The wine makers in Washington make great wine. That is stating the obvious, but clearly, I need a reminder of this fact from time to time. Our producers have gotten so good at wine making I just take it for granted. So when I run across something way above my expectations it becomes time to quit being lazy, explore and take note.
For several years I have been hearing some very good things about DeLille Cellars located in Woodinville, Washington. Trustworthy Washington oenophiles have been repeatedly telling me that they are producing some extraordinary Bordeaux Style wines from Washington fruit. The “problem” is that everyone says that about their favorite Washington producers, so I really was not taking note of it, and reinforcing my growing complacency. Essentially, they were all starting to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “DeLille, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa.” I was tuning them out, how foolish of me.
Prior to this weekend I have had two encounters with their wines. The first was courtesy of Arnie Millan at Esquin Wine Merchants. He so graciously shared a magnum of Triple Threat at one of his spectacular wine dinners. It was the Pièce de résistance for the dinner. Triple Threat is a special blend of DeLille’s Cab Sav wines into one bottling. DeLille provides this special blend to charities to be auctioned off to help them raise money to support their charitable efforts. It is an extraordinarily rare wine that is a great pleasure to experience.
Along with the the Triple Threat, on several occasions, I have had their D2 Cab Sav, and found these wines to be excellent. They automatically placed DeLille on my mental Top 20 list of Washington producers. As a consequence of their quality being so good I had become complacent in my thinking and never really went and explored DeLille’s offerings. What a mistake!
Last Friday that all changed. I met a friend and business colleague for a meeting at Hectors in downtown Kirkland. As I sat down he had the waitress bring me a glass of wine. I reached over to look at the wine list, he grabbed it from me and said I was doing an impromptu blind tasting before we discussed business.
At the first taste my mind began to bend in a way that it only does when when one encounters a seminal masterpiece work of art for the first time. The wine had the nose of an exceptional left bank Bordeaux and the initial taste and mouth feel of an exceptional Rhone style wine. I was tasting a wine that had perfectly blended together the best elements of two distinctly different styles of wine while leaving their relative individuals weakness out of the mix. The result is a spectacularly silky, slightly larger than medium bodied red wine. It has a nearly perfect structural balance of tannins, alcohol and acidity. It proudly and elegantly displays the taste characteristics of the Syrah grape with lots of black raspberry and plum along with black pepper and sage. As the wine lingered in my mouth Cabernet Saviugnon components began to express themselves. There were supple showings black fruits leading to a long smooth finish. As I tasted this I rapidly became stupefied. My thoughts were like an old scratched vinyl record that keeps skipping back on itself when played. All I could think about was this was two exceptional French wines combined in one glass. What perplexed me even more was that my friend who walked me into the blind tasting is well known to be a “Washington Only” wine connoisseur. He generally avoids French wines. Rapidly I started to ask him a ton of questions that essentially boiled down to one: Where in the hell had he found an avant-garde French wine that was so amazing? He was smiling like a cheshire cat and not providing any answers. Nothing was making sense, my mind bent even more. The French are so doctrinal in their viticulture. I was just having a tough time imagining a commercially available French wine in America that would essentially violate most of the French wine making rules, regulations and laws for Bordeaux and Rhone. Then he stopped me and showed me what it was…a glass of the 2008 DeLille Dyonne Aix.
My next response was WOWZA…DeLille… REALLY!!!!! Not to take anything away from DeLille, previous to this, I had considered them in the Top 20 of Washington wine producers. My mental ranking of Washington producers was about to undergo a major change. Currently there about 700 wineries in the State of Washington, so were already part of my personal best of the best. I had just been blown away and started to reevaluate my thinking. Clearly… with this revelation…I needed to go and explore further.
So on Sunday, I went out to Woodinville and visited DeLille’s tasting room, the “Carriage House” and dove into seven of their other wines. They were all excellent, but one of them…once again… bent my mind. Again, WOWZA…Bent Mind…twice in three days! This time it was a white wine, DeLille’s 2009 Charleur Estate Blanc. It is a Bordeaux style white, that is 67% Saviugnon Blanc, 33% Seimillon. This wine may be the single best glass of white wine I have ever had, hands down. It is a perfectly balanced white wine, with an amazing mouth feel that powerfully expresses the best viticultural qualities of its grapes.
As the wine hits your nose it displays a sophisticated scent of apricots, figs and grapefruit with a hint of warm bread. As the wine hits your mouth silky and rich notes of grapefruit, gooseberries, and a slight hint of pineapple and toast on a long and satisfying finish. The structure of this wine was once again in a phrase, perfectly balanced.
Twice in three days my perception of DeLille’s quality had been substantially enhanced. They are true artists of wine making. DeLille has now knocked one of my previous Washington producers out of my Top 5 List.
After this weekend, my Top 5 Washington producers are:
If you have a chance, make a trip to Woodinville and visit DeLille’s tasting room. The staff is knowledgeable, friendly and excellent. If you like wine, you will not leave disappointed and might find something new and amazing. It is a great way to spend a Sunday.