Just when you think you’ve mastered the connection between Champagne and the Imperial Court of Tsarist Russia, along come the Golitzins.
Almost any wine geek will tell you that Roederer Cristal was created for Alexander II in 1876, and that his successor, Nicholas II, appointed Roederer the official supplier to the Imperial Court. However, few people outside Russia know about Prince Lev Sergeevich Galitzine, the godfather of Russian sparkling wine, who gained fame as the winemaker at the Massandra and Novy Svet estates. Nicholas proclaimed himself a fan of the Novy Svet sparkling wine, and the Prince made a gift of the estate to the Emperor upon retirement.
His descendants, the Golitzins, fled to Paris during the Revolution. Following World War II, Alex Golitzin and his family emigrated to San Francisco. As a youth, Alex spent time in Napa with another godfather of wine—his maternal uncle, the great Andre Tchelistcheff. The combination of genetics and inspiration led him to establish Quilceda Creek in Washington State’s Columbia Valley in 1978, and his son Paul runs the property today. There were only 12 bonded wineries in Washington at the time, compared to more than 900 now. Despite explosive growth going on all around it, Quilceda Creek remains at the very top of the state’s wine quality pyramid.
The winery sources from five designated vineyards and produces four wines, two of which are available primarily to customers on the mailing list. 2017 Palengat Proprietary Red Wine ($150) is a proprietary blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc from Horse Heaven Hills. The nose offers powerful aromas of anise, graphite, fresh herbs and blackberry essence. In the mouth, the wine is remarkably smooth in spite of its youth: flavors of dark berries and intense mineral accents are framed by supple tannins, creating a luscious texture that encourages you to take another sip.
2017 Galitzine Cabernet Sauvignon ($200) is sourced from a Red Mountain vineyard named for Prince Lev and solely owned by Quilceda Creek. A nose of menthol, new oak and spiced blackberries is followed by a powerful, muscular wine with a rich core of dense black fruits; flavors of vanilla and meaty black plums resonate on the lengthy finish. When this wine sheds its youthful tannins, it will be a beauty.
Quilceda Creek’s most affordable wine, and the one in greatest circulation, is the CVR Columbia Valley Red wine. The 2017 ($85) is composed primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Champoux, Galitzine, Palengat and Wallula vineyards. The expressive nose is packed with aromas of mocha, fresh herbs, chocolate and new oak. In the mouth, rich black fruit flavors balance the herbal accents to create a tart, luscious texture; the finish is spectacular, with flavors of anise and blackberry seemingly concentrating into a syrup and building in intensity for a full minute.
The 2017 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($200) is Quilceda Creek’s benchmark wine. Aromas of ripe black fruits and toasty oak rise from the glass, mingled with floral scents and hints of damp earth. The wine has a powerful palate imprint highlighted by mouthwatering acidity, structured tannins and juicy flavors of blackberries and dark plums. The long, reverberating finish carries echoes of menthol and mint. You could drink this now if you had to, but you’d be richly rewarded if you wait.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture. His first two novels, Friend of the Devil and The American Crusade, are available on Amazon; his third novel, Impeachment, will be released in October.