Quilceda Creek Vinters
Architects of the Washington Wonder
Wine and Spirits, June 1992 Vol. 11, No.3

Moving from the large players to the most diminutive, no Washington wine exploration can be considered fulfilled without a stop-in at the home winery location of Alex Golitzin’s Quilceda Creek Vintners, tucked away on a Snohomish hillside, a distant commute to the north from Seattle. It happens that Alex is the nephew of the legendary California—and Washington—wine making and viticultural guru-consultant, Andre Tchelistcheff. It also happens that Golitzin—a full-time career chemical engineer from Scott Paper enterprises—has managed to turn this tiny backyard garage avocation into a fountainhead of some of the most exclusive red wine benchmarks that Washington has ever produced.

Paul Golitzin signing magnums
for customers at the
Winery's annual mail list pick-up

The “CLARET” license plate on his car gives you an immediate clue. Quilceda’s only issue is vintage cabernet—about 1,000 cases of it a year, to be exact. But despite such a minuscule figure, since its first commercial release in ’79, Golitzin’s cabernet has achieved a connoisseur following internationally, is presently distributed in over a dozen states, and has long been appearing as featured specialty on the wine list of many of the world’s fine dining havens.

Despite all his celebrity, this jolly devoted homebody turns out to be an amazingly easy-going unpretentious sort. He wanted a winery that was small and not to “debt prone,” he tells me. Also, a kind of place he can wander over to in his pajamas, if he feels like it, just to check things out.

His grapes come from the great Yakima and south Columbia vineyards of Kiona, Klipsun, and venerable Mercer Ranch—“clean fruit of intense varietal persuasion,” Golitzin feels, “full of mouth-filling, but not mouth-drying tannins. Never harsh. Most Washington fruit has this kind of character,” he adds.

The Quilceda Creek Cork
Turning to the obligatory question of how much his famous uncle has helped him in his endeavors, Alex breaks into an enormous grin. “Well, he’s certainly taught me almost everything I know. But you know uncle. He’s very excitable about new projects, very forward looking, highly experimental. This is why he’s so absorbed today in the future of the entire Washington industry. But it sometimes makes him a little hard to deal with if you’re his nephew. The advice he gave two or three years ago may not be valid anymore. I’ll say, ‘But you told me to do it this way!’ He’ll say, ‘Yes, but I changed my mind.’ But since he first began getting involved up here in the late ‘60’s, he’s never changed his mind about Washington’s potential. He talks about the ‘kaleidoscope of eastern Washington' as far as wine grape quality is concerned."

“He has worked hard with me, trying to produce a wine that has both power and elegance at the same time. We strongly believe that making a light wine or a heavy tannic product is not nearly as difficult as creating an optimum of concentrated elegance."

“I’m never quite sure what we’ll be doing when uncle comes to visit,” Alex concludes, starting to laugh. “We might do a critical barrel sampling or just sit around for an evening of chit-chat. But he always passes on what I call little old Indian tricks. Things that aren’t in any textbooks, nothing to do with any grand wine making theories, mind you. These are little things that really count, however. Uncle always reminds me of one main point. He says never to forget that a wine remembers every little thing you do to it.”