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Originally published Friday, June 20, 2014 at 11:27 AM

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With focus and good grapes, DeLille created demand, desire

From the beginning, DeLille earned high praise from consumers and critics alike, and along the way it launched Doyenne, a label that focuses on Rhône varieties, particularly syrah.


Special to The Seattle Times

TRY A FEW

DeLille Cellars 2011 Four Flags cabernet sauvignon, Red Mountain, $65: Grapes from four vineyards — Klipsun, Ciel du Cheval, Grand Ciel and Upchurch — go into DeLille’s best wine. Aromas of black pepper, black currant, plum and dark chocolate lead to suave flavors of graphite, blackberry and olive.

DeLille Cellars 2011 Chaleur Estate, Red Mountain, $80: DeLille’s flagship wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. It reveals aromas and flavors of black pepper, sage, blueberry and red currant.

DeLille Cellars 2012 Chaleur Estate Blanc, Columbia Valley, $37: DeLille’s answer to white Bordeaux is a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon that offers aromas and flavors of lemon, ripe apple and white pepper.

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DELILLE CELLARS has always been about blends.

It started with the fusion of four men who had one goal: craft great wines.

In 1990, Greg Lill and Jay Soloff were in the same Seattle Rotary Club. Lill was an insurance agent, Soloff was a wine broker. Soloff’s friend, Chris Upchurch, was a home winemaker, and they all ended up playing together in a golf tournament.

Meanwhile, Lill’s parents had a farm in sleepy Woodinville, which they hoped would generate a bit of revenue, perhaps as a brewery, a restaurant or a B&B. Charles Lill, Greg’s father, agreed to join the three young men and launch DeLille Cellars.

They received early help from David Lake, the legendary Columbia Winery winemaker, who served as a consultant during DeLille’s early years and introduced them to top grape growers.

“It didn’t hurt when we walked into a vineyard with David Lake saying, ‘You should sell these guys some fruit. They’re serious,’ ” Greg Lill recalls.

Almost instantly, DeLille was able to get into some of Washington’s top vineyards, including Klipsun, Boushey and Ciel du Cheval, and DeLille launched in 1992 with 1,200 cases.

From the beginning, DeLille earned high praise from consumers and critics alike, and along the way it launched Doyenne, a label that focuses on Rhône varieties, particularly syrah.

By 2001, DeLille partnered with Red Mountain grape grower Jim Holmes of Ciel du Cheval to plant Grand Ciel. Since 2004, DeLille has made a vineyard-designated cabernet sauvignon from Grand Ciel.

Charles Lill died in 2008, which altered DeLille’s dynamics but not its focus, quality or determination. Last year, DeLille brought in Bacchus Capital Management of San Francisco as an investor, which has given the winery an opportunity to expand its production and sell its wine in top markets, including New York. In particular, D2 — a red blend that retails for about $42 — is in high demand, and Upchurch is now able to satisfy more restaurants and retailers.

DeLille also has a Woodinville tasting room open daily and recently opened Maison DeLille, a Kirkland wine bar. The château is open only for private events, including weddings.

Andy Perdue is editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.



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