News travels fast in downtown Walla Walla. No sooner did owner Chad Diltz of Tru Cellars announce he was giving up his space at 26 E Main Street due to being sold out and waiting for upcoming bubbly vintages to release; word on the street was that Starbuck patio gazers had seen Woodinville "rock star" winemakers, Mark McNeilly (Mark Ryan Winery) and Chris Gorman (Gorman Winery) checking out the soon-to-be empty space.
Sure enough - the patio gazers hadn't overdosed on too many double Americanos and sugary apple fritters. The Washington State Liquor Board just announced a new liquor application for Mark Ryan Winery at the same space where McNeilly had been spotted. (Were there paparazzi?) It will be interesting to see the final business plan revealed. My instinct is this will be a second tasting room for him, besides the Woodinville winery/tasting toom.
So who is Mark Ryan Winery? Mark Ryan McNeilly founded Mark Ryan Winery in 1999 with the goal of making the finest wines in Washington State. Mostly self-taught, McNeilly studied the craft of winemaking and took to heart the advice of some of the state's most experienced wine producers.
In the early years McNeilly's winery was "transient," as his first vintages were crushed and pressed in garages of friends and family. Later the barrels were aged in warehouses around the Seattle Area, and in 2003 the winery finally took root in Woodinville, WA.
According to the recent press in the last year, McNeilly's goal has come to fruition as Mark Ryan Winery was named in the list of Top 100 Wineries of the 2011 by Wine & Sprits Magazine, Paul Gregutt of The Wine Enthusiast named Mark Ryan Winery one of the new "Cult Wineries" of Washington State, and Seattle Magazine named McNeilly as 2011 Winemaker of the Year.
The Mark Ryan line-up of wines include: "Dead Horse" (a Left Bank Bordeaux-style blend), "Long Haul" (Right Bank Bordeaux-style blend), "Lonely Heart" Cabernet Sauvignon, "Wild Eyed" Syrah, Viognier, and "The Dissident" (Bordeaux-style blend). Of course, grapes are sourced from some of the finest vineyards in the state such as Ciel du Cheval, Grand Reve, Kiona, and Klipsun, to name a few.
This will be quite a switch from the usual as in the past several Walla Walla wineries have opened up tasting rooms in Woodinville and now Walla Walla will finally welcome a downtown tasting room from Woodinville.