Chris Peterson has assisted Upchurch and now holds the title of winemaker at DeLille.

Recently, Kori and I attended a Capital Grille Seattle Winemaker Wednesday event that featured DeLille Cellars. Partner and Marketing Director Jay Soloff, one of the original founders, poured two of DeLille’s flagship wines, the 2007 Chaleur Estate and the 2007 Harrison Hill. Although both of the wines were good, we preferred the Chaleur Estate.  The 2007 vintage is the third vintage of DeLille wines that we have tasted, including both the Doyenne and DeLille lines. We have found all of their wines to be good to excellent, 3 stars (out of 5) or better; but the QPRs with one exception have not been that high, meaning that the wines don’t give you as much “bang for the buck” as we’d like.

2007 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate (Red Mountain, Washington): 65.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 7.5% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. Deep, dark purple. Aromatic with hints of blackcurrants and blackberries. Both black and blue fruits on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, and medium, sweet tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $75

2007 DeLille Cellars Harrison Hill (Snipes Mountain, Yakima Valley, Washington): 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. Dark purple in color. Very dark fruit and bitter baker’s chocolate on the nose and palate. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity, chewy tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $75

Historically open only for releases and special events, DeLille now has a tasting room called The Carriage House that is open from 12:00–4:30pm daily. Put DeLille on your schedule the next time you are visiting wineries in Woodinville. It’s an icon of Washington wine.

(Photos from DeLille Cellars)

Filed under: American Wine, Red Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Activities/Events, Wines Over $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Matt Jones | June 7th, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Good review–I find their wines to be very good, however in a world (and state) like ours there is a glut of wine, and spending over $70/bottle for something less than perfect seems a bit ridiculous to me. They recently lowered the price on a couple of their lesser known wines which are much more reasonable QPRs than $18/a glass at home wines.

  2. John | June 7th, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks for your kind words. Your observation on their lower than ideal QPRs is right in line with our thoughts.