We admit it. While we have cellared bottles of Upchurch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon since its first vintage 10 years ago, we did not know about the other impressive wines in this portfolio. Therefore, we were in for a surprise when we visited the Barn tasting room on its opening day, April 1, on Red Mountain, and tried all wines in Chris Upchurch’s incredible lineup. Our friendly and talented host, winemaker Hannah Coulson, treated us to half a dozen wines priced between $20-$75. They all wowed us. For example, the Rosé is gorgeous. In addition, Upchurch produces one of the best Sauvignon Blancs we have ever tasted. And finally, the reds are magnificent. Read on for more details.
The Upchurch Story
Chris and Thea Upchurch established their vineyard on a small plot of land on the southwest corner of Red Mountain in 2007. However, we first met Chris, an acclaimed winemaker in Washington state, at DeLille Cellars many years earlier. As DeLille’s founding winemaker since 1992, Chris focused on Bordeaux-style blends before anyone else in the state. Many critics call his Chaleur Blanc the best Bordeaux-style white wine in North America, and we agree.
Subsequently, we met Thea in 2017 when we shared a table with her and Chris at a wine event dinner at Semiahmoo Resort. Above all, they are both passionate about their dream, which shines in every bottle.
“It is hard for me to believe that we are releasing a 10th vintage of our UV Cabernet”, Thea said. “When Chris first found this plot of land and showed it to Dick Boushey, our vineyard manager, it was just a dream we had. Today, it’s a family business and a passionate endeavor for all of us.”
“While the first 10 years have been incredibly challenging and rewarding, I’m exceptionally eager for our next chapter,” Chris added. “Who knows what the future holds, but I’m eager to find out.”
Upchurch Vineyard focuses on combining contemporary clonal research and modern sustainability practices with traditional old-world methods and techniques. UV is certified L.I.V.E. and “Salmon Safe,” a program to protect Pacific Northwest water sheds.
During our visit, Hannah poured us six wines. First, we tasted a gorgeous Grenache Rosé. Next, she served us a 2018 Sauvignon Blanc and a not-yet-bottled 2019 Sauv Blanc. Finally, the reds included 2018 LTL, Counterpart and the UV Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines knocked our socks off. And we couldn’t have asked for a better host than Hannah. In the small world of wine, we also were delighted to find out that she knows Kat Jankowiec, with whom we spent a delightful afternoon drinking wine at Villa Maria in Marlborough, New Zealand a couple of years ago. Here are more details about the wines.
Upchurch Vineyard 2018 Grenache Rosé LTL ($20)
This is a serious rosé made of 100% Grenache grown at EFESTE Vineyard. According to Wine Advocate, “For 20 bucks, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better rosé.” Aromas of strawberries and honeysuckle lead into flavors of more strawberries and other pretty red fruit, along with minerality and bright acidity. This is one of two LTL wines, which stands for “larger than life,” a term frequently used to describe Chris. Hannah noted that this is the first wine she made from harvest to finish. And we applaud her. We brought this beauty home.
Upchurch Vineyard 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Southwest Facing ($36)
Aged in a concrete egg for 18 months, this is 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the southwest-facing Boushey Vineyard. This Sauv Blanc is rich yet refreshing, complex and beautiful. The grapefruit aromas are captivating. Citrus flavors integrate with notes of tropical fruits, herbs, grass and lots of minerality. This is currently the only Upchurch wine that’s from Yakima Valley AVA. We took this wine home too. Moreover, Hannah also shared a preview of the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, unfiltered and right out of the cement egg. We loved this “newborn” immediately, prior to bottling and filtering the next day. UV plans to release it this month.
Upchurch Vineyard 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon LTL ($30)
This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, a Red Mountain experience at a lower price tag. Wine Advocate said, “This still continues to be one of the best buys in all of Washington. Get it now before the price goes up.” And we did. This Cab showcases the terroir, with the concentration and brawniness of Red Mountain fruit. Aromas of red cherries, dark chocolate, licorice and spices lead into red and dark fruit flavors, espresso and more dark chocolate. Delicious!
Upchurch Vineyard 2018 Counterpart ($50)
Counterpart blends Merlot (65%) with Cabernet Sauvignon (35%) and the result is a great fruit structure. Its Merlot backbone brings blackberry, blueberry and violet aromas, leading into flavors of more blueberries, dark plums and spice. This wine is elegant, silky and sophisticated, while still displaying Red Mountain’s signature power and tannic structure. It’s a beautiful blend that will appeal to many people.
Upchurch Vineyard 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon ($75)
This outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon (pictured at the far right of the lineup) is always one of our special-occasion wines. As mentioned, we’ve cellared each of its 10 vintages. We were so smitten with this release that we ran out of time to take an individual photo of it! Perhaps it is the addition of 9% Merlot in this vintage, which brings violet aromas and more plum flavors to those in the Cabernet. Further, the flavors are dense, earthy, complex and luxurious, just as you’d expect from Red Mountain fruit. Cellar it to truly experience its magnificence in a few years.
In conclusion, we recommend you take some time to explore the impressive wines from Upchurch Vineyard. Likewise, stop by their Barn tasting room on Red Mountain for an excellent experience. We are so glad we did.
A sample of previous stories about Chris Upchurch / Upchurch Vineyard
- Sauvignon Blanc Day 2021
- Washington Wine Country 2021
- Favorite 50 Wines in 2020
- DeLille Cellars 2019 Chaleur Blanc
- Uniquely DeLille Cellars
- DeLille Cellars Delicious New Winter Releases
- Drink D2 Day from DeLille Cellars
- DeLille Crushes It with 2014 Four Flags Cabernet Sauvignon
Margot and Dave