One day, 10 years ago, while employed as a buyer for a restaurant in Santa Barbara, a sales rep came in and showed me a Syrah from Washington State. I had tasted a few, but nothing that had impressed me up until that point. In fact, I was having a difficult time finding a good Rhone Varietal outside of France or Santa Barbara. I vividly remember my reaction as I tasted this new WA Syrah. My head was spinning. This was like a biologist discovering a new species. It was Syrah, without a doubt. It was silky and had beautifully balanced sweet fruit tannins. The wine lasted and lasted. It was the 1997 McCrea Cuvee Orleans Syrah (375ml no less!). I immediately added it to my list,and happily hand sold it as long as I could keep it in stock.
Somehow this quirky little winery with a funky purple label and I would cross paths a few more time before all was said and done. A few years later, after moving back to Ohio and while traveling for a supplier, I bumped into Susan Neel (né McCrea) in Missouri. We hit it off instantly. I spoke of my love for her wines and told her that I wanted to represent them in Ohio. It took her 2 years to be convinced to sell Walt and I wine (he had also known the wines as he was a Hospice du Rhone Groupie for several years). Eventually Susan started traveling to see us and support our efforts selling the wine,and we became very close. My son even received a birthday present from Susan that was an autographed bottle of Grenache from his birth year saying "Happy Birthday Eli, do not open until 2022!
Doug McCrea, winemaker and partner, hails from New Orleans. He and Susan were really the first significant winery producing Rhone varietals in Washington. They started in the late 80's. I'm told they really hit their stride by the mid-90's, and to this day, craft some of the most incredible, elegant version of many of the Rhone grapes. Sleek, elegant and balanced, they have really tapped into and defined the terroir for an entire generation of up and coming wineries. We are very proud to announce the addition of McCrea Cellars to the ampelography portfolio.