Tag Archives: McCrea Cellars

A red wine for grilling

We’re finally coming into one of our favorite seasons: summer.

And why do we love summer so much? Beyond the obvious — sunshine, duh! — we like our increased cooking options (read: we love to grill).

Pairing wine with grilling recipes is fun because the selection is vast — many reds, and even some whites, are great accompaniments to food touched by a grill.

For this week’s pairing we wanted to ignore the go-to wines and instead recommend a varietal you might not be familiar with. The wine we’re thinking of is considered the backbone of many wines from one of our favorite wine regions in France, the Rhone Valley. But it likely originated in Spain.

It’s also a grape that has done well in Washington, especially in the Walla Walla area.

So what grape are we talking about? None other than Grenache.

Typically you’ll find Grenache in red blends that include syrah, mourvedre, cinsault and carignan. (Think France’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape). But we’ve seen a trend among Washington winemakers to use Grenache as a stand-alone variety.

That’s great for us wine lovers because this grape, if done right, is a perfect food wine. It’s also a great choice to match with Ann Vogel’s Persian beef shish kebabs and her Filipino barbecued port kebabs.

Grenache is a good red for summer because it is light enough for a warm evening, but holds the weight and structure needed to stand up to the range of flavors a grill can infuse on food.

Flavor characteristics of Grenache include fruits like blackberries and black currants, white pepper, allspice and cinnamon. It’s a wine that doesn’t need a lot of oak, but if oak is used it can add hints of vanilla and even smoke depending on how toasted the inside of the barrels are.

There are a number of Washington wineries that produce great Grenaches. Here’s a few to look out for the next time you’re in the store: Maison Bleue, Milbrant Vineyards, Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Barnard Griffen Winery, Novelty Hill and McCrea Cellars.

We also recommend Trio Vintners, which we tried while at Taste Washington earlier this year. Winemaker Karen LaBonte lets the wine sit for 21 months in barrels with minimal new oak, which allows the grape’s flavors to shine instead of being muddled by oak.

The wine is listed at $26. The only hitch is it’s not available in Kitsap, but if you’re in Seattle it’s available at the Sixth Avenue Wine Cellar in the Pacific Place shopping center downtown or at Esquin Wine and Spirits, 2700 Fourth Avenue South in downtown Seattle.

What we’re drinking: 2008 McCrea Syrah

Brynn writes:

Oh how I love birthdays, especially when they involve my friends and their wonderful husbands who like to spoil them on their special day.

This past Saturday we gathered to celebrate my friend Lauren, whose husband Greg threw her an intimate birthday dinner to celebrate her departure from her 20s into the 30s. Lucky for us Greg and Lauren love wine, so the catered evening included five wine pairings.

We started with sparkling wine from the California coast — I started with sparkling apple cider — and were encouraged to add a sprig of herbs. The chef prepared a sweet pea shooter with crème fraîche and salmon caviar to compliment the sparkling wine. I didn’t try this because of the raw fish eggs and unpasteurized crème fraîche, however it looked intriguing.

For dinner we had braised lamb, broccolini, radicchio with bechamel sauce and gnocchi that was prepared more like a polenta patty, and freshly made focaccia bread. The wine that was poured included a pinot gris from Oregon, a Pomerol from Bordeaux and a 2008 McCrea Cellars Syrah. We finished the night with Dow’s Fine Tawny Porto.

As I said before, because this is Washington Wine Month, I’ll be highlighting the McCrea Cellars from this meal. We’ve actually written about McCrea before, having sampled them at other tasting events — including the recent Kitsap Wine Festival where I listed McCrea as one of my favorites from the day.

The McCrea 2008 Syrah had the best nose between the two reds we sampled. It might have appeared the floral notes were from a co-mingling with viognier, but according to the winemaker’s notes, this was a 100 percent Syrah blended from four vineyards. The wine was a deep purple color and the body lived up to the nose. Black cherry and berry flavors were prominent in the wine, which left a smooth finish.

Here’s what winery says about the 2008 syrah:

Since we began the Syrah trend in Washington it has exploded in popularity – from about 10 acres in 1997 to about 4,000 today! Ours is handled very carefully, developing intense berry and black cherry flavors without over extraction or heavy tannins. It has licorice, cedar and mushrooms on the nose and finishes with black pepper and, particularly in 2008, great acidity. Our goal is to achieve a balance between New World intensity and Old World elegance. It will cellar well – ten years or more.

Aged eleven months in French oak, approximately 20 percent new.

Vineyards:

  • Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain
  • Boushey Grande Côte Vineyard, Yakima Valley
  • Elephant Mountain Vinyard, Yakima
  • Sugarloaf Vineyard, Yakima

The 2008 syrah won a gold medal at the Seattle Wine Awards; 454 cases were produced. I’ve seen McCrea in the grocery store, so see if you can find it, if not ask for it. It’s not cheap, but it’s a splurge that’s definitely worth it if you have a special occasion coming up.

Kitsap Wine Festival in review

The weather could not have been better for last weekend’s third annual Kitsap Wine Festival.

Luckily we didn’t listen to our own advice of leaving the sunscreen at home and bringing our umbrellas. Instead we slathered on the 30 SPF and hit the Bremerton waterfront for the three and-a-half hour wine tasting event.

The crowd seemed about the same from the year before, and the food offerings were just as delicious.

And of course the wine was good too.

Like last year we arrived at the gate and quickly made our way to the back of the tasting area, avoiding lines and seeking the cool breezes off the water.

But this strategy to get away from the crowds put a bit of a whammy in our plans to hit the wineries on our “Must Taste List.”

Anam Cara Cellars was the first winery on our list, and the first winery when we walked in. As a result there was a long line and we never made our way back to the front until it was time to leave.

So we started at the Summer Sippers Bar where we tasted Kana Winery’s Katie Mae White — a Riesling — Masset Winery Le Petite Blanc 2010, Vortex Cellars Rattlesnake Hills Rose, Maryhill Winery’s Rose of Sangiovese and an Italian sparkling Riondo Pink NV from the Veneto region.

Although these wines were refreshing, it was difficult to really taste them as they were chilled to the bone. But they were well chosen for the hot afternoon.

Our favorites of the bunch were the Riondo Veneto Pink NV for Brynn and the Maryhill Rose of Sangiovese for Mary. Both are refreshing dry pink wines with body and flavor. Both are made from the Italian red grapes, the first Corvina and the other Sangiovese. The Riondo was especially refreshing for the hot day with its bubbles that provided a nice effervescence.

Other wines we tasted and would recommend are Maryhill’s Zinfandel, Robert Ramsay Cellars’ 2008 Mourvedre and 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and Pondera Winery’s Sericus, a 2008 Bordeaux blend that picked up a double gold from the 2011 Seattle Wine Awards.

Oregon was represented by Lange Estate Winery and Vineyard’s Chardonnay and Reserve Pinot, which paired wonderfully with Anthony’s salmon on a bed of roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

Mary thought Dubindil Winery’s 2008 Syrah was really good. This boutique winery out of Snohomish, doesn’t filter their Syrah but it’s still smooth and silky with layers of flavors. Situated in the heart of the Puget Sound AVA, they focus on small batches of handcrafted wines made from grapes in regions around the state.

Kiona Winery and McCrea Cellars were Brynn’s favorite wineries of the day. That’s because she loved almost everything they poured.

Kiona offered a 2010 Chenin Blanc, 2010 Rose of Sangiovese, 2008 Estate Lemberger and 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Her favorites of these were the Lemberger and Cab, although the chilled Chenin Blanc was nice for the hot day.

McCrea poured its 2009 Sirocco Blanc (a white Rhone blend), a 2009 Rousanne, 2008 Grenache and 2006 Syrah.

Once again these whites were Brynn’s favorite, especially the Sirocco Blanc, a blend of 43 percent Grenache Blanc, 41 percent Marsanne, 10 percent Picpoul and 7 percent Rousanne.

Robert Ramsay Cellars was another one of Brynn’s favorites, largely because of its Cab made from old vines and its Mason’s Red — a blend of Syrah and Mourvedre with a co-fermentation of Viongnier, which gave this wine a lovely nose.

All in all we had a wonderful time and are already looking forward to next year’s event.

Cheers!

Brynn and Mary

Get your tickets: Kitsap Wine Festival

Brynn writes:

This year marks the third year of the Kitsap Wine Festival, held in downtown Bremerton at the Harborside Fountain Park. Like the last two years, this year’s event will feature 30-some wineries stationed around the fountains offering their wines. Local restaurants also will be peppered around the park providing bites to hungry attendees.

The event is Saturday, Aug. 20 from 2 to 5:30 p.m.

Something new to this year’s festival is beer. Local breweries, Silver City, Der Blokken and Hale’s Ales will all be represented at the festival, giving beer lovers something to try. Organizers also added a Summer Sipper Tasting Bar that will allow people to do side-by-side tastings of Rose, Riesling and Sparkling Wine. (My opinion? This is a great idea and the perfect way to compare wines so you know what you like, don’t like and why). The number of restaurants has also grown and the wine shop is back, so if you find a wine you love you can buy a bottle to take home.

A total of 35 wineries will be pouring — including many that were at last year’s event. In our review from last year, we felt Chinook Wines and Kiona Vineyards and Winery were the top two wineries of the 17 we visited. Both are back this year.

Other wineries scheduled to be pouring that made our ranked list from 2010 include Davenport Cellars and McCrea Cellars. (Forgeron Cellars also made our list, but they don’t appear to be attending).

Tickets are still available and cost $50 from now until Aug. 19. The price goes up to $60 if you buy them the day of the event. I know the event has sold out in the past, so you may want to buy your tickets now if you’re interested. You can purchase them at brownpapertickets.com, or by clicking here.

Visit the Kitsap Wine Festival website to see the full list of wineries and restaurants that are scheduled to be at the Saturday event. Proceeds go to support the Harrison Medical Center Foundation.

If you’re looking to refresh your memory with highlights from last year’s event, check out our review here.