Hello friends. Last year was a watershed year for Mark Ryan.
Before last year, the Mark Ryan lineup was difficult to source. Now, it’s becoming near-impossible. Think of it like a babushka doll. The outer layer isn’t that big (production for today’s wines is in the range of 100-300 cases). Take away that outer layer; that’s the Mark Ryan wine club’s allocation. The next layer: that’s wine held back for direct sales from the winery. Now we’re left with wine allocated to the trade, except oops, take away another layer, because the preponderance of that wine goes to restaurants. One more layer removed for the handful of other retailers that receive some, and we’re left with a doll small enough to cook into a king cake: that’s our allocation.
Here at the intersection of low supply and high demand, time is of the essence. Our list gets one shot at the new Rhone releases, so I’m lumping all four into one offering. No reviews on any of these yet. In fact, most of the print publications are two vintages behind. By the time the accolades do start pouring in, these will be long gone:
2011 Mark Ryan Viognier
Washington Viognier can be a deeply unpleasant category at times, but this was a real head-turner. A 50/50 blend of Ciel du Cheval and Red Willow Vineyards, done 80% in neutral barrels and 20% in stainless steel. The warmer Ciel fruit provides the richness and mouthfilling peach flavor. The cooler Red Willow adds minerally undertones, acid pop, and subtleties of flower and ginger. Finished alc is 14.2%.
2010 Mark Ryan Syrah “Wild Eyed” Red Mountain
Now onto the reds, where we’ll go from highest to lowest production. This Wild Eyed Syrah is the highest-production of the three…
…at 268 cases. As I said, quite a limited lineup.
This Syrah represents a marriage of the king and queen of Red Mountain vineyards, coming as it does from Klipsun and Ciel du Cheval. It sees 45% new French oak (the remainder neutral) for 16 months, and clocks in at 14.9% alcohol (a relatively cool year by Red Mountain standards). A core of red fruit (redcurrant, red raspberry) is swaddled in a series of barrel notes: vanilla, smoke, tobacco. Rich, ripe, and intense, this is the one of the three that I would most recommend holding onto for a few years before opening.
2010 Mark Ryan Syrah “Lost Soul” Red Willow Vineyard
The Wild Eyed Syrah above comes from Red Mountain, at the far eastern edge of the Yakima Valley. Lost Soul, on the other hand, comes from Red Willow, at the far western edge (see location here, zoomed out so you can see Red Mountain far to the east). Since escaping from the clutches of a long-term Columbia Winery contract, Red Willow has rocketed towards the top of the list of most important Syrah vineyards in the state. Bob Betz’s Cote Patriarche comes from Red Willow, as does Owen Roe’s Chapel Block Syrah, both legendary.
This version from Mark McNeilly is a stunner. It sees less new oak than the Wild Eyed (closer to 30%), so the fruit is really the star here. And what fruit it is! The nose presents a savory swirling mass of mixed olives, roasting marrow bones, and rich black fruit. The palate is wonderfully intense and concentrated, more black fruit mixed with rich earthy notes and sea salt. I went back to this one again and again; it’s a superstar wine in the making. Just 225 cases produced.
2010 Mark Ryan Mourvedre “Crazy Mary” Red Mountain
“Like Bandol with a Botox injection,” my notebook reads, and I see no reason to edit that tasting note here. For lovers of Mourvedre (86% of the blend, rounded out with 14% Syrah), this is an irresistible bottling. Again all Ciel and Klipsun fruit, all Red Mountain, and at just 170 cases produced, this is bordering on micro-boutique. Done entirely in massive 500L puncheons (about 60% new, the rest neutral).
So, back to Botoxed Bandol. Bandol because it shares that region’s intoxicating Mourvedre combination of spicy leather, plum, roasted meat, and black pepper. Botoxed because, unlike Bandol’s imposing wall of tannins, this Washington version is ripe (15.1%-alc) and rich, with supple tannins that make it oh-so-easy to glug right this minute.
Again, a quick reminder that this is a one-and-done deal, with no opportunities for reorders. Please limit *total* order requests to 24 bottles (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.