wide-ranging rhônes

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Another winery missing from the recent Wine Advocate reviews is McCrea Cellars. Founded in 1988 by Doug McCrea, this winery has done more to break new ground with Rhone varietals than any in the state. Throughout his two-plus decades in the business, McCrea has never stopped exploring, pushing the boundaries of what is being tried here, while maintaining a track record of excellence.

Perhaps due to his off-the-beaten-track location, amplified by the rarity of McCrea’s actual public appearances (his marketing is very competently handled by Bob and Susan Neel, but still, people like to meet winemakers in this state) – whatever the reason, McCrea Cellars tends to fall off the radar a bit, as it apparently did when wines were being tasted for Wine Advocate reviews.

My most recent tasting of releases from the winery included a unique mix of 2008 vintage varietals: viognier, grenache blanc, marsanne, picpoul, and a Chateauneuf-style white blend called Sirocco blanc. Working with Dick Boushey and Jim Holmes (at Ciel du Cheval), McCrea has opened, in one fell swoop, a whole new range of white wine possibilities. However you rate or don’t rate these wines (personally, I found them challenging, at times difficult to score, but always fascinating), it is a shame to leave them completely unreviewed. Anyone with an interest in Washington wine – and especially new varietals – should make a special effort to taste through this lineup.

As these are mostly proprietary material sourced from Tablas Creek, there are contractual restraints on further propagation. McCrea may not have cornered the market, but he’s darn close to it, based on a long term relationship with the Haas family who own the winery. Ordering information can be found on the website – all wines are $25 except the viognier, which is $22.


McCrea 2008 Boushey Vineyard Picpoul
The third vintage but first varietal bottling of picpoul ever done in Washington. Lemon yellow, with scents of beeswax, toast and orange marmalade. This is high-toned, with tropical and stone fruits, lemon meringue and even a hint of graham cracker. Fascinating, and a bit over the top. I have no clue how to rate this wine!

McCrea 2008 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Viognier
Cuvée includes 12% roussanne and 12% grenache blanc. This is a very mineral, fresh, grapefruity style of viognier; it’s got a lot of skin phenolics, which livens up the palate with flavors of lime, tonic, citrus fruits and botanicals.

McCrea 2008 Boushey Vineyard Grenache Blanc
This is just the third vintage (second bottling I believe) of this wine, from the only acre planted in the state.. High acid, with grapefruit, pineapple, and green apple fruit; it’s snappy and tight, a great food wine. Finished with details of pepper, stone, citrus and orange marmalade.

McCrea 2008 Boushey Vineyard Marsanne
This is McCrea’s first varietal bottling of marsanne, and certainly one of a handful ever made in Washington. Dry and delicate with mixed fresh herbs, melon, green berry, spice and rock – lots of rock. It shows surprising length and develops nicely in the throat, seeming to add flesh as you taste.

McCrea 2008 Boushey Vineyard Sirocco Blanc
The star of the lineup, this blends 30% marsanne, 40% grenache blanc, 10% picpoul and 20% roussanne. Among McCrea’s Rhône-inspired white wines, this is the most complete and complex. It’s rich and dense, with honeycomb, lychee, lemon rind, pineapple and lots of stone – it seems to gain strength as it rolls through a sensational finish.


NOTE: Wine Rocks Seattle is coming up in little more than a week, and a few half price tickets are being offered if you act quickly. I’ll be playing a set of original tunes, and several other groups are on the docket, along with some really good wines. Hard to beat at this (half) price! Enter code 241JP at



Sean P. Sullivan said...

I agree that McCrea is one of Washington's most interesting wineries that always seems to fly below the radar. I am not sure why this is as I consistently find their wines impressive. No one has been working with Boushey fruit longer and few have so consistently pushed new varietals in the state, such as their new bottling of picpoul. For people who are interested and live in the Seattle area, I would recommend joining their mailing list. The Neel's host a number of private tastings at their residence in West Seattle. When they do, they always have the full selection of McCrea wines open as well as some library wines.

Don Jarrett said...

Funny you would mention McCrea, I was down at a friends place in Incline Village and he pulled out a nice McCrea Srah. We talked about how it didnt move off the shelves in his store...but it was very very good wine and really a great value.

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