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'14 Tour Guide

Reviewed Wineries

Charles Lill, Greg Lill, Jay Soloff, and Chris Upchurch founded DeLille Cellars in 1992. Upchurch serves as executive winemaker and vineyard manager. Chris Peterson, a product of Walla Walla’s enology and viticulture program, holds the title of winemaker.

Located in Woodinville, Washington, DeLille is dedicated to making Old World-style wines from New World fruit. While a number of wineries in Washington favor a big, bold style that takes advantage of eastern Washington’s ability to produce extremely ripe fruit, DeLille’s flagship Bordeaux-style blends – Harrison Hill and Chaleur Estate - are noteworthy for their restraint and elegance.

Harrison Hill is named after a vineyard located within the Snipes Mountain American Viticutual Area (AVA) (DeLille continues to use the Yakima Valley AVA designation for the wine however). The five-acre vineyard, planted in 1961, is one of the older Cabernet Sauvignon sites in Washington. The vineyard is owned by the Newhouse family, also owners of nearby Upland Estates. Fruit for the two Chaleur Estate wines – the red and white - comes from some of Washington’s best vineyards, including Ciel du Cheval (Red Mountain), Klipsun (Red Mountain), Boushey (Yakima Valley), and Sagemoor (Columbia Valley).

DeLille has undergone a number of changes recently. Once open only for releases and special events, last year the winery opened a dedicated tasting room a short distance from the winery. The facility, called the Carriage House, is open seven days a week, a reflection of both the change in the economy and increased production at the winery. The tasting room is located in a suddenly bustling area that includes recent additions Alder Ridge (opened in January), Cañon del Sol (opened in December), Dusted Valley, Gifford-Hirlinger, Goose Ridge (tasting room having a soft launch today), and Otis Kenyon (tasting room officially opening today).

DeLille stirred up a bit of controversy recently when they decided to charge attendees of the Harrison Hill and Chaleur Estate release event. The event had previously been free and limited to people who had purchased the wine. While the fee was nominal at $10, some who had pre-purchased the $75 bottles took offense at having to pay extra money to attend the event (people who had ordered wines and just wished to pick them up to save on shipping costs could do so free of charge). Some people I spoke with prior to the event went so far as to say that they had decided to pass on the wines this year given the state of the economy and what some construed as a lack of appreciation by the winery.

When I asked founder Jay Soloff whether the winery had heard similar criticism, he responded, “Oh we heard it.” Still, Soloff said that after the winery’s last release event, they decided it was time for a change. Lines had been too long and the facility far too crowded. “We didn’t feel like it was fun for anybody,” Soloff said. So the winery made the decision to reduce the number of attendees by approximately one half and add a nominal fee. While the decision was controversial, Soloff said, “You have to understand. We were doing the same thing for more than fifteen years.” Still, Soloff said the winery could have done a better job explaining the rationale behind the decision.

Despite all of this, for those who attended the event, DeLille still knows how to put on a party. The winery, located in a restored 1890s farmhouse overlooking Woodinville Valley, is one of the most picturesque in the area. DeLille always has a festive atmosphere with a delicious cheese spread, a roaring fire, and piano music. The new releases of the winery’s flagship wines did not disappoint either.

DeLille Cellars Harrison Hill Yakima Valley 2007 $75
Rating: ** (Exceptional) An appealing nose marked by cherries, red vines, an undercurrent of toasty oak, and light herbal notes. Elegantly structured on the palate with restrained but richly textured fruit wrapped in silky oak. Beautifully understated. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. Aged in 100% new French oak. 14.9% alcohol. 500 cases produced. Give three plus years or extensive decanting.

DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Yakima Valley 2007 $75
Rating: ** (Exceptional) A bright, fruit-filled nose redolent with cherries, blueberries, licorice, graphite, and light barrel notes. Rich and focused on the palate with lithe tannins and a pretty cranberry note on the finish. Shows remarkable restraint and finesse. 65.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 7.5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, and Boushey vineyards (95% Red Mountain). Aged in 100% new French oak. 14.1% alcohol. 950 cases produced. Give three plus years or extensive decanting.

DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc Yakima Valley 2008 $34
Rating: * (Excellent) An alluring nose with gooseberry, toast, and light tropical fruit. A very pretty texture on the palate with a slightly rounded feel with retaining crisp acidity. Mineral notes linger on the finish. 62% Sauvignon Blanc, 38 Semillon. 100% barrel fermented (70% new). 2,400 cases produced.

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20 comments

  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. The DeLille party is nice, but I wouldn't say it's significantly nicer than the Quilceda Creek party, which we don't have to pay for. The location is slightly nicer (certainly closer to home), but the food isn't as good. I find it hard to pay for the release party when every other winery release party is free. And yes, it feels slightly unappreciative when we're buying hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of wine a year.

    The "too crowded" argument seems a bit disingenuous to me. If that was really the problem, just limit the number of RSVPs accepted. Or require some minimum wine purchase. This doesn't seem like rocket science.

    All that said, I do like the wines, and while the release party issue is an annoyance, it's minor in the big scheme of things.

     
  3. Anon, I think this is part of the reason the move created so much controversy. I am not aware of other release events charging a fee for attending, including top wineries such as Quilceda Creek as you mentioned. Somewhat different dynamics at play in the Woodinville area obviously (DeLille needs to pay to have local police on hand, have a shuttle system set up, etc) but still conceptually the same from a consumer point of view. I agree that simply limiting the number of RSVPs on a first come first served basis (as they did) and/or requiring a minimum purchase (as many others have done at such events) would have been a more sensible approach consistent with what others are doing and would have avoided the negative response. Thanks for the comment.

     
  4. Anonymous Says:
  5. Honestly, at 75 bucks a bottle, why are folks complaining about paying an extra Hamilton for the privilege of attending perhaps the most elegant release party south of State Route 2?

    I'm glad they made that decision. Jay was absolutely correct in that their parties were getting so clotted at the pouring lines that it was no longer fun.

    Good riddens to the cheapskates and moochers who didn't belong there in the first place. Blame them for the policy change. Now, back to my French Gouda... ~WAwineman

     
  6. WWM, I think these two comments summarize the responses I heard from various folks. One was "It's a big deal" and the other was "It's not a big deal." I can't argue that the events were getting far too crowded for all concerned. Enjoy that cheese and thanks for the comment.

     
  7. Anonymous Says:
  8. Disagree with WAwineman, at 75 bucks a bottle, maybe they could treat the folks paying top dollar for their wine to a complimentary tasting as customers are picking up their wine and supporting the winery. I don't know how you call someone a 'cheapskate' who pays $75/bottle. Having said this, I've not attended their release party...why should I when I can and do get their wines at auction for half the price.

     
  9. Anonymous Says:
  10. Chaleur Estate and Harrison Hill have been at $75 for a few vintages. If anything, DeLille should be charging more, so think of that one bottle as $85 with a "free" invite to the party.

    You misread...I was referring to "cheapskates and moochers" to those who think they are entitled to free tastings of luxe wines without paying for anything. Aka "hirudo", they are better tolerated in the warehouse district where $75 wines are not offered there.

     
  11. Anonymous Says:
  12. To think a measly ten bucks filtered-out these bottom-feeders who lacked social etiquette (read: line cutters, legends in their own minds, and food hogs)!

    Perhaps, if DeLille chose to donate the proceeds to a charity...would that have made the fee acceptable? If you answered "yes", then I say to you...ten bucks is ten bucks. You're still out ten bucks. It's a state of mind. ~WAwineman

     
  13. Anon from 6:50p. Indeed, many people can buy wine at considerably less expensive prices than they see at the winery in this case and others. Given that wineries make considerably more money when people buy direct, I believe cultivating and maintaining these relationships is important personally.

     
  14. Anonymous Says:
  15. Sean, very true. I see that point from a customer relations perspective.
    But, I think we lose sight of the fact that we are talking about the Chateau at DeLille Cellars. This isn't a warehouse rental. Think about the planning logistics, the top-end catering, and the cops. All that costs a lot of money and time. Preparing that beautiful enclave for the masses, at no charge, is no longer feasible. Think of the damage to the grounds and the Chateau. It costs a lot more than we think. $10 is not much to ask from people who already spend $75-$125 for a bottle. I don't hear anyone barking about the $35 they charge for the weekend private tastings. ~WAwineman

     
  16. LI Says:
  17. Completely agree with 6:50p and Wawinereport. I loved the 2006 Harrison Hill and Chaleur Estate wines. Was so floored that although I was unemployed I felt compelled to buy a bottle of each of the 2007s.

    Then, after paying $10 to attend the party for the first time, although the 2007 wines remain super, I was not knocked over with as much amazement at the 2006 wines. I thought to myself, why would I EVER pay pre-release prices and then pay $10 to go to the party when I can pay the SAME $10, go to the party, and then decide how much I love the wines...if I do, I can of course buy them for much less than the pre-release price later.

     
  18. Anonymous Says:
  19. And Sean, I also believe that DeLille is cultivating and maintaining these relationships...by trying to restore the "experience" of their release parties through the purchase of a $10 invite.
    Sure, a much more advanced warning would have been easier to digest. That may be the only boo-boo on their part.
    The other option would be to simply charge "Grand Ciel" prices and treat it like a Grand Ciel release party. I loved those parties because all the other people around were just as nutty as me to buy that bottle. No freeloaders to be seen there.
    Regardless, even with this economy, if I paid $75 for a bottle, I'd quietly hope that at the release party, all the other people did the same...kinda snobby, but it's my money we're talking about. (What a great topic to debate!) ~WAwineman.

     
  20. WWM, believe me, I heard what the winery pays for each of these events and it was a very large sum, even for a medium-sized, well-established winery like DeLille. Definitely a significant issue, regardless of the price of the wines frankly. I will say that this was not a decision that the winery made lightly regardless of how well or poorly it was received by people. Thanks for the comment.

     
  21. Anonymous Says:
  22. Unemployment is not the fault of DeLille Cellars. And, believe me, I feel for those who are victims of the economy, and I hope you are all re-employed soon so we can all debate the merits of Washington wine at any price tier.
    Now, there's a good strategy...buy the ticket (like a tasting fee) THEN decide to buy the wine or not while at the party.
    Then again, I go to DeLille parties for the ambience, NOT to decide on whether I want to purchase the wines. ~WAwineman

     
  23. Anonymous Says:
  24. As for paying top-dollar for Washington wine, how about the $200 Cote Bonneville cab? Quilceda Creek's 2007 Columbia Valley cab ($125 for standard and $275 for magnum)?
    That's top dollar wine and, yes, that did come with a "free" invite to either meet the winemaker or go to a release party.
    But, I digress. ~WAwineman

     
  25. LI, you hit on a good point. Previously, people have had to buy the wines to attend the release party and have been able to attend at no charge. This time around there was confusion about whether you needed to buy the wine *and* pay $10 or whether you could just pay $10, not buy the wines, and still attend. Thanks for the comment.

     
  26. Anonymous Says:
  27. I buy QC and Cayuse which are usually hard to come by and not found collecting dust on the shelves like DeLille. If I had to pay an entrance fee to go sip and collect my wine at either I'd be a little put off. I have no problem paying a tasting fee anywhere in hopes if I buy a bottle it is refunded. The handful of Delille's I've had have not inspired me to purchase any...this inspires me even less so with all the other wineries throwing great release parties with great food and multiples wines for free.

     
  28. Anon 12:21p, this is definitely one of the perspectives I have heard from people on this. Thanks for the comment.

     
  29. Anonymous Says:
  30. My experience, including attending other winery releases such as Quilceda, is that DeLille's releases are the classier (read as the best) of WA release events; the food is not just cheese, it is catered (read as $), and yes there are shuttle and police and parking services (read as $), and there are staff to assist in pick-up and purchase and pour and serve (read as $). The point, which I certainly get, is to attend the event for the total experience, not just picking up your wine. I personally congratulated Jay on this change and told him I get it. Hopefully, over time, others will too!

     
  31. Anon 11:35a, thanks for the comment. Part of what fascinates me about this issue is how divided people are about it with some in support and others not happy about it. DeLille definitely spends an enormous amount of money on these events as I mentioned earlier. No question about that.

    Personally, I believe it was a good move to limit the size of the event to improve the experience for everybody. I would have gone about doing so in a different manner, certainly the rollout of it at the very least, but as I mentioned earlier, a lot of thought went into the decision.

     
  32. Anonymous Says:
  33. DeLille Cellars wines are really made for society's upper-crust. Not for wannabes or me-toos or entitled 20-something brats. Go to the warehouse district if you fall in those categories.

    If you don't make a whole lot of coin or don't have Franklins for disposable income, then don't kid yourself...this ain't your wine right now, and the Chateau ain't your place, either.

    If you don't like that message, it's because they are true.
    XD ~WAwineman

     

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