Upchurch Vineyard produces upscale wines that should be considered highly collectible.
ANYONE PAYING attention to the Washington wine scene for the past quarter-century knows Chris Upchurch of DeLille Cellars is one of our best and most creative winemakers.
Now he is gaining acclaim for his side gig: Upchurch Vineyard.
The roots of this 600-case project go back to 2007, when Upchurch purchased 18.5 acres of virgin land on Red Mountain and hired famed grape grower Dick Boushey to plant and manage his grapes.
Two vintages of Upchurch cabernet sauvignon
While Upchurch’s 2013 cabernet sauvignon is sold out at the winery, it should be obtainable through top wine shops. The 2014 was tasted just before bottling. It is sold on pre-release to wine-club members in July and goes on sale to the public in January.
Upchurch Vineyard 2013 cabernet sauvignon, Red Mountain, $68: Intense aromas of ripe plum, spice and cocoa powder lead to elegant flavors of blackberry and black currant with underlying dusty sage that is consistent with classic Red Mountain cab.
Upchurch Vineyard 2014 cabernet sauvignon, Red Mountain, $68: Alluring notes of nutmeg and black currant greet the nose and give way to rich flavors of plum, black pepper and dark chocolate. It’s all backed by sultry tannins and underlying muscularity.
The vineyard is on a plateau on the southern tip of Red Mountain, an area with grapes that reveal a more graceful aspect than the usual power found elsewhere on Red Mountain. The vineyard is planted to 90 percent cabernet sauvignon and 10 percent merlot.
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In 2010, Upchurch harvested his first crop and made a little wine for his new label. Today, one-fourth of the grapes goes into the Upchurch cabernet sauvignon, with the rest being sold to DeLille, where Upchurch has been a partner since its first vintage in 1992.
The new vineyard source has benefited the DeLille wines since that first harvest. Today, the Upchurch grapes play a role in the acclaimed Four Flags cabernet sauvignon, as well as the Chaleur Estate, the winery’s flagship wine.
Upchurch and his wife, Thea, have built a 6,000-square-foot facility at the vineyard, including an 1,800-square-foot apartment where they live about six weeks of the year.
Upchurch has the capacity to handle 3,600 cases of production, though not a drop of wine has yet been made there. To date, all the Upchurch cabernet sauvignon has been made at DeLille’s winemaking facility in Woodinville, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
However, Upchurch does plan to make perhaps 200 cases of sauvignon blanc this fall for his own label, and it will be produced on Red Mountain.
Half of Upchurch’s cabernet sauvignon is sold through his mailing list (sign up on his website), and the other half goes to wholesale customers, primarily high-end wine shops and restaurants.
On the superpremium end of the Washington wine spectrum, Upchurch cab should be considered highly collectible.