Quilceda Creek Vintners becomes the first Washington winery to earn a 100-point score from Robert Parker Jr.'s Wine Advocate on April 24, 2006.

  • By Nick Rousso
  • Posted 8/05/2023
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 22770
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On April 24, 2006, the Wine Advocate, a newsletter published by influential wine critic Robert Parker Jr., releases a comprehensive review of Washington state wines and awards perfect 100-point scores to successive vintages of Quilceda Creek Vintners' Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines, crafted by Snohomish winemaker Paul Golitzin from the 2002 and 2003 vintages, are the first domestic wines outside of California to earn perfect scores from the Wine Advocate, enhancing Quilceda Creek's growing reputation as a maker of world-class wines. 

Shooting for Perfection

Founded in 1979 by Alex Golitzin (b. 1939), Quilceda Creek Vintners was an early star in Washington wine. Golitzin was an engineer who lived on a six-acre spread in Snohomish, had a fulltime job at Scott Paper in Everett, and was the nephew of famed California winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff (1901-1994). Calling on his uncle for guidance, Golitzin started tinkering with wine in 1974, producing one barrel in his home garage. By 1979 he had narrowed his focus to "a single overriding goal: to make a perfect, world-class cabernet sauvignon ... his reputation was immediately secured with the release of his first commercial vintage, the 1979, which won the Grand Prize at the prestigious Northwest Enological Society judging" (Gregutt, 139). 

After releasing a succession of spectacular Cabernets through the 1980s and into the 1990s, Golitzin turned over head winemaking duties to his son Paul (b. 1970) in 1995. The men then "set themselves a new goal, the attainment of a perfect 100-point score from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Parker had tasted the 1988 and 1989 reserve wines during a rare visit to Seattle and showered them with praise. As much as anything, that challenged Quilceda's winemakers to do even better" (Gregutt, 140). With Paul Golitzin now making the wine, Quilceda Creek continued to wow critics. By 2010, the winery was producing about 6,000 cases annually. 

The Advocate Weighs In

Alex and Paul Golitzin finally received a perfect score – and then some -- from the Wine Advocate. In its review of dozens of Washington wines published April 24, 2006, the 2002 and 2003 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignons each earned 100 points from wine critic Pierre-Antoine Rovani, one of Parker's colleagues. Gushed Rovani:

"Unlike some minuscule production 'cult' wines or luxury cuvees culled from a winery’s primary product that have earned perfect scores over the years, Quilceda Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon is the winery’s raison d’etre and is produced in significant quantities (3,400 cases in 2002, 3,425 in 2003). For accomplishing this feat the Golitzins should be doubly proud. Dark ruby-colored and sporting a nose of violets, sweet blueberries, dark cherries and slight undertones of asphalt, the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon blossoms on the palate to expose a wine of ethereal delicacy yet immense power. Medium to full-bodied, it expands to reveal concentrated layers of cassis, blackberries, red cherries, raspberries, violets, spices, and touches of candied plums. This rich, exquisitely balanced, sweet, and broad wine is harmonious, graceful, and awesomely long. Projected maturity: now-2022" ("100 Points").

Quilceda Creek's triumph was seen as good news for the entire Washington wine industry. Wrote The Seattle Times

"Besides anointing Quilceda Creek ... Wine Advocate critic Pierre-Antoine Rovani hailed the entire Columbia Valley, where grapes for many Washington winemakers, including Quilceda Creek, are grown. 'Over the past ten years, I have witnessed Washington state progress from being the frontier of wine where cannery machinists, waiters and paper engineers were producing wines in converted shacks, barns, and garages, where farmers were sacrificing valuable apple orchard land for less profitable — but more interesting and ego gratifying — vineyards, into a world-class wine producing region,' Rovani declared" ("Cup of Cheer Overflows ...").

Happy Fallout

"That totally put us on the map," Paul Golitzin recalled years later. "I mean, all the publications, all the great press, is wonderful, but that was the defining moment. That came out and in that one year ... We were at our beach house when we found out and that it was two wines that were rated 100. We're just like, 'Oh.' It's so emotional. We're just bawling" ("Washington Wine History Interviews ..."). Alex Golitzin's reaction was more pragmatic: "Actually my reaction, I was very happy that we got the 100-point score, but the other portion of the reaction was, 'Thank goodness, because now we'd be able to sell the wine'" ("Washington Wine History Interviews ...").

Already highly sought by collectors and connoisseurs, Quilceda Creek's wines became even more difficult to find, and even more expensive to buy. Awards and praise continued to pour in, including more 100-point scores: 

"Imagine the elation at Quilceda Creek when its Cabernet Sauvignon achieved that same score with the 2003, 2005, and 2007 vintages. Many other accolades and awards would follow, but scoring 100 is such a rare occurrence for any winery that even scores a bit lower are notable. In 2016, a judging year that saw zero 100-point wines, Wine Advocate gave Quilceda Creek its two highest scores: the Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley was rated at 99 points, and the 2013 Galitzine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain at 98 points. Both sold out upon release, at $140 and $120 per bottle, respectively. 

"In 2017, Wine Advocate awarded two 100-point ratings: to the 2014 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley, and the 2014 Quilceda Creek Galitzine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain. The magazine's reviewer, Jeb Dunnuck, described the former as a 'tour de force,' and the Galitzine as 'utterly spellbinding' ('Robert Parker's ...'). It was also the first 100-point wine using fruit from the Red Mountain AVA, thus kickstarting that area's rise to regional preeminence" ("Golitzin, Alex ..."). 


Melissa Allison, "Cup of Cheer Overflows for Snohomish Vintners," The Seattle Times, May 5, 2006, p. D-1; "100 Points," The Wine Advocate, April 24, 2006, accessed from Quilceda Creek website on August 4, 2023 (https://quilcedacreek.com/wines-archive-detail/2002-quilceda-creek-cabernet-sauvignon-columbia-valley); HistoryLink Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Golitzin, Alex (b. 1939)" (by Peter Blecha); "Washington Wine History Interviews: Alex and Paul Golitzin, Quilceda Creek Vintners" (by Jim Kershner); "Wine in Washington" (by Peter Blecha), www.historylink.org (accessed July 20, 2023); Paul Gregutt, Washington Wines & Wineries (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010) 139-140. 

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