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December 03, 2010
DeLille Cellars & Woodinville... Say Heaven!
Every so often, an experience in life makes you question prior views and decisions. DeLille has me rethinking wineries of western Washington. This experience reminds me of Anton Ego when he meets Remy on Ratatouille, and no, I don't look like Ego at least not completely. The salient point here is that all of their wines are exceptional beyond my wildest expectations!

DeLille Cellars came to us with their collection of wines, and we embraced receiving such a large collection. It's always exciting when we get a large collection at WineMatch, as it allows us to be more intimate with the wines and how they pare against other wines. They did very well as they are quite amazing.

Jay Soloff, whom I had the pleasure to interview, told me Chris Upchurch, their winemaker, was a home winemaker for some 18 years prior to joining DeLille Cellars, and for eight of those years, Jay and Chris made wine together.

At DeLille Cellars, ancestry truly runs deep. The French name of Charles Lill dates back to 16th Century France, back to the Huguenots, that were from Lille, France. The real family name was De Lille, meaning "from Lille", but as so many other names, was shortened to Lill. Flashing back to that college history class, the Huguenots were Protestants and had three lovely choices to make. Embrace Catholicism, be executed by guillotine, or move out of the country. Charles' great ancestor, Julius, moved out of France and into Bohemia (a Germanic state at the time) which would later become the Czech Republic.

In those days they could squat for the land and grow crops, so many became farmers. The good properties were those with a road through it, as you were allowed to charge toll for those passing using your thoroughfare. As the crops were more plentiful than what could be consumed by the De Lille family alone, a produce stand was set up where tolls were collected. In addition to this revenue, an underground tunnel was discovered with a cache of ancient coins. Half of the proceeds went to the De Lille family with the other half going to the King.

Fast forward to Charles Lill, having worked hard and acquired wealth in the Czech Republic, only to lose it as so many did during WWII. Charles immigrated to the United States and was displaced, as his German Law and Engineering degree were not honored in the United States. So Charles sold life insurance and annuities before going into the wine business.

Charles Lill, with Chris Upchurch as winemaker, Jay Soloff, and Greg Lill, started DeLille Cellars in 1992, being only the fourth winery founded in Woodinville. Their first-year output was 1,200 cases, consisting of two different wines. David Lake was also instrumental in connecting the founders to whatever resources and folks required without fail, time and  time  again.  In  January

of 2008, Charles passed away, leaving this incredible legacy of quality and integrity to Lore, his love and the family matriarch. Charles' daughter, Pat Lill Jorgenson, also carries on his legacy by being a partner in the operations. Today, DeLille produces twelve wines under two different portfolios and 12,000 cases, but still doing it all by hand. The results speak for themselves.

A funny story emerged when after a first gentle pressing, Charles would see that there was still juice to be had in further pressing, but was told that the remains would be thrown out. Being a man who left nothing to waste, he would then load all the must in cartons and make his own wine from the remaining juice extracted.

Their Chateau, modeled after the historic Chateau Haut Brion in Bordeaux, is situated on the ten-acre Lill family farm overlooking the Woodinville Valley floor. They are all about handpicking, hand-sorting, and the finest berry clusters being put into only French oak barrels to achieve the finest result.

Of the two portfolios, DeLille Cellars and Doyenne, I am particularly fond of the 2007 Doyenne Syrah, the 2007 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate, and the 2007 Grand Ciel Cabernet Sauvignon. I also found the 2009 Doyenne Metier Blanc, primarily Viognier with some Roussanne, to be a lovely white!

The Grand Ciel vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA is run by none other than Jim Holmes, who is featured in this month's Wine Spectator (page 58). I had the extreme pleasure of talking to Jim and he simply stated  "A  well-managed  vineyard will work

with any system", referring to the various trellising systems used in the 140 acres that comprise the Grand Ciel (Big Sky) and Ciel du Cheval vineyards. Jim loves working with the folks at DeLille Cellars and is truly a man of the soil!

Uncompromising quality is what DeLille Cellars is all about. And it goes well with ratatouille, ask any 'rat de cave!'

Remy and the film Ratatouille are registered trademarks of Pixar, Inc

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