Two from Mark Ryan

Hello friends. The year of the value Rhone blend in Washington continues. We have a tremendous Syrah-Mourvedre blend from Mark Ryan’s side project, as well as a bonus wine at the end from the main Mark Ryan label.

2011 BTR Cellars (Mark Ryan) “Suicide Shift” (Rhone Blend)

The Board Track Racer label has been a great success for Mark Ryan, combining unused juice from the main label with purchased fruit when required. I’ve tasted a bunch of bottles under this label, none better than this 80/20 Syrah/Mourvedre blend. It was a total double-take wine when I tasted it; like, perhaps a mistake was made, and the team at Mark Ryan accidentally bottled Lost Soul (their Red Willow Syrah) under the Suicide Shift label.

Turns out that wasn’t the exact scenario, but it wasn’t too far off, either. Mark McNeilly decided not to bottle Lost Soul in 2011, so much of that lovely Red Willow Syrah fruit landed in this bottle, where it makes up 60% of the blend. The remainder is Olsen Vineyard Syrah and Mourvedre.

And the result: a wine that waaaaaay over-deliveres for its price point, drinking like baby Lost Soul, or baby Cote Patriarche. The nose combines smoked meat, peat, raspberry, and green olive, giving way to a palate with serious depth and intensity for the tariff. Smoked bacon, a bowl of cherries, and brewed coffee: sounds more like breakfast than wine, but there you have it. For lovers of Red Willow Syrah, we get few opportunities to sample it at this accessible a price point.

Red Willow is a reference point Washington Vineyard when it comes to Syrah. Located towards the far western edge of the Yakima Valley (here), it was originally planted by Mike Sauer in 1973. The first Syrah vines in Washington went into the ground at Red Willow in 1986, partly due to the vision of the late Master of Wine and long-time Columbia Winery winemaker David Lake. Only recently have the contracts with Columbia begun to lapse, allowing boutique wineries like Mark Ryan access to the fruit. The results, including today’s bottle, have been glorious.

2010 Mark Ryan Cabernet Sauvignon “Lonely Heart”

This wine has developed a following among our list members (we’ve offered the previous two vintages), so I want to get in nice and early. The most recent vintages reviewed by Paul Gregutt for Wine Enthusiast (2009, 2007) both received strong 95pt scores. By the time his review for the 2010 comes out (likely in November, based on previous trends), I’m uncertain whether this will still be available.

It’s a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon (Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun), rounded out with Ciel Merlot and Petit Verdot. The nose is deep and brooding, with blackcurrant, gravel, cedar, and topnotes of mint and oak spice (clove, cinnamon). This is all Red Mountain power, hitting the mid-palate with panache and transitioning into a massive, cherry-tea flavored finish that goes on and on. Tightly wound, with the stuffing to evolve for years.

Review of Washington Wines (Rand Sealey): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 19.5/20pts.”

First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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