Quilceda Creek acquires 22 acres of famed Champoux Vineyards from Woodward Canyon

By on August 24, 2021
Founding winemaker Alex Golitzin, left, and his son, Paul Golitzin, own and operate Quilceda Creek Winery in Snohomish, Wash. (Photo by Andréa Johnston Photography / Courtesy of Quilceda Creek Winery)

Harvest of acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon at Champoux Vineyards is still weeks away, but the Golitzin family and historic Quilceda Creek Winery in Snohomish, Wash., will announce today that it has picked up an additional 22 acres of vines at Washington state’s famed Horse Heaven Hills site from Rick Small and Darcey Fugman-Small of Woodward Canyon Winery.

Terms were not available, but Great Northwest Wine has learned the transaction advances Quilceda Creek’s ownership in Champoux Vineyards to 79 percent, giving it control of 133.51 acres at the site established in 1972 by Don and Linda Mercer. It was known as Mercer Ranch Vineyards until 1996.

“The simple fact is that we own and farm approximately 41 acres at Woodward Canyon Estate Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley and really couldn’t use our full 16% share of the fruit grown there (at Champoux),” Small told Great Northwest Wine via email. “We still absolutely love the vineyard and our relationship with the remaining partners and am honored that Darcey and I still own 3 shares. It’s been remarkable working with Quilceda and the Golitzin family to make this happen, and the vineyard shares could not be in better hands!”

News of sale comes less than three weeks after the Smalls formally announced they’ve stepped away from day-to-day operations at Woodward Canyon Winery. Their daughter, Jordan Dunn-Small, took over as general manager of the winery, while their son, Sager, oversees Woodward Canyon Vineyard. Longtime winemaker Kevin Mott is in his second decade as a partner in the company, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

Paul Golitzin, president and director of winemaking for Quilceda Creek, noted, “Everything in our winemaking process centers around selection, so our vineyards and our ability to control 100% of the farming decisions is what sets us apart. This is hands-down one of the best sites in Washington, and we farm it to the utmost precision. It is an honor to increase our stake of this historic vineyard as we celebrate our 40th vintage of the Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon this year.”

Small began to purchase Cabernet Sauvignon from the Mercers in 1985, and it’s played a critical role in Woodward Canyon’s famous Old Vines Dedication Series Cabernet Sauvignon project. The Golitzins confirmed that the Smalls maintain an ownership stake of a3 percent in Champoux Vineyards LLC, which was formed in 1996 by esteemed vineyard manager Paul Champoux and his wife Judy in order to purchase the planting after it passed from the Mercers to an insurance company.

Longtime customers Andrew Will Winery on Vashon Island, Hedges Cellars in Benton City and Powers Winery in Kennewick joined Woodward Canyon, Quilceda Creek and the Champouxs as owners in the LLC. The following year, the Golitzins increased their share in Champoux by 15 percent as the Hedges family focused on its Red Mountain project.

Champoux turns Quilceda Creek 2002 Cab into 100

Quilceda Creek Winery recently increased its holdings in Champoux Vineyard by acquiring 22 acres from the family at Woodward Canyon Winery in Walla Walla. Quilceda Creek began purchasing grapes from Champoux Vineyard in 1986. (Photo courtesy of Quilceda Creek Winery)

Champoux Vineyards became known around the world when the Quilceda Creek 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon received a perfect score of 100 points from Wine Advocate, a newsletter then owned by famed critic Robert Parker. 

Quilceda Creek began purchasing fruit from the Mercers in 1986, eight years after renowned Napa winemaker André Tchelistcheff inspired his nephew, Alex Golitzin, to launch a winery. It was the 12th bonded winery in Washington state after Prohibition ended. Paul Golitzin became co-winemaker at Quilceda Creek in 1992.

The Golitzins used Champoux Cabernet Sauvignon as the foundation of that famous bottling from the 2002 vintage, and Quilceda Creek matched that 100-point score with efforts from the 2003, 2005 and 2007 vintages. Wine Advocate has awarded Quilceda Creek seven perfect scores, and the Golitzins also have garnered 100-point scores three times from London-based Decanter magazine, placed three wines within Wine Spectator’s top 10 wines of the year and been named Wine Enthusiast’s Best Cabernet of the Year.

Last year, the Golitzins released a portion of its library and turned sales of those bottlings into a $365,000 donation to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund in the wake of the pandemic.

Nickolaus moves Champoux to 100% red Bordeaux

Dan Nickolaus took over as vineyard manager of Champoux Vineyards in 2014. Three years later, the Golitzin family hired Nickolaus to manage all of the vines for Quilceda Creek Winery. (Photo courtesy of Quilceda Creek Winery)

Paul Champoux stepped away from his eponymous vineyard at the end of the 2014 harvest, and he handed the reins to Dan Nickolaus — another respected Horse Heaven Hills viticulturist. By 2017, the Golitzins hired Nickolaus to manage all of their vineyards, which include nearby Palengat, the fascinating riverside Mach One, also in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, and Galitzine on Red Mountain.

Nickolaus, a graduate of Washington State University, recently replanted 22 acres at Champoux Vineyard. The Golitzins had the 43,500 vines installed by hand. The project involved pulling out Chardonnay, Muscat, Lemberger and Marquette — a winter-hardy red variety developed at the University of Minnesota — with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The effort means Champoux Vineyards is 100% red Bordeaux varieties.

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the President and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for a decade. He is a frequent wine judge at international wine competitions throughout North America and orchestrates 10 Northwest competitions each year.

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