Two winemakers who never intended to end up in Walla Walla have teamed up to produce high-end wines for their Latin Corner tasting room.
DOUG MCCREA AND GINO CUNEO never planned to land in Walla Walla. Yet the veteran winemakers have joined forces to bring their considerable talents to a dynamic downtown tasting room.
Both opened their wineries in 1989 — McCrea in Washington and Cuneo in Oregon — but now they have different wineries than they started with.
McCrea launched McCrea Cellars and focused on Rhône varieties long before they became fashionable. Thanks to high-end syrahs and blends, McCrea gained near-cult status in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Four from Latin Corner
Salida 2013 albariño, Yakima Valley, $25: This classic crisp Spanish white unveils notes of apple, pineapple and anise. Its brightness and purity of fruit make it perfect for shellfish, particularly crab dip.
G. Cuneo 2012 Riposso, Columbia Valley, $35: Using primarily sangiovese, this luscious and complex red shows off black cherry, red licorice and a hint of pipe tobacco. It’s a perfect wine for tomato-based Italian dishes.
Salida 2012 tempranillo, Yakima Valley, $38: A bold fruit-laden red that provides aromas and flavors of strawberry, red cherry and crushed herbs. The rich tannins keep up with all the fruit. Enjoy with grilled meats.
G. Cuneo 2011 Seccopassa, Columbia Valley, $75: There’s nothing quite like this wine in the United States. It’s made in the Amarone style, so the grapes are harvested and left to dry on mats for four months before being crushed and fermented. The result is remarkable, with aromas and flavors of black raspberry, plum and dark chocolate. It’s a big wine with incredible depth of flavor.
But the Recession hit the ultrapremium wine market hard in 2009, and McCrea Cellars — jointly operated by McCrea and his ex-wife — struggled.
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In the meantime, McCrea started Salida as a side project, with a focus on Spanish varieties. Today, Salida is his top priority.
Cuneo, meanwhile, started out making pinot noir. But his Italian heritage nudged him toward grapes such as nebbiolo and sangiovese. In 2001, he took on partners and built a beautiful winery in Carlton, Ore. But after disagreements with his partners, Cuneo was pushed out of his winery, now called Cana’s Feast.
In 2008, he started over and launched g. Cuneo Cellars. In 2011, he moved to Walla Walla, and in 2014, he opened a tasting room across the street from the Marcus Whitman Hotel. About a year ago, he called McCrea, and the two decided to share the space.
Because both focus on grapes from “Latin Europe,” they call it the Latin Corner — it’s at the corner of Second Avenue and Rose Street.
Cuneo wines are sold only at the tasting room; Salida is available in top Seattle-area wine shops, as well as on select restaurant lists.
If you’re heading to Walla Walla for Spring Release Weekend (May 6-8), put the Latin Corner on your itinerary and taste wine with a couple of Northwest legends.