One of the region's smallest and youngest boutique wineries is also the lovechild of one of the region's most accomplished winemakers.
Crayelle Cellars is something personal for Craig and Danielle Mitrakul. Craig is one of North Central Washington's longest residing university trained winemakers. He was an early winemaker for Ryan Patrick Vineyards and Saint Laurent Estate Winery, both which helped expand local wines statewide and nationally. Both have since been sold to larger wineries.
Craig now is winemaker and vineyard manager for Karma Cellars in Chelan. That prestigious winery is now in the process of expanding its production to become one of the state's leading producers of premium sparkling wine in a new plant Craig helped develop in Entiat.
After earning a masters degree in wine science at Cornell University, Mitrakul worked at several well known wineries including Chateau Ste. Michelle, Rosemount Estates (Australia), Ponzi Vineyards (Oregon), Lamoureaux Landing Wine Cellars (New York) and Three Rivers Winery (Walla Walla).
But his heart is heavily invested in a creation of his own. He and Danielle started Crayelle just a few years ago and plan to grow it slowly as they have time, money and as the wines build their reputation. They produce only about 300 cases of wine in just a few varieties each year.
Crayelle's wines have already achieved a solid reputation for excellence. Starting with only a Syrah and a Riesling, each vintage has been true to its type and style and presented with consistent, flawless and nicely understated character.
I had a chance to sample some recent releases and they were all I expected and more.
One of Crayelle's hits last year was the 2012 Albariño, a fragrant, flowery white wine that's popular in its Spanish homeland, but rarely produced here. Craig said the first vintage was very well received and sold out quickly. The couple were still bottling and labeling the 2013 vintage, but expect to have some available for sale later this week.
2013 Albariño: It's a beautiful wine to celebrate spring and Apple Blossom festivities, bursting with aromas of fruit blossoms, honeysuckle and ripe peaches. Just slightly sweet with flavors of honey, peach, banana, pineapple and tropical fruit. The grapes came from Milbrandt Brothers famed Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes AVA near George.
2011 Gabriel's Horn: This is a sumptuous red wine blend of 66 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 34 percent Syrah. Smooth and full-bodied with racy notes of pepper and spice from the Syrah, this is a great steak or barbecue wine. Fruity aromas of currant, pomegranate and clove. The 2011 is already easy drinking with flavors of black cherry, Marionberry and subtle hints of oak.
I also sampled one of the last bottles of 2010 Gabrielle's Horn before it recently sold out. It was a truly remarkable wine. Craig said the blends really improve with a year in the bottle. Buy a couple of the 2011 now and stow them away. You won't be sorry.
2010 Bishop's Block: This wonderful blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvédre is dear to my heart. Grapes came from a specific section of Ryan Patrick's Bishop's Block Vineyard near Quincy. Terry and Ryan Flanagan planted the vines together in the French Rhone River Valley style of vineyard blending.
I've made my own wine from grapes (Cabernet and Merlot) purchased from this vineyard and felt right at home with this bottle of wine, which was admittedly way better than my own. The elegant blend is soft, fruity and complex, perfect with red meats, pastas and even lighter fare. I served it with a hearty lamb shank stew earlier this year. The dinner and wine brought back wonderful memories of my few weeks in southern France. This is really a many faceted gem of cherry and berry flavors.
Crayelle Cellars has a tasting room at 207 Mission Ave., Cashmere. It's open from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, and Sundays too, starting in May. There are other tasting rooms, restaurants and shops in the Mission Ave. mall. Definitely worth a visit.