Doyenne: A Taste of Rhone from DeLille Cellars

By Kori ~ May 2nd, 2011.

The late Charles Lill and his son Greg, along with former wine broker Jay Soloff and winemaker Chris Upchurch, founded DeLille Cellars, located in Woodinville, Washington, in 1992. 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 sources their grapes from some of Washington’s finest vineyards including Boushey, Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, and Red Willow. They renovated an 800 square-foot farmhouse on land owned by the Lill family 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.

Doyenne is DeLille Cellars’ Rhone and Provence-style line of wines. We recently had the opportunity to taste the 2007 Doyenne Syrah and the 2009 Doyenne Roussanne in a blind samples tasting. We especially enjoyed the Doyenne Syrah. It is always a treat to get a little taste of Rhone right here in our own backyard.

DeLille is an icon of Washington wine, and I encourage you to visit their Carriage House tasting room the next time you are in Woodinville.

2007 Doyenne Syrah (Yakima Valley, Washington): 98% Syrah and 2% Viognier. Deep, dark purplish red in color. Nice nose with gorgeous black fruits and licorice aromas that lead to blackberry, black cherry, licorice, spice, and black pepper flavors. Full-bodied and lively with high, drying tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $39; Available elsewhere, $38 to $42

2009 Doyenne Roussanne (Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain, Washington): Pale, greenish straw yellow. Aromatic with petrol and floral notes on the nose. White peach, petrol, lemon, lime, and a hint of honey come through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to Buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $32; Available elsewhere, $32

Filed under: American Wine, Red Wine, Roussanne, Shiraz/Syrah, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wines Over $25

Reader's Comments

  1. itsoffal | May 2nd, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Love their wines. But I’d like to know how they came up with the name Ciel du cheval, cause it don’t make no sense in any language.

  2. TheGourmetCoffeeGuy | May 2nd, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    So interesting to learn how these friends drew a business plan on a napkin and ended up with a successful enterprise! Stories like that become the subject of legends for the winery but when they are true, they are priceless trivia for everyone.
    The vineyard, Ciel du Cheval, has wonderful views of the neighboring Horse Heaven Hills, long rolling hills in the beautiful state of Washington. I believe this is the reason for the name of this vineyard although there is probably more history tracing back to Indian times. Kori, your wine recommendation sounds great too.

  3. itsoffal | May 3rd, 2011 at 4:06 am

    I meant Ciel du Cheval doesn’t mean anything in french. it literaly translate to – sky of the horse.

  4. itsoffal | May 3rd, 2011 at 4:21 am

    literally ))

  5. Kori | May 3rd, 2011 at 7:00 am

    itsoffal and CoffeeGuy,
    Thanks for your comments. When the original owners named Ciel du Cheval, they intended to pay homage to the Horse Heaven Hills, which can be seen from the vineyard. As current owner Jim Holmes recalls, “They had had some high school French and didn’t get it quite right.” For more info about Ciel du Cheval, you might enjoy reading an article I wrote about the vineyard for Washington Tasting Room Magazine: Cheers!

  6. itsoffal | May 3rd, 2011 at 11:11 am