My good friends Richard “Dick” and Jarlene Ryti recently attended an enviable tasting of Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the early/mid-nineties. The wonderful review follows, along with a side comment from one of my other good friends, Shannon, who had a slightly different take on the event. Enjoy the report!


Quilceda Creek Cabernet Vertical Tasting


Quilceda Creek Wine
Quilceda Creek Wine

On Saturday, November 11, I attended a vertical tasting featuring 1993, 1994, 1995 & 1996 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon along with a 100% Vegan menu.

Alex Golitzin is originally from the Loire Valley and after his Army tour of duty, he settled in Washington State. His uncle was Andre Tchelistcheff who offered him a BV barrel and some fruit to experiment. A Vineyard is born!

In 1974 he produced his first barrel of 25 cases. In 1978 he launched the Quilceda Creek Winery and became the 12th bonded winery in Washington (Note from Irene: there are now over 400). Tchelistcheff remained a mentor and helped in the development of the Cabernet wines. Alex bought the early grapes from Ciel du Cheval. In 1979 he released his first commercial production. His early wines were made in American Oak and in 1993 he switched to French Oak.

In 1979 he entered a contest and won the grand prize. The main judge was Angelo Gaja. Over the years Gaja of Italy became an influence as well as a word-of-mouth recommendation.

In the early years, Goltzin formed a partnership with Paul Champoux and purchased Mercer Ranch in Horse Heaven Hills.

Initially, the wines were made with grapes from several sources but the desired consistency came from the use of the Clone 8 grape. In 1992 his son joined as an assistant winemaker.

In 2006 they purchased a 5-acre plot and called it Palengat Vineyard in honor of their French Heritage and produced their first Bordeaux Blend.

Production gradually increased: 1998-2400 cases, 2001-3150 cases, 2002-3750 cases

In 2014 Paul and Judy Champoux sold their interest to a consortium.

The Tasting Notes


This vintage was the first “Reserve” Production

The nose had very subtle notes of cedar, mushrooms, blueberry and lead pencil shavings.

On the palate was very acidic with tobacco, blueberry, smoke, and black cherry. The finish was medium but full bodied and for its age, very elegant.


This was a “Classic” vintage year and the ’94 was no exception. On the nose was smoke, vanilla, and hints of chocolate. On the palate, there were cranberry, blueberry, smoke, much more acidic than the ’93. The finish, while not long, was smooth and almost syrupy with some sweetness and chocolate on the back end. This became the “Reserve Style” standard as all the current wines are.


Sadly the ’95 was corked but not undrinkable. It was much less acidic and still had some red currant notes and a bit of blueberry. Were there not the telltale aroma, one would have just thought the wine was simply past its prime. Pairing with cheese helped.


The ’96 was indicative of a left bank Bordeaux. On the nose was graphite, forest floor,  leather and hints of dark berries. The palate had several levels with graphite, blueberry, cranberry, and just enough of a touch of Cab Franc and Merlot to have just the right proportion to make this an elegant wine that has held up quite well.

Bonus Tasting Wines

2012 Figgins Estate Red Wine (Walla Walla, WA)

This was the 5th AVA in Washington State

The wine is simply loaded with heady floral aromatics, deep pure fruit of blueberries and blackberries, spice and toast. Layered, gorgeously concentrated, full-bodied, and balanced, this Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend gives up sensational notes of cassis, black raspberry, toasted bread, and sweet spice on the nose. Ultra-pure, elegant and silky, it has the texture to drink nicely today, yet will age effortlessly.

2007 Andrew Will (Ciel du Cheval)

Nose is full of earthy characteristics lead by cedar, dark berries, sawdust, suede, and maybe even sage(?)

Flavors are big on the palate of dusty black cherries, plums, dark chocolate, and a good mineral streak. Tannins have more or less been resolved but the alcohol on this one was slightly more noticeable.

These two wines complemented the Quilceda Creek as additional examples of the quality of Washington State wines and their commitment to high-end wines that will age gracefully and easily compete with their French and Napa counterparts.

The Food

The meal was an African Vegan-Themed menu. All the courses together provided excellent levels of spices and textures. I am a non-vegan and enjoyed several of the courses, and I provided the Vegan Apple Pie. I have a new appreciation for vegans as it means learning how to cook all over again but at the same time learning to avoid the bland fare that has been the benchmark of Vegan cooking.

The Menu

Spicy Peanut Stew with Ginger and Tomato

Tanzanian Inspired Mushroom Curry

Egyptian Okra

Ethiopian Cabbage


Apple Pie

Many thanks to Skip King and ML Compton who hosted the evening with the food and wine!

Note from Irene:  As promised, here is the quote (more or less accurate) from Shannon, who also attended the tasting.  “I don’t mind vegan food so long as there’s some meat on the plate with it.”

By the way, The Wineaux Guy™ and I were enjoying a date night at Texas de Brazil. A carnivore’s dream; a vegan’s nightmare! More on that very shortly!


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