De Lille
Part 4, Washington State: visiting one of North America's leading wine growing regions

At De Lille we met with Chris Upchurch, the co-founder and winemaker. Chris showed up in a soccer shirt Seattle Sounders and was an engaging, confident host. 'We fancy ourselves as a Grand Cru kind of winery,' he shared. 'Parker gives us five stars in his book: we are one of the few five star wineries here in Washington State. Every wine I have made in the last 6 years has got a 90 or above from Parker. It's like I am getting straight As.'

He continued, 'I'm old enough to remember when the Wine Spectator was in newspaper form. The industry has gone crazy and the Spec and Parker should take some credit for this. They've just gotten the interest going.'

 

De Lille was founded in 1992 and has remained focused on Bordeaux blends since that time. 'Washington State is a great wine growing region,' says Chris. 'It's second to none. We are in the same sentence as any great wine-growing region in the world. We just don't have 600 years of history.'

'We started off as a Bordeaux house,' says Upchurch. 'For Washington State in general, that's our speciality.' But he's also keen on Syrah. 'In 1997 my favourite vineyard started producing Syrah. I love Syrah and Rhne wines. After you make good Syrah you get caught up in the Rhne ranger thing.'

We chatted at length, and during the conversation there was a moment of hilarity, where Upchurch made a confession: 'I have a brevity issue.'

Upchurch was born and raised in New Jersey, and went to University of Colorado in Boulder, where he took environmental studies. Since then he's been in the wine industry. 'My dad drank wine at home, which was a rarity; I was raised on more than just vodka and beer,' recalls Upchurch. 'I started working at restaurants in Boulder in the early 1970s, and no one knew anything about wine. So I was asked to do the wine lists. I helped out David Lake at Columbia Winery he was an icon here. He took Columbia to a whole new level. He kind of mentored me.'

We discuss terroir. 'What happened here 10 000 years ago made this a great wine region,' says Upchurch, referring to the Missoula Floods. 'We just need to discover what to do with it.' He continues, 'We imported all our soils from Utah, Idaho and Montana. There was a 2000 foot deep lake, all above ground, bounded by glaciers. It broke and created a huge wave. In Missoula you can still see on the hills the layers where the lake was. This was discovered by a park ranger in the 1920s.'

'It took me 20 years of walking the vineyards to get here,' says Upchurch. 'It's a high plains desert with soil; it's unique in he world. The fact that it's a desert means low rainfall and huge diurnal shifts. You can freeze in a desert at night.'

'My goal is to do cool things. Maybe that's the old hippy in me, but that's what I want to do.'   

THE WINES

De Lille Doyenne Ros 2014 Yakima Valley, Washington State
A blend of 60% Grenache, 22% Cinsault and 18% Mourvedre. Full salmon/pink in colour. Textured and quite pure with subtle pear and peach fruit, as well as some cherry and spice notes. A rich, textured style. 90/100

De Lille Chaleur Estate Blanc 2013 Washington State
65% Sauvignon, 35% Semillon. 65% new oak. Lively and rich with nice spicy texture under the bold flavours of pear and citrus. Generous and weighty, but still has definition. 91/100

De Lille Cellars Four Flags Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Red Mountain, Washington State
From four different vineyards. Smooth and aromatic with a fine blackcurrant fruit nose. Dense, cedary, spicy blackcurrant fruit palate with nice spicy framing. Supple and elegant, although fully ripe, with lovely focus. 93/100

De Lille Cellars D2 2012 Red Mountain, Washington State
50% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. 100% New French oak. Sweet, ripe and smoothly textured with nice plummy cherry fruit. Quite silky and creamy with pretty texture. Broad and delicious, sweetly fruited and with a fine, silky texture. It's a really prety, ripe wine. 92/100

WASHINGTON STATE WINES
Introduction
Betz 
Columbia Winery
De Lille
WT Vintners
Savage Grace
Chateau Ste Michelle
Andrew Will
Airfield Estates
Hedges
Milbrandt Vineyards
Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
Col Solare
Powers/Badger Mountain
J Bookwalter
Pacific Rim
Gordon Estate
Long Shadows
Seven Hills
Charles Smith
Geology with Kevin Pogue
Leonetti
Woodward Canyon
Gramercy Cellars
L'Ecole No 41
Columbia Crest
Maryhill
Memaloose/Idiot's Grace
COR Cellars
Syncline

Wines tasted 06/15  
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