The Carriage House is Delille Cellar’s (www.delillecellars.com) newest tasting room, located in the Tourist District next to Brian Carter Cellars and just in front of the Purple Café. Don’t go to the main Delille Chateau down the road, as this is not typically open to the public.
As we entered the tasting room, we were impressed with what a great job the winery has done with such a basic building (an older small house). We were able to ask some questions of Catherine Hay, who designed the Carriage House along with Theodora Upchurch. Catherine told us their intent was to create half of the space in a Mediterranean motif and the other half in a Bordeaux style motif. Repurposed cedar is used throughout and the floors are covered with wood from reclaimed wine barrels. In addition, there is a private tasting area and two small decks – one to the north and one to the south of the building. It makes for a very inviting space to hang out for wine tasting.
The Carriage House is well staffed and we were warmly greeted by manager Deb Stadelman who introduced us to Krista, our host for the tasting. Tasting the wines at Delille is always a treat as their wines are known throughout the state as some of the best. One thing that was pointed out during our tasting that we want to pass along to the readers is that it is better to rinse your glass with a little wine instead of water. Water tends to dilute your next taste.
Our first taste was a 2010 Roussanne which is 100 percent Roussanne and received 93 points from Wine Enthusiast. We enjoyed it so much we had to buy a bottle. This wine had a refreshing but light taste with hints of melon, peach and citrus — a perfect wine for any light food.
We moved on to the 2009 Doyenne Aix which is 56 percent Syrah, 38 percent Cabernet, and 4 percent Mourvedre. This was a particularly delicious wine. It is a big wine with a lot of fruit, spice and some smoke all hitting the palate at once. Fabulous is how we would describe it. This particular wine was just released this past November.
The 2008 Doyenne Signature Syrah (98 percent Syrah 2 percent Viognier) was one of the best Syrahs we have ever tasted. Krista educated us about co-fermentation, where the actual dark color comes from an enzyme in the white Viognier grape that pulls out the color of the red Syrah grape. This vintage received 94 points from Wine Spectator.
While all of the wines we tasted at Delille were very good, our favorite is still their D2. Some years this is a Cabernet-dominated wine and other years a Merlot-dominated wine. The 2009 is Merlot dominated. Delille commits half of their product to this particular wine. It has always been consistently good over the years and still one of our favorite Washington wines.
The best story we were told about the winery is from Delille’s founding in 1991/1992. Charles Lill made his kids promise they would never sell his warm and cozy paradise (the current Delille Chateau). This prompted a discussion during a golf game between Greg Lill, Jay Soloff, and Chris Upchurch about the possibility of turning the house into a winery and a “back of the napkin” business plan was written. Greg presented the plan to the Lill family to get their input. Greg’s mom, dad and sister all voted yes, to proceed with the business plan. When it came Greg’s turn, he voted no. When asked why he wrote a business plan, only to vote no on implementing it, he replied “I’m already outvoted and I don’t want to be blamed if it doesn’t work.” Today, the Chaleur Estate wines are named after Charles “warm house.”
The plan obviously worked, as Delille is coming up on their 20-year anniversary. It is impressive that in this short time they have been named one of the top 100 wineries in the WORLD by the Wine Spectator, the Wine Enthusiast and the Robb Report. Frankly, we are not sure if any other winery can make that claim. We think the secret is the three founding partners who are all still with the winery: Chris Upchurch, the winemaker; Jay Soloff, the master of marketing and Greg Lill, the industry evangelist. In our opinion, the founders represent the three critical areas needed for success in the wine business — a great product available through multiple channels and supported by creative marketing.Our experience at The Carriage House was outstanding. The wines, the people, and the tasting room are all very inviting. You really can’t go wrong with any of them.