Quilceda Creek Winery: 45 Years of Vinous Perfection

It takes passion and focus to craft some of the world’s greatest Cabernet Sauvignon. That’s the intention of the Golitzin family of Quilceda Creek winery. At their state-of-the-art facility, just outside Seattle, Washington in the town of Snohomish, the Golitzins focus on growing the perfect fruit crop in their vineyards, and ensuring that their wines are made with the lowest possible intervention to provide freshness and purity. Every step in the Quilceda Creek winemaking process is conducted with meticulous attention to detail. With 26 100-point scores under their belt since their first 1979 vintage, it’s safe to say that the Golitzins have achieved their goal.

Quilceda Creek Winery, Snohomish, WA

Founded by Alexander and Jeannette Golitzin in 1978, Quilceda Creek was the 12th bonded winery in Washington after prohibition making it one of the oldest family owned, operated, and controlled wineries in the state. The wine-loving couple had moved to Washington State in 1967 for Alexander’s work as a chemical engineer, and upon finding that the region’s wines were not quite of the quality they expected, they started their own wine venture. The idea was not mere folly, as the winemaking gene runs deep in the Golitzin family; an ancestor, Prince Lev Sergeevich Galitzine (“the creator of Russian champagne”), was the acclaimed winemaker to Russian Czar Nicholas II’s Abrau Dursau estate, as well as the Massandra and Novy Svet sparkling wine estates. Additionally, Alexander’s maternal uncle was André Tchelistcheff, legendary Napa Valley winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyard, known as the “Dean of American Winemaking.”

Upon consulting with Tchelistcheff, Alexander and Jeannette started Quilceda Creek in 1978 with a goal of crafting world-class Cabernet Sauvignons. Alexander continued his full time work as a chemical engineer while also overseeing the winery. In 1992, son Paul became Quilceda Creek’s official winemaker. Under his leadership, the winery evolved to international renown. The brand is credited with helping to bring critical acclaim to Washington State wines.

Paul Golitzin, Quilceda Creek’s President and Director of Winemaking 

Today, Paul serves as president and director of winemaking. Together with Winemaker Mark Kaigas, Viticulturist Dan Nickolaus and General Manager Scott Lloyd, Paul guides the winery’s small team of 12 with the motto “The best Quilceda that has ever been made is the next.”

“Our technique in making world-class wines is to use only perfect fruit and process it as gently as possible,” says Paul, whose wine interest was piqued at age 15 during a family trip to France. Upon the return home, he began working in the winery every day after school and on weekends. “It is all about selection, selection, selection. Everything we do in the vineyard and in the cellar is done with intent. The team strives to grow perfect fruit at a crop level of 1.5-2.3 tons per acre depending on vine density of each specific site.”

And their sites are spectacular. The Champoux Vineyard, located in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, lies between 600-800 feet in elevation on fine sandy loam soils allowing for great root development and extremely even vigor. A cold vineyard in a hot AVA, the diurnal shift is huge, allowing fruit to ripen while retaining great freshness. “The fruit from this vineyard offers incredible aromatics,” says Paul. “It is like someone added perfume to the grapes.” The fruit from this site has been used by Quilceda Creek almost exclusively for its Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley since 2001. Since then, Quilceda Creek wines from this site have garnered classic 96-100-point scores from critics, including  16 perfect 100-point scores.

The winery’s namesake Galitzine Vineyard, within the small Red Mountain AVA in West Richland, Washington, produces wines of depth, richness and consistency. “This vineyard produces incredibly concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon that showcases the best of what can be achieved in the Red Mountain AVA.” says Paul.

Bird’s eye view of Quilceda Creek’s Mach One vineyard

The Mach One Vineyard sits on a small, geologically carved plateau 50 vertical feet above the mighty Columbia River in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. The site is located 20 miles upriver of McNary Dam on the Lake Wallula reservoir and is one of the warmest sites in Washington State. A south facing exposure and radiant heat from surrounding basalt lined cliffs promotes precocious bud break in the spring and prolonged hang time into the fall. Irrigation is pumped directly from the Columbia River, the clean, pH-neutral water of which promotes ideal soil biology for nutrient uptake by the vines. This 40-acre site is planted exclusively to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Quilceda Creek wines have earned 26 100-point scores since the first 1979 vintage. Photo, Fran Miller

The wines, of which there are five, are stellar: the flagship Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $250), made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with fruit from Champoux and Mach One Vineyards; the Galitzine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $250), a single-clone bottling made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 8; the Palengat Cabernet Sauvignon, a single-vineyard, single-clone bottling made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 685 from the Mach One Vineyard (SRP $250); the Tchelistcheff Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $250), a single-vineyard, single-clone bottling made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 412 from the Mach One Vineyard, and the CVR Red Wine (SRP ($90), a declassified blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

Paul is credited with driving the quality of Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon to the forefront of the wine world. His persistent quest for excellence, via constant experimentation, proprietary farming techniques in the estate vineyards, and a heightened awareness and control of every possible variable in the cellar, has brought the winery critical recognition. From custom made new French oak barrels from varied cooperages, specially selected to match the various Cabernet clones found in the vineyard, to fine-tuning third blendings, to cork testing, Paul’s exacting standards are a Quilceda Creek hallmark.

“When I took over as winemaker at Quilceda Creek in 1992, I proudly did so knowing that I was shouldering the legacy of my parents, who founded the winery,” said Paul. “Since then, I’ve been singularly focused on improving the quality of our wines every single vintage, through vineyard acquisition, precision grape growing and innovative winemaking techniques. Our goal is to consistently compete on the top of the global stage.”

Quilceda Creek’s Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is distributed nationally, and internationally to Asia and the United Kingdom. The Tchelistcheff, Palengat, Galitzine and CVR bottles are offered only to their private mailing list but may sometimes be found in the secondary market. Lovers of Quilceda Creek wines are encouraged to become private members to ensure allocations. Private members  enjoy  access to all wines at pre-release pricing. 

Quilceda Creek offers private tours of its tasting room and winery in Snohomish, Washington for mailing list members by invitation only.

Photos courtesy of Quilceda Creek except where noted






Fran Miller

Fran Endicott Miller is an experienced travel, wine, and general feature writer for a variety of luxury lifestyle publications and websites. Prior to her journalism career she established and managed the Golden State Warriors' first official community relations department and efforts. Principled and genuine, she’s known for thoughtfully eloquent writing. When not traveling, she can be found walking her Northern California neighborhood with her beloved golden retriever Nate.