Vaunted Vintage

40 Years of Quilceda Creek

Even after a slew of awards, one of Washington’s original wineries still pursues cabernet perfection.

By Sean P. Sullivan September 14, 2021

Alex and Jeannette Golitzin wanted to start a winery—a radical idea in Washington back in the 1970s. But in matters of spiritual guidance, Alex had a ringer.

His uncle, André Tchelistcheff, was a famed winemaker at Napa’s Beaulieu Vineyards and helped define the region’s reputation for cabernet sauvignon. He offered his nephew this advice: “Do one thing, and do it well.”

A minor dalliance with merlot aside, the Golitzins have followed that charge, dedicating their Quilceda Creek winery to pursuing one goal: cabernet sauvignon perfection. This year, as one of Washington’s defining wineries that blazed the trail for the variety, it marks its 40th vintage with its 2018 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Since its founding in 1978, Quilceda Creek has enjoyed a singular level of success. Few wineries can match its list of achievements, from a half dozen 100-point scores from the Wine Advocate to three top-10 wines of the year in Wine Spectator to wines served to heads of state.

While focus has surely framed Quilceda’s accomplishments, so have its vineyards. Grapes from Champoux Vineyard have long made up the backbone of the winery’s iconic Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. First planted in 1972, this unassuming site in the windswept Horse Heaven Hills has established itself as cabernet sauvignon holy ground. “It is a cool vineyard in a hot AVA,” explains Paul Golitzin, who joined his parents’ winery in 1992 to eventually become president and director of winemaking. The appellation’s heat allows fruit to ripen, while the relative coolness of the site provides extended hang time, adding complexity.

Though Quilceda wines always reach to the heavens, the 2018 vintage draws ever closer. “We took a more holistic approach to winemaking in 2018 and utilized a lot of new techniques,” Paul says. “We are constantly trying to improve each year.”

Or, to amend André Tchelistcheff’s words slightly: “Do one thing, and always try to do it better.”

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