The emergence of celebrated Bordeaux-style wines from Washington State are due in no small part to the winemaking techniques of Chris Upchurch and his artisan portfolio of DeLille Cellars, Grand Ciel, and Doyenne. Striving for something far beyond chemistry, Chris believes in the creative endeavor of winemaking where "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts".
A self-confessed Francophile and masterful blender, Chris prefers not to dissect his wines. Instead he talks in terms of "complete wine" raising the awareness of such universal wine qualities as opulence, mouth feel, balance and elegance instead of focusing on isolated component descriptors like chocolate, pear and coconuts!
Chris’ love for wine started in his youth with extensive travel throughout the Grand Cru wine-growing regions of Europe and the west coast of the U.S. "I had to start off developing my palate," he reflected. "After all, a winemaker cannot make great wines without first defining in his or her own mind and palate what a great wine tastes like."
After attending University of Colorado and graduating from the University of Washington in 1976, Chris began his career as a wine buyer. After purchasing wine for several of Seattle’s best-known restaurants, he became a key wine buyer for the upscale Larry’s Markets’ wine departments. This experience allowed him to continue to hone his palate by tasting wines from around the world. Deep in his heart, however, Chris knew he wanted to express his passion in the production end of the wine industry.
Armed with his love of wine and commitment to his craft, Chris developed a successful grape-brokerage business (along Jay Soloff), contracting grapes from Washington State and selling them to winemakers. Chris knew he had uncovered his true calling once he started spending endless hours in the vineyards. Fast forward to the present, Chris has been a respected professional winemaker for over twenty years and he continues to spend a great proportion of his time in the vineyards in Washington State, primarily Yakima Valley and Red Mountain AVA’s. After all, Chris lives his belief rooted in the philosophy of the great European winemaking tradition that the truly long-lived wines are made in the vineyards.
Never satisfied with the present, Chris feels there are even more plateaus ahead. "At DeLille Cellars we have lofty goals that can only be reached by time and dedication. Winemaking is a lifelong endeavor. No matter what awards your winery receives, you always have new and unreleased vintages in your winery. The ultimate challenge is to work tirelessly to get the highest expression of each subsequent vintage."