Quilceda Creek 2011



quilcQuilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 

We are extremely fortunate here at Farmstead, as we’re one of the few wine shops in the East Bay to get an allocation of Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the world’s greatest wines!  We’ve been holding back the wine from the shelves and the club for several years, aging it for you until it is ready to drink.  

While we are featuring the 2011 vintage in this month’s club, you may purchase any vintage you wish.

Quilceda Creek founder Alex Golitzin was an engineer in the bulk-paper industry in the 1970s when he complained to his mother’s brother André Tchelistcheff that there weren’t any good wines to buy in Seattle, Washington. Uncle André, arguably the most important winemaker in California at the time, told him: “I’ll put you in touch with a vineyard, get you some used barrels from BV [Beaulieu Vineyards], and teach you to make wine.”  

Golitzin produced wine at home from 1974 until 1977 before turning out his first commercial vintage in his garage in 1979. At the time, Quilceda Creek was one of only 12 wineries in Washington State; there are now over 800.  

Quilceda Creek makes only Cabernet and Cab blends because of advice from Uncle André, who was always arguing with legendary Californian winemaker Robert Mondavi that making multiple kinds of wines was a bad idea. “It’s about focus,” Golitzin says. “Champoux vineyard has eight blocks of Cabernet that come in at different times, and we have two other vineyards. If you multiply that by five or six varieties, you go nuts. You can’t do it.”  

As with many Washington wineries, Quilceda Creek is in the rainy but hip western part of the state, while its vineyards are a four-hour drive away over the Cascade Mountains in the dry eastern part. Weather is the biggest misconception about Washington wines. But winemakers such as Golitzin prefer to live near Seattle because there isn’t much to do in Yakima Valley, where his best grapes are.  

Quilceda Creek is among the most consistently high-scoring wines in the Wine Advocate. It got 100 points for its 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007 vintages, and most other vintages are in the high 90s. Only a dozen or so other wines in the United States have received a 100 point score from Parker, all made from California grapes, and only five wines worldwide had ever before earned consecutive 100-point scores.  

The Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of grapes from both the Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills AVAs and as such carries the broader Columbia Valley AVA designation. The winery blends small amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc into their signature Cabernet Sauvignon, in amounts that vary from vintage to vintage.  

96 points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate:  More serious, and one of the wines of the vintage, the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) has uncommon concentration and depth in the vintage, as well as a broad, structured profile that will allow it to age gracefully. Loaded with sweet crème de cassis, exotic spice, licorice, and graphite, it’s a full-bodied, elegant, and classically styled effort that has nothing out of place, fine, building tannin and a rock star finish. It will be approachable at an earlier stage than most vintages, yet still have two decades of longevity.

Always producing some of the finest Bordeaux blends in any vintage, owners/winemakers Alex and Paul Golitzin continue to keep Quilceda Creek at the pinnacle of Cabernet Sauvignon in Washington State with these 2011s and 2012s. Looking at their 2011s, yields were down close to 40%, and this shows with the wines possessing gorgeous depth, richness and concentration. While Paul feels his 2011s are just as concentrated as his 2010s, the overall impression between these two cool vintages is distinctly different and the 2011s show much more up-front, perfumed and supple profiles. As always, the tannin management here is second to none and while the 2011s have plenty of tannin, you have to hunt for it as they’re incredibly polished and silky. These 2011s will be approachable at an earlier stage than normal, yet evolve gracefully on their overall balance. Looking at the 2012s, I was blown away by these samples, which were shipped to Colorado and then followed for multiple days. Described as a “good” and “welcome” vintage by Paul, the wines have blockbuster levels of concentration and richness, yet stay beautifully pure, elegant and focused. They’re up there with the creme de la creme from this fantastic estate. Don’t miss them. Alcohols here are in the 15.5 range (with the 2011 around 15), but you’d never know it from tasting the wines. The big news at this estate is that with vineyard-owner Paul Champoux retiring, the Golitzin’s were able to increase their ownership in the Champoux Vineyard from 40% to 66%. Other owners here include Powers, Andrew Will, and Woodward Canyon. How this effects the overall production levels is yet to be determined, but a top producer getting more grapes from a top site is never a bad thing from a consumer standpoint. Drink: 2014 – 2034.

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