Quilceda Creek is Washington State’s most acclaimed wine producer. Its Cabernet Sauvignons have been earning awards and high ratings from reviewers ever since the 1980s, and Robert M. Parker Jr. has called Quilceda a winery “that remains below the radar of even the most knowledgeable wine enthusiasts. These are prodigious, world class wines.” Based in Snohomish, Washington, not too far north of Seattle, Quilceda Creek’s 32 acres of vineyards are in several Eastern Washington appellations. Alex Golitzin, founder and owner, was born in France at the beginning of WWII but moved to San Francisco during the war with his parents. His uncle was Andre Tchelistcheff, one of Napa Valley’s earliest crafters of fine wines. Paul Golitzin, Alex’s son, is now chief winemaker at Quilceda Creek. The winery’s vineyards are planted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Vines are 12 to 23 years old. Some 38,000 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon are produced annually.
Columbia Valley AVA is larger than some states. At 18,000 square miles, or 11 million acres, the appellation covers almost half of Washington State and a small part of Oregon on the south side of the Columbia River. Established in 1984, Columbia Valley contains numerous sub appellations within its boundaries, including Yakima Valley AVA and Walla Walla AVA, both large and important wine districts. Columbia Valley AVA, generally called the Columbia Basin by Pacific Northwesterners, is in the Columbia River Plateau, and the AVA also includes a section of northeastern Oregon. There are dozens of microclimates within this appellation of about 7,000 vineyard acres. Many kinds of grapes are grown in the Columbia Valley, though the principal grapes planted are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc. Eastern Washington experiences very hot summers and cold winters, and the northern latitude means that Washington vineyards receive several more hours of sun in the summer than California vineyards. Grapes in Washington therefore have time to develop significant tannins and overall ripeness.