We’ve just launched a new wine club in partnership with DeLille Cellars, one of the most celebrated wineries in Washington state. To get some insight into the wines being offered and the philosophy with which they’re created, we sat down with a few of the folks from the DeLille team: Jay Soloff, co-founding partner and sales manager; Tom Dugan, general manager; Chris Upchurch, executive winemaker; and Jason Gorski, winemaker.
SLT: How would you describe the philosophy behind DeLille and its wines?
Jay: DeLille is focused on the finest grapes from the oldest and most prestigious vineyards in Washington state, primarily from the Red Mountain AVA, and on producing French-style regional blends focused on the traditional grape varieties used in Bordeaux, the Rhône Valley and Provence regions. DeLille has always secured the finest vineyard sources in Washington state with an unwavering goal of creating handcrafted, quality wines of distinction with a unique sense of place.
Tom: We seek to create wines that are the ultimate expression of Washington State terroir.
How do you characterize Washington as a wine-growing region for people not familiar with it?
Chris: The Washington state wine growing region is a high plains desert with uncharacteristically great soils and climate. The Indian summer allows Washington to have great hang time with no rainfall at harvest.
What sets DeLille apart from other Washington state wineries?
Jay: Chris Upchurch has traveled the world’s wine regions extensively to experience stellar wines from all over the world. Through his exploration, he has discussed winemaking and vineyard techniques with some of the most celebrated wine growers and vintners, learning the elements of how great wines are made, and has applied those principles to develop his own style in Washington State. His uncompromising philosophy, techniques, and gifted palate all contribute to place DeLille Cellars’ wines in a category all their own.
Tom: First, the terroir. DeLille owns or sources some of the best fruit and oldest vines in the state. Second, our history. DeLille has a 20+ year winemaking legacy in the region, with access to superior grapes from iconic and new vines, enabling the winery to consistently create unique and award winning wines. We continually improve through creativity, innovation and experimentation. DeLille is also one of Washington’s early wineries and has been instrumental in establishing the area as a premier wine growing region. Third, our ratings and reviews. DeLille’s wines consistently score 90+ points by top international critics. In Robert Parker’s “Wine Buying Guide” DeLille Cellars received the highest rating for producers around the world – “5 stars outstanding.”
How would you describe each of the wines offered in our wine club?
Chris: D2 is a Bordeaux-style blend with Merlot in the lead. Warm layers of fruit with soft silky tannins wrapped with toasty oak nuances.
AIX is a Cabernet and Syrah blend that combines the power and structure of Cabernet with the generosity of flavors of Syrah. It’s perfect for steaks and any grilled meats.
Four Flags is a blend of Cabernet from four of the best vineyards from the Red Mountain AVA. It’s deep, dark and concentrated with a seamless balance and long savory finish.
Our Chaleur Estate Blanc is a classic Bordeaux-style white blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, barrel fermented in French oak and aged sur lie. The combination gives creamy textures and big powerful flavors of citrus herbs and sweet grasses, along with honeysuckle and dried fruits. It’s a versatile wine that matches all seafood, poultry and white meat.
What do you love about wine? How did you become interested in it in the first place?
Jason: I fell in love with wine at the dinner table. My first experiences with wine were centered on the natural convergence of fellowship, food and wine. I was already interested in food, and was simply blown away by how much wine could contribute to an already fantastic meal, with amazing people, and immediately decided I needed to learn more.
I love how wine can convey a sense of place and its culture, while seamlessly adding to the enjoyment of the environment in which it is enjoyed. Every bottle reflects not only terroir and the craftsmanship of the wine itself, but also the way of life and cuisine of the region of origin.
Tom: My parents were not big wine drinkers, so it was not a staple at the dinner table growing up. Certainly as a guy, it’s not the first thing you’re introduced to at 21! When I moved to New York City after college, the restaurant scene was something everyone learned to appreciate, whether on a date, at a work dinner, or enjoying a meal with friends. Wine is engineered to be enjoyed with food, so interest naturally followed an appreciation for great food.
I really love that wine is experiential. Drinking wine can itself be an experience – geeking out over a new producer, a rare varietal, or old vintage – or it can be part of one. Wine is a truly amazing product that allows people to enjoy the culmination of so many different factors (the grower, region, harvest technique, climate, winemaking style—fermentation method, grape selection, blending, etc.). Food is certainly similar, but there’s a certain mystique to something that takes years to make and gets better with age. I also really love that it’s not something you can or would want to enjoy quickly, so it necessitates you taking time to enjoy and appreciate (something rare in the fast-pace, connected world we live in). Lastly, I really love how wine is meant to be shared. Most of the time when I recall wine, it’s in relation to an experience I had, like talking to a winemaker, going on a tasting or enjoying a meal for a special occasion.
What would you suggest that someone fairly new to wine do to learn more about it and what they like?
Jason: Taste lots! There are plenty of opinions about wine and great books available on the subject, but I always teach someone new to wine appreciation to own their own opinion – there is no reason to drink wine you do not enjoy in the hopes that somehow you will learn how to enjoy it! Learn what you like, so you can find bottles you will appreciate, and grow your palate from there. Use your basic knowledge to ask sommeliers and wine stewards to recommend something new based upon what you already enjoy.
Jay: Read as many books on wine as you can. Become familiar with your own palate by making friends with a local wine merchant. Attend their tastings, classes and learn from them – ask lots of questions. Equally important, drink wines from all over the world to gain perspective and learn what great, world class wines taste like and why.
What are some of your favorite wines to drink right now, during the fall and winter?
Jason: With the weather and ingredients of autumn and winter, I naturally turn to aromatic and acidic whites to cut through some of the richness of the seasonal cuisine, or more structured reds to balance that same richness. Of course, sparkling is always a good option, regardless of the season!
Tom: I think Rhone-style wines are great with Thanksgiving and autumnal food. I think first of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and New World Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blends. Also any light to medium bodied wines like Pinot Noir and Gamay. And as Jason said, sparkling is always a good option!
What are some good gifts to give wine lovers or people getting interested in wine?
Jason: Wine is always a good idea! Wine lovers of every experience level will always benefit from and enjoy a good bottle of wine. For those newer to wine appreciation, the basics are always good gift ideas: a proper wine key, stemware and a decanter.
Jay: Great books on wine or wine and food pairing like What to Drink With What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page.
What factors do you take into consideration when pairing wines with food?
Jason: For food and wine pairing, I always consider the weight of the dish, complementary flavors, and the spiciness of the food. In general, the weight of the dish should be similar to the weight of the wine — lighter fare pairs well with bright, crisp wines, and heavier food pairs well with more structured wines.
Wines often contain complementary flavors to the foods they will pair with. For instance, citrus flavors in food are often present in white wine, and herbs are often found in reds. Lastly, spicy foods do not pair well with higher alcohol wines, so always look to drink lower alcohol wines (usually white).
Okay guys, last question. It’s late. You’re hungry. What’s your go-to midnight snack to have with your glass of wine?
Jason: Crusty bread with good butter and some salt.
Jay: Fresh organic dates, fresh organic figs, if in season; self-roasted organic cashews or almonds, fresh organic stone fruits, when in season; organic banana or organic apple slices with fresh ground organic almond butter and fresh organic berries.
Tom: Leftover pizza.
Thanks, guys! If you’re interested in joining our new club — or even just in picking up a few bottles at an exclusive price for Sur La Table customers — you can learn more here. Cheers!