DeLille Cellars Blog
The Journey of a Barrel
Oak barrels play an essential role in winemaking, from renowned Cabernet Sauvignon of Napa Valley to acclaimed Bordeaux-style blends of Washington State. Oak adds flavor compounds, slows oxygen intake (helping the wine taste smoother), and provides an ideal environment for malolactic fermentation (contributing “creaminess” to the wine). But what happens to barrels when they reach the end of their useful life at the winery?
For the barrels used at our Woodinville winery, DeLille Cellars is just a stop along the way. Let’s explore the journey of a barrel - from soil to cooperage to local artisans in the Pacific Northwest.
From Forest to Barrel
The journey of the barrel begins in the forest. Terroir plays an important factor here, just as it does in the vineyards. The location of the tree, how slowly it grew, and age are all factors taken into consideration. Slow growth oak trees contain tighter grain, thus providing better quality oak for barrels.
The specific barrel we’ll be following is sourced from Seguin Moreau, a French cooperage headquartered in Merpins, France. With nearly two centuries of experience, the cooperage has been pioneering oenological research and producing top-quality barrels since 1838.
Once selected, the wood is cut into staves that are slightly angled. The staves will “season” outside for 2-3 years, allowing the wood to lose verdancy and leech out raw and recognizably ‘woody’ flavors.
After the wood is harvested, the barrel maker, or cooper, gets to work. The barrel must be watertight without glue, thus requiring adroit work from skilled coopers. The staves are fit tightly together with a metal hoop as the barrel begins to take its shape.
With over 20 Rhône and Bordeaux-style wines in our portfolio, our winemaking team utilizes different styles of barrels depending on the style and varietal. DeLille purchased these specific barrels in 2018 and filled them with Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 8 from Upchurch Vineyard located on Red Mountain.
Clone 8 originates from Château Margaux in Bordeaux, France, and was introduced to California vineyards in 1893. It is the most widely planted Cabernet Sauvignon clone in Washington State and is known for reflecting the unique terroir of the vineyard site.
Dark fruit notes dominate Grand Ciel Clone 8, while Clone 8 from Upchurch Vineyard offers flavors of red fruit with dark highlights. In 2021, the barrels had served their purpose at DeLille and the Cabernet Sauvignon was emptied for blending into Four Flags, Doyenne, and D2.
Fast Penny Spirits Founders Holly Robinson and Jamie Hunt; Photo by Kristopher Shinn
The Journey Continues: Fast Penny Spirits
The barrels were then passed onto Fast Penny Spirits, a locally woman-owned and operated amaro distillery. Blended with a combination of the highest-quality, organic, and consciously sourced botanicals, Fast Penny utilized the DeLille Cellars’ barrels to rest a limited release amaro which will be available first to the Veloce Society club.
Italian for bitter, amaro is an herbal liqueur made from infusing a base spirit with herbs, roots, flowers, bark, and citrus. For Fast Penny, that spirit is grape-based, which follows Italian tradition. After macerating, the amaro rests in a combination of stainless and wood. For the limited release, Fast Penny Spirit’s Amaricano was rested in DeLille Cellars' barrel for four months, allowing for the oak to impart on the amaro, highlighting notes of wood, cocoa nibs, tar, and adding depth.
DeLille Cellars barrels at Fast Penny Spirits; Photo by Kristopher Shinn
The Final Destination: Fair Isle Brewing
Finally, the barrels are passed on to Fair Isle Brewing in Ballard. Fair Isle is a brewery rooted in intention and focuses on creating purposeful farmhouse ales that reflect the Pacific Northwest. Here, the oak barrels will contribute subtle oak flavor to Fair Isles’s hand-crafted farmhouse ales.
Oak is an integral part of brewing at Fair Isle. In fact, the team views oak as an ingredient of the beer rather than just a vessel. Like yeast, oak barrels are a living environment of bacteria and microorganisms and allow the brewers to achieve levels of complexity in beer otherwise unattainable in stainless steel tanks. When selecting a barrel, the team looks for ideal characteristics of the microflora and oak that will impart specific flavors to the beer.
After acquiring the barrels of freshly emptied Amaro from Fast Penny Spirits, the team at Fair Isle filled them with beer. Since October, the beer has been maturing in the oak, soaking up herbal notes and remnants of the Amaro the barrel previously held. The team recently sampled the contents and is excited about the results thus far. A Flemish-style Saison is aging in the Amaricano barrels and a more traditional, pale Saison is aging in the Amaricano Bianca barrels. “We are excited to see these beers continue to develop as we get ready to package them next month for our bottle membership,” said Matt Rowe, Brewer at Fair Isle.
Geoffrey Barker, Co-Founder at Fair Isle Brewing “pulling a nail” on the barrel that had previously housed DeLille Cabernet Clone 8 and Fast Penny Amaricano
About DeLille Cellars
DeLille Cellars is the third oldest operating winery in Woodinville, WA, founded in 1992. Known for pioneering Bordeaux-style blends from Washington State, the winery has maintained a tradition of quality and excellence with over 700 individual 90+ ratings from leading publications. DeLille Cellars focuses on the Red Mountain AVA and sources grapes from Washington’s most acclaimed vineyards. The winery is recognized by notable wine critics and influencers, including Robert Parker, as one of the top producers in the state.
About Fast Penny Spirits
Fast Penny Spirits is a woman-owned and operated award-winning amaro distillery. Based in Seattle and inspired by the founder’s Italian heritage, the company is committed to stirring up change. Blended with a combination of the highest-quality, wild-crafted, organic, and consciously sourced botanicals, Fast Penny’s spirits are rich, herbaceous, and captivating. Luxurious and refined, their Italian-style amari - Amaricano and Amaricano Bianca - are beautifully complex to sip on their own or swirl into a cocktail. With a constant eye on environmental impact and a 3% Pretty Penny give-back program, Fast Penny Spirits is dedicated to supporting and empowering women, local communities, and the hospitality industry.
About Fair Isle Brewing
Fair Isle is a brewery in the Ballard Neighborhood of Seattle creating farmhouse beers rooted in the Pacific Northwest. Today, farmhouse beer doesn't have to be brewed on a farm; its more about a mindset and respect for its origins. It’s about embracing variation rather than avoiding it. We like to think of ourselves as shepherds rather than controllers - giving our fermentation cultures the time they need to make great beer.
A Peek Behind the Label: Chaleur Estate & Harrison Hill
With the 2019 vintage release, DeLille will be showcasing a new label design for two of our founding wines, Chaleur Estate and Harrison Hill, as well as our new old-vine Sauvignon Blanc, Marguerite. Chaleur Estate and Harrison Hill are both left bank Bordeaux-style blends, essentially have the same varietal breakdown of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, but from two very distinct AVAs: Red Mountain and Snipes Mountain. Marguerite was first crafted in 2018 after extensive barrel and bottle aging, and the 2019 vintage will be available later this spring. The new label design gives credence to these rare and limited offerings.
Old Legacy Lineup New Legacy Lineup
At the top of the label is Delille’s new crest.
The Lion: a tribute to Bordeaux.
The lion is moving forward but also looking back, symbolizing DeLille’s “always seeking” and moving to the future while paying tribute to the path and people that got us to where we are today. This Lion is also on the second floor of DeLille’s new tasting room, and is aptly named Charlemagne, or “Charles the Great” after founder Charles Lill.
The Cinquefoil: Joy, Community, Plenty.
The cinquefoil highlights what the team at DeLille believes to be the ultimate end or result desire of our winemaking efforts – the joy of sharing it together. This symbol is seen in multiple places throughout DeLille’s tasting room, including in the center of the dancers at the end of the “Alchemy Wall” on the first floor that highlights the journey of wine from soil to celebration, as well as on Charlemagne’s cloak on the second floor.
The Book: Learning, Seeking and Discovery.
The book highlights the winery’s endless desire for exploration, discovery and seeking new things – from vineyard sites to new blends or rare lots.
On the crest on the Marguerite label, the lower icons are reversed. The flower (cinquefoil) is white instead of gold. This small detail of distinction was added for fun and symbolism, with the Marguerite meaning tied to a white daisy.
On Chaleur Estate and Harrison Hill, the original Chateau (the winery’s founding site that used to be at the top of the label), is watermarked behind the name. On the Marguerite label, daisies adorn the background in a similar silhouette to the Chateau. While Marguerite is a newer wine, it is symbolic of some of the oldest Sauvignon Blanc vines in Washington State and also the foundation upon which Chaleur Blanc was crafted. All three of these wines are founding elements of DeLille’s focus to create world-class wines from some of the oldest vineyard sites in the state.
Learn more about these acclaimed wines:
DeLille Cellars’ inaugural wine first crafted in 1992, Chaleur Estate marks the foundation on which the winery has built its craft of blending Washington State fruit in the traditional style. This wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend of Bordeaux varietals, with a focus on Red Mountain vineyards. The result is a wine of depth, complexity, focus and elegance that personifies the French word for warmth, chaleur. The 2019 vintage is now available.
In 1994, DeLille Cellars was fortunate to acquire the rights to Harrison Hill vineyard in the Snipes Mountain AVA, a 4.9 acres site which has the second oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the state. A Bordeaux-style blend that mirrors the Chaleur Estate Red Mountain blend in varietal breakdown, this wine is labeled after the vineyard’s namesake – Harrison Hill. Over the past five decades, the state’s second-oldest Cabernet vines have matured gracefully while producing progressively limited yields. This slow, elegant maturation is a compelling expression of what it means to be a terroir-driven wine. The 2019 vintage is now available.
Jason Gorski, DeLille’s Director of Winemaking and Viticulture, had a vision to craft an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc from some of Washington’s oldest vines. DeLille Cellars has crafted Sauvignon Blanc for over a quarter-century, traditionally aging the wines for six months in barrel. For Marguerite, the very best wines are selected to remain in barrel for an additional, then rested in bottle another year before release. The Marguerite daisy, a flower symbolizing devotion and patience, lends its name to this cuvée. The 2018 vintage is currently available, and the 2019 vintage will release this spring.
From Quintessence to Minuit: Our Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Situated in the heart of Red Mountain lies a block of Quintessence Vineyard planted with two noble varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. In 2014, the team at DeLille Cellars sought to blend these lots, finding that when Malbec is reinforced with the additional structure and life of Cabernet Sauvignon, it creates a wine with a style all its own. The end result showed ripe mouth-watering acidity and tannins, with flavors of assorted berries, violets, earth, and black pepper spices. At 70% Malbec and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, we were inspired to offer this deeply flavored blend as a single vineyard Red Mountain wine.
To say it stirred up new levels of passion in the winery is an understatement, and the reception it received through our wine club inspired us to seek out other vineyard sources to complement the blend from Quintessence. Red Willow vineyard, one of Washington State’s pioneering vineyards, grows exceptional Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Through our blending trials, our winemaking team created a blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon from both Quintessence (52%) and Red Willow (48%). Finding an exceptional new wine with the combination of these two noble varietals and vineyard sites, the next task was to name this blend. Minuit, or Midnight, is the time of day that delineates one day from the next, at once the beginning of something new and the end of a defined and fundamental cycle. This wine, black as night, embodies this notion: the conclusion of our journey in the vineyard and the cellar, and the beginning of discovering the wine’s potential in the bottle and in the glass.
DeLille’s philosophy of seeking and discovery via blending trials in the cellar often lends way to the creation of new wines. Some of this evolution comes as smaller lots garner such a following that they evolve into something even greater. Our team’s dedication to quality and honoring the vineyard sites and varietals is always paramount. Our seeking never stops, and as one wine might evolve and grow, there will always be another new wine, new lot, or new vineyard site ready to be explored and shared with our members.
Shop the newly released 2019 vintage of Minuit here.
The Lot System
In 2010, DeLille Cellars started the “Lot” system to highlight small production, highly exclusive 100% Cabernets that were so exceptional they deserved to be bottled as their own lot versus being blended into other wines. The first “Lot” was a blend of four vineyards on Red Mountain: Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, Upchurch, and our estate vineyard, Grand Ciel.
Original Lot 1 Label
The Lot system began DeLille’s expansion into Wine Club-exclusive wines, highlighting the winery’s “always seeking” philosophy of crafting the most exceptional wines possible and highlighting select barrels and lots that deserve individual distinction. Lot 1 would go on to become Four Flags, which the following year was the Seattle Times Wine of the Year and is now an integral piece in DeLille’s portfolio. Lot 2 was a limited production from Upchurch Vineyard, produced in 2010 and 2011. In 2015 DeLille revitalized the Lot system with a rare offering from Klipsun Vineyard, Lot 3. Lot 4 from Discovery vineyard was produced in 2016.
Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon & Four Flags Cabernet Sauvignon
In 2022, DeLille will retire its lot system and highlight the vineyard sites in script on the labels. Cabernet Sauvignon from Klipsun and Discovery will be available under their vineyard namesakes with the release of the 2019 vintage, joining our longstanding Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon offering and the second vintage of our Cabernet Franc-dominant Red Willow blend, which is sourced from 100% Red Willow Vineyard fruit and highlights the site of the first commercial planting of Cabernet Franc in Washington State. Much like Harrison Hill, this new designation and labeling system will pay homage to the unique vineyard locations and site terroir of these limited and passionate productions.
2022 New Labels
Shop Wine Club Exclusive Library Release Wines Here
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