Winemaker, Doug McCrea
Great wines are produced from a seamless relationship between the vineyard and winery. Although our winery is not located on the same property as the vines, and even several hours away, Doug spends many days each year in our Eastern Washington vineyards. A full knowledge of vine morphology is at the heart of understanding how to grow grapes that will ultimately achieve wines of maximum quality.
Although we don’t own the vines we have established multiple year contracts with our growers so that they feel certain Salida is on board for the long run. Also, they are paid by the acre, not by the ton, to insure that we are growing the finest fruit possible, not necessarily “bang for the buck,” but in balance with what a vine can produce to make the best possible wines.
So in a sense, we’re like a team, working together towards a goal both Salida and the vineyard have in common. Without this relationship, our fruit would likely be compromised and we would fall short of the quality we desire.
The vineyards are much like an outdoor classroom, a place of constant education and also of frequent surprises. The physiology of a grape vine is very complicated. It takes many years of experience and exposure to gain the understanding of how and why the vines will produce the kind of fruit required for the wines we offer our customers.
Having spent over 25 years in the Washington wine industry, Dougs’ winemaking background is extensive. As winemaker for McCrea Cellars he pioneered a cadre of Rhone grape varietals in Washington, many of which were firsts, including Syrah, Grenache, Counoise, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul and Roussanne. He worked with several of the states’ most prominent grape growers at vineyards such as Ciel du Cheval on Red Mountain, Dick Boushey of Boushey Vineyards and Jarred Boyle of Destiny Ridge.
In the winery, Doug’s philosophy of winemaking is primarily to nurture the fruit. He is a minimalist in his approach to winemaking. His goal to allow the fruit to express its essence in effort to display the best the vineyard offers and to substantiate the terrior inherent to the site. Achieving this requires great dedication to detail, first in the vineyard then in the winery when the grapes arrive and are processed.
All red grapes are removed from their stems, basically just split to avoid excessive release of tannins and sugars, followed by a gentle punchdown regime. Once transferred to barrel, careful use of oak prevails so that it never interferes with the flavors of the grape, but acts more as a subtle spice, enhancing the wines’ texture and aromas.
White grapes are whole cluster pressed at fairly low pressure to avoid extraction of bitter phenolics, even though yields may be somewhat reduced. The juice is settled overnight then racked to neutral oak and fermented with commercial strains that prolong fermentation in a cool and steady process. The lees are stirred gently to impart greater textural mouthfeel and to gain subtle complexity. SO2 levels are monitored several times yearly to avoid oxidative issues. With most of the wines, racking of both red and white barrels typically occurs only once prior to being assembled for bottling.
A word from our winemaker, Doug McCrea:
“I believe we’re greatly a product of lifes’ remarkable journey. My upbringing in New Orleans left an indelible mark with its spiritual persona. There was the aroma of exotic foods drifting into the streets, the laughter of debauchery and loud music, mysterious corridors leading to gas-lit rooms, the heavy perfume of night-blooming flowers in the courtyards, the sound of horse-hoofs clopping along on the brick streets, and even occasionally, an unexpected encounter with a spirit still clinging earthbound.
This may seem to have little to do with making wines from Iberian grapes, but I believe that life is a continuum. While living there, I can’t say that I was literally aware of the profound Spanish influence in the Vieux Carre. So many years later, was there possibly a reason why I was compelled to make a bee-line for a tiny acre of Grenache in 1989 when no others were interested? Why am I intrigued with the remarkable aromas of Tempranillo, Abarino or Monastrell, and why did I have Tempranillo essentially ‘dropped in my lap’ in 2006. Was this all random? I doubt it!
Success for me is a phone call from a customer who says, ‘I opened a bottle of the Salida Tempranillo, poured a generous glass of the ruby nectar, took a deep sniff, then sat before the fireplace, slowly sipping the rich wine and relishing the moment. Suddenly, in the flames, I saw a vision of Don Quixote on his famous steed, Rocinante, dressed in his shining suit of armor, lance ready, calling out a challenge to do battle with a windmill in La Mancha.’ Now that’s my idea of success with sketches of Spain dancing in the flames, Tempranillo in hand!”
“Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished.”
Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
The high desert climate and volcanic soils of Eastern Washington are ideal for Spanish wine grapes. Our vineyards reflect a remarkable similarity to the primary growing regions of Spain and Portugal, producing wines of excellent intensity and structure. The Salida brand features a compelling New World expression of these varietals grown in several of Washingtons’ finest vineyards.
Salida fruit is sourced from five select Washington State vineyards with elevations ranging from 900 to 1,700 feet. The Yakima Valley is our primary fruit source, and also the Wahluke Slope, one of the states’ warmest growing regions. Naches Heights is our third source featuring a fairly mild and moderate climate. Average annual rainfall is six to eight inches annually in Eastern Washington, so we are able to grow our grapes utilizing the utmost control of irrigation. Together, all three appellations provide ideal climactic conditions for each of our Spanish varietals.
The inland desert climate of Washington State provides warm summer days in the upper 80’s to low 90’s, slowly ripening the grapes to their consummate maturity, while cool nights help to retain good acidity. Often an extended autumn some call “Indian Summer” insures great depth in the wines. Virtually of the vineyards are situated on sloping hillsides with good air drainage that helps to avoid severe winter damage to the vines.
Washingtons’ well-drained soils are a mixture of volcanic basalt uplift providing complex minerality, coupled with glacial, fluvial sediment brought to the region about 16,000 years ago. A surface layer of silt loam represents a third element, generally averaging as shallow as six inches to a depth of 30 inches. Combined, these features offer excellent elements for growing wine grapes.
The vineyards from where we source Salida fruit located in the Yakima Valley with Two Coyote situated on the western end and Dutchman fairly central.
The Two Coyote vineyard is our primary source of Tempranillo. It’s located on the northern flank of the Yakima Valley northwest of Zillah at an elevation of about 1,000 feet. There, we work with two clones of the grape as well as Graciano, Garnacha and Malbec. Soils are comprised of silt loam formed on loess over a limestone and silica durapan.
The Graciano, planted in 2009, is a rare grape originating in the vineyards of Spains’ Rioja region. There, it’s primarily used as a blending component to enhance the color and structure of Tempranillo. As a stand-alone wine, it has good potential with deep color and a spicy, rich character.
April of 2013 saw the inclusion of more acreage of both Tempranillo and Malbec and a planting of Touriga Nacional, the primary Portuguese grape which produces port wine.
In the fall of 2010, we were very fortunate to have been offered Albarino, Spains’ pre-eminent white grape varietal. The inclusion of a white wine gave the Salida brand greater breath in the developing portfolio. Albarino thrives well at this location in the hills north of the Yakima Valley city, Grandview, with soils very similar to that of the Two Coyote vineyard. Although presently only one acre it’s a true jewel in the crown of our wines.
New to the Salida brand in 2011, the vines at the Olsen Vineyard are some of the most meticulously farmed that we’ve ever seen. The vineyard is located at the far eastern end of the Yakima Valley, northeast of Prosser with the highest elevation of the three. Here, we source both Garnacha and Monastrell (or Mourvedre, its French name). Being late ripening grapes, both varietals have an advantage at the Olsen property with elevations ranging between 1,200 and 1,300 feet, providing extended hang-time and frost-free protection well into late November. The third Spanish varietal at this vineyard is the white grape Garnacha Blanca. In addition this is the source of our Petite Sirah.