Robert Parker’s “Lafite-Rothschild of Washington State”
Robert Parker Jr. once dubbed DeLille Cellars the “Lafite-Rothschild of Washington State.” Winemaker Chris Upchurch is an incredibly gifted winemaker who has crafted over 70 wines earning 93- to 97-point scores from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, and this 2014 Doyenne is one of my favorites. Showing luscious aromas of black raspberry with hints of anise, cinnamon, and cocoa, and a rich palate of black cherry, thyme, and graphite, the 2014 Doyenne goes miles beyond the reach of most wines under $30. Not surprisingly, more than a few critics have been buzzing about it. Antonio Galloni’s Vinous awarded the 2014 Doyenne 93 points, calling it a “plush, broad, utterly seamless blend with terrific concentration and persistence.” Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and Wine Enthusiast followed up with matching 92-point scores. I’ve secured America’s best price on 56 cases. $29.99 per bottle — 25% off — for as long as they last.
The story of how Upchurch’s Doyenne came to be is almost as good as the wine itself. In 1995, Upchurch — then a promising young winemaker and partner at DeLille — met the future love of his life, Thea. When Chris flew to France a few days later, he jotted off a postcard to his new sweetheart, inscribed with a quote from a Bob Marley song: “If you feel it, you know it.”
Six years later, wedding bells were ringing. The morning of their marriage, Chris decided on a whim to craft a Syrah-Cabernet blend to pour at dinner — a classic Provençal red that the couple had fallen in love with during a trip to Aix-en-Provence. When he took his bride’s hands that afternoon, his own were stained purple-red. That first maritally-inspired batch became Upchurch’s signature Doyenne blend.
Upchurch is a self-professed student and devotee of the beautifully balanced reds of august Aix-en-Provence wineries like Domaine de Trévallon and Domaine Richeaume. With his 2014 Doyenne, the Evergreen State vigneron may finally have surpassed his idols, producing a Syrah-Cabernet blend that’s even richer and shows more balanced delineation between fruit, spice, and structure than much of what can be found under that turquoise Provençal sky.
The 50-50 blend of the 2014 vintage was drawn from some of the most incredible sites in Washington. The Cabernet hails from Upchurch’s own vineyard, a sensational 18.5-acre Red Mountain vineyard. The Syrah was picked from the lavish and densely planted Grand Ciel Vineyard, the iconic Ciel du Cheval site (founded in 1972), and Boushey, which produces some of the most sought-after Syrah grapes in the state.
This is a magnificent wine, a full-bodied, deeply concentrated red paying highest respects to Aix-en-Provence. I hope you’ll enjoy it.