Paul Gregutt's Wine Nooze – Week of March 24, 2008
It's no secret that Quilceda Creek enjoys the sort of cult-winery reputation rarely seen north of the Napa valley. Although the back to back Robert Parker perfect scores (for the 2002 and 2003 Quilceda Cabs) brought national attention to the winery, the truth is that the Golitzin family has been crafting superb wines without interruption since before their first commercial release in 1979.
This track record is one of the principal reasons that this was the only Washington winery to receive a perfect score in my book (Washington Wines & Wineries – the Essential Guide).
I've tasted Quilceda Creek from even earlier vintages – experimental wines that were made in anticipation of turning pro. They are recognizably cut from the same vinous cloth as the QC wines we've tasted ever since.
With its unrivaled reputation, Quilceda Creek wines have become very hard to purchase. The winery sells most of its inventory through a long-closed mailing list. The rest of the wines go to a few restaurants and the wine shop/retail clients who have supported the brand for decades.
But in a recent meeting at the winery, the Golitzins shared with me their plans to expand. We tasted the current and future 2005s, and they generously shared samples of the blended (but not yet bottled) 2006s.
The winery planted their first estate vineyard on Red Mountain about seven years ago. Named the Galitzine vineyard, it made its debut in a 2004 single vineyard bottling. The 2005 Galitzine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, due to be released this fall, is even better. Pure Cabernet Sauvignon, it's tight, textural, chewy and deep; the dense cherry fruit loaded with brandy/bourbon barrel flavors. Tasted 18 months before its official release, the 2006 Galitzine was even better.
But wait – there's more. Last spring the Golitzins announced that they had purchased a five acre vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills, and leased another 3.5 acres nearby. Named the Palengat vineyard, it is essentially the same terroir as the Champoux vineyard, from which the principal Quilceda Creek Cabernet grapes are sourced.
The first single vineyard Quilceda Creek Palengat Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was made in 2006, and will be released in the fall of 2009. It is nothing short of stunning. 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cab Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, this Champoux-style wine is bursting with ripe cherry fruit. Broad and deep and detailed, it also offers hints of leaf and earth and wonderful barrel notes of coffee and spice.
The new (2005) Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Quilceda Creek Merlot are now in release, and will be reviewed in the Wine Enthusiast shortly. As good as they are, I believe that the 2006 vintage will prove even better.
Now, I can hear you thinking – so what? We can't ever taste these wines. Well, here's a strategy that should work. Quilceda Creek also makes a Red Wine each vintage, that is released in the fall, and sells for far less than the regular Cabernet Sauvignon. It is made in exactly the same way, the same barrels, the same deluxe vineyard treatment. It's just a barrel selection that doesn't fit the other wines. You are getting close to QC Cab quality for a fraction of the cost, and this wine is more easily found.
The Quilceda Creek 2005 Red Wine (84% Cab/9% Franc/7% Merlot) is due out in September. This is a deeply-fruited, round and resonant wine which would be almost any other winery's prestige bottling. I would get on the phone to your favorite wine shop now and ask to reserve some. It's the best chance (short of being on the mailing list) to see what makes Quilceda Creek one of a kind.