Delille Cellars was the first Washington State winery to produce a Bordeaux-style blend, and it has one of the oldest vineyards in Woodinville, which is located around 20 miles northeast of Seattle.
If you have any interest in wine at all and find yourself in or near Seattle, then put Woodinville on your list of things to see. Not that you’ll see it all in one trip, with its four winemaking districts – Downtown, Hollywood, Warehouse and West Valley – serving as home to more than 130 wineries.
Opening in 1992, DeLille Cellars was one of the first five wineries in Washington to receive Robert Parker’s 5-star excellence rating. It generally is found on the list of top 10 wineries to visit in the state, and continues to be best known for its Bordeaux-style blends: D2 and Chaleur Estate. In addition, it produces a highly-rated white blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon called Chaleur Blanc.
Delille sources its grapes from the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area (AVA) – the premier wine region in southeast Washington known for world class Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and other varieties – as well as various sites in the Columbia Valley.
Both the Chaleur Estate and D2 were recognized last year, with the former landing at No. 48 on Jeb Dunnuck’s Top 100 and the later at No. 30 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100. In addition, DeLille’s Grand Ciel Cabernet from its estate vineyard on Red Mountain placed No. 47 on Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Cellar Selections, and the winery’s Chaleur Blanc,made Owen Bargreen’s Top 100 list at No. 59. DeLille also received its fifth Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries accolade.
Other accolades, per the DeLille marketing folks, include the Great Northwest Wine’s Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year award in the spring of 2022, and recognition for the winery’s tasting room and restaurant, The Restaurant at DeLille Cellars, most notably by Seattle Magazine’s Readers’ Choice for Best Wine Tasting and No. 4 on USA Today’s Top 10 Winery Restaurants in 2022. It would place No. 5 on the 2023 list that was just released July 21.
In 2019, DeLille Cellars moved all winery and hospitality operations to the Old Redhook Brewery, at 14300 NE 145th St., in Woodinville. The winery includes a three-story tasting room and the restaurant, which used to be called The Lounge at DeLille Cellars and on June 1, 2023, altered the name slightly, changing it to The Restaurant at DeLille Cellars.
In addition to tastings inside or on the patio, guests can take part in a wine blending experience, a library wine tasting or partake of a full meal at the restaurant.
The restaurant celebrated its second year of operations on June 16. Reservations are available online, and walk-ins are welcome as space allows.
As part of its 30th anniversary last spring, DeLille held a celebration at the winery and released a short documentary capturing the winery’s founding story. The video highlights the meeting of DeLille’s founders – Jay Soloff, Chris Upchurch, and Charles and Greg Lill – and their belief in and dedication to creating exceptional wines that express quintessential and world-class Washington fruit with French influence through blending. That video is featured below.
DeLille’s present-day portfolio features more than 20 wines, a handful of which are nationally and internationally distributed. In fall of 2023 and winter of 2024, DeLille will be releasing the 30th vintages of its D2 and Chaleur Estate.
Jason Gorski is the director of winemaking and viticulture, leading a team of six that also includes winemaker Nick Bernstein, assistant winemaker Mari Rossi and several others who provide valuable assistance in the cellar.
He took a handful of questions from PennLive and provided the following responses:
Q, So you’ve gone from The Lounge to The Restaurant at DeLille Cellars. What has changed and why now? Was this something being tied into the anniversary?
A, The name change is intended to more accurately describe the experience that The Restaurant delivers. Since we opened, the space has evolved beyond small bites and a glass of wine, to include a full lunch and dinner menu, as well as an extensive wine list, local beer and cider, and select craft cocktails. The Restaurant was a USA Today Top 10 winery restaurant in 2022 and 2023 and recently won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.
Q, What sets DeLille apart? What makes it special and unique?
A, In 1992, when DeLille was founded, very few wineries in the U.S. focused on blends, instead producing single varietal wines. DeLille was the first winery in Washington to be founded on the traditional art of blending, and continues to champion and highlight world-class blends from Washington State.
Q, What are some basics that my readers should know about Washington wine, and what are a couple of the major ways the state’s industry has changed during the 30 years the DeLille has been in business?
A, Washington State has the capability to produce world-class wines and has done so for decades. Often overshadowed by our better-known counterparts to the south, Washington wine continues to represent the best domestic value at every price point, and across many styles and varietals. Whereas Napa Valley has Cabernet and Willamette Valley has Pinot, Washington State’s Columbia Valley AVA is very geographically broad, with diverse climates that can support everything from cooler climate, low summation varietals like Riesling, to warmer sites that grow extraordinary Cabernet.
Over the past 30 years, the Washington wine industry has matured from farmers looking to diversify their crops, to wine growers very much focused on achieving the highest potential from specific sites. Similarly, very few wineries existed in the early 1990s. There were less then 100 wineries in Washington in 2000, and today we have more than 1,000.
Q, What are a couple of DeLille highlights and what has occurred over the past 10 years to amplify the Washington wine message?
A, At DeLille, we have always sought to produce the finest wine possible, and gratefully have been regularly recognized for that effort by reviewers and the press. Over the past decade, that recognition has included many highlights, including numerous local and regional awards for the winery and specific wines, as well as the Wine and Spirits Top 100 Winery designation for five of the past six years. D2, our Merlot-dominant red blend, has earned a coveted spot on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of the world for two of the past three vintages. While many of Washington’s highest quality producers are quite small, selling most of their wine locally, DeLille has spent the last decade growing, focused on producing world-class wine with enough case volume to allow us to take the message of Washington wine not only across the states but also internationally.
Q, The Chaleur Blanc and D2 .. do they change much from year to year? How many vintages of those wines do you have stored away somewhere?
A, Both Chaleur Blanc and D2 change only slightly vintage over vintage. For Chaleur Blanc, the blend is determined mostly by vineyard yield in terms of the proportion of Sauvignon Blanc (~65%) to Semillon (~35%). For D2, which is Merlot driven at 57-65%, the varietal proportions are determined by style and quality, as well as by yield.
Q, I like your experience events. How long have you been offering these? Is there one that’s especially popular and do you have any others in the pipeline?
A, Since the release of the very first vintage, DeLille has hosted events providing access to the winemaking facility and staff. We expanded our experiential offers when we moved into our new tasting room at the Old Redhook Brewery in late 2019, to include blending and library experiences. We’ve recently launched a new tour experience, allowing guests exclusive access to our production area, finishing with a food and wine pairing experience at our restaurant next door. We are very excited about our tour experience and expect that to become a fan favorite. We also host a variety of member and private events throughout the year.
Q, What are the oldest and the youngest vineyards? And what’s planned for the Discovery Vineyard? I’d be remiss not to ask about the climate: Are there effects there you are seeing?
A, The vines at our oldest site (Harrison Hill, Snipes Mountain) were planted in 1962, or 61 years old, and our youngest vines are at an experimental block of Cabernet Sauvignon planted on rootstock (most of Washington vines are own-rooted) that were planted in 2019. We currently source Cabernet and Syrah from the picturesque Discovery Vineyard. We love working with the May family – they have some new blocks coming online and potentially could plant more; we look forward to continuing to partner with them for more fruit in the future, for sure!
We definitely have experienced some varied vintage conditions here in WA for the past 10-15 years. What “normal” means anymore is something winemakers and wine growers constantly joke about. We feel like we have produced great wines in all of the conditions, and it has undoubtably taught us to pay attention and adapt both in the vineyard and cellar. We never approached winemaking like a recipe, so adapting to what nature provides is Plan A. As far as warming trends, WA has a great advantage: With our vineyards being located so far north, we rapidly see the sun less and less as the harvest months approach, so our temperatures in September and October are quite cool, comparatively, allowing for a very wide harvest window for mature grapes.
Q, I guess, summing up .. a couple of trends you are seeing out there?
A, More and more wineries keep opening up – the Pacific Northwest will continue to support local! Distributors continue to consolidate, and the wine market is cooling off, which could create difficulty for less established brands.
Q, Things you are seeing in the industry that keep you optimistic?
A, High-end wine remains fairly stable despite the influx of seltzer and craft cocktails/mocktails, COVID, the economy, etc. We all personally believe that fine wine is a necessity, not a luxury!
Q, Biggest challenges that DeLille and the industry face over the coming decade?
A, Transitions in the consumer base and their buying preferences, and labor. Wine is an agricultural product, we need to support all of our domestic food producers.