Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent Washington wine releases – includes wines from Mark Ryan Winery, Two Vintners, Desert Wind Winery, Forgeron Cellars, and Idilico.

Mark Ryan Winery

The 2009 Mark Ryan Winery red releases mark a transition for the winery. This is the first vintage with Mike MacMorran serving as head winemaker. MacMorran joined the winery in 2008 as assistant winemaker, taking over head winemaking responsibilities from Mark McNeilly one year later (McNeilly retains the title of Executive Winemaker).

A former medical student, MacMorran started out in the wine business as a harvest intern at DeLille Cellars in 2005. He subsequently worked his way up to cellar master and assistant winemaker before joining Mark Ryan.

MacMorran describes leaving his medical school days behind as follows. “As I was finishing my second year of med school my wife asked me what I wanted to do when I was ready to someday retire from medicine. I said I’d love to be a winemaker. She looked at me a little funny and said ‘So you’re going to medical school so you can someday be a winemaker?’ She left it at that.”

MacMorran’s impact on the wines is notable, sharpening up Mark Ryan’s already impressive portfolio. The wines are across the board stunners – as good as any wines that the winery has made. Each of the new releases is marked by incredibly bright, fresh aromatics that are nothing short of dazzling. These are wines that one can just smell and be satisfied, with layers of complexity. Ah but to taste…

Of note, the 2010 Viognier – as good as I’ve had from Washington – includes fruit from Ciel du Cheval and Red Willow vineyards.

Mark Ryan Winery Viognier Columbia Valley 2010 $28
(Excellent/Exceptional) Pale lemon yellow. An aromatic tour de force – a wine you can just sit and smell and be entirely satisfied – showing floral notes, fresh, ripe peach, lime, and a touch of vanilla. The palate is textured and full of fruit flavors with a distinct minerality accented by lime-like acidity that stretches out to an extremely long finish. My favorite Viognier Mark Ryan Winery has made with the words ‘absolutely beautiful’ written and underlined two times in my original tasting notes. 100% Viognier. Ciel du Cheval and Red Willow vineyards. Aged in neutral oak (67%) and stainless steel. 13.9% alcohol. 375 cases produced.

Mark Ryan Winery Long Haul Red Wine Red Mountain 2009 $48
(Exceptional) Again, an aromatic tour de force with fresh, ripe raspberries along with chocolate, earth, and floral notes. The palate is rich and textured, tart and tightly wound with red fruit flavors, mineral notes, and firm but beautifully integrated tannins. A knockout of a wine with compelling aromatics and a palate that delivers. 64% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot. Klipsun, Ciel du Cheval, and Stillwater Creek vineyards. Aged in French oak (73% new). 14.8% alcohol. 550 cases produced.

Mark Ryan Winery Dead Horse Red Wine Red Mountain 2009 $52
(Exceptional) Dark ruby. An extremely aromatically appealing wine with dark fruit, currants, mineral notes, high toned milk chocolate, and floral notes. The palate is full of red and blue fruit flavors bringing both elegance and brawn – though its Long Haul littermate is bigger. A beautifully long finish. Has the legs to go the distance in the cellar. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 11% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot. Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, and Obelisco vineyards. Aged in French oak (76% new). 14.7% alcohol. 850 cases produced.

Mark Ryan Winery Lonely Heart Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2009 $80
(Exceptional) Dark in color with purple at the rim. A dark and brooding wine that is locked up tightly at present with mineral notes, floral notes, dark, dark cherries, and chocolate. The palate is simultaneously bold and understated, rich and restrained. An incredibly impressive wine with beautifully integrated tannins, full of fruit flavors, and a long finish. 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot. Klipsun and Ciel du Cheval vineyards. Aged in French oak (88% new). 14.7% alcohol. 200 cases produced.

Two Vintners

Two Vintners is a joint project of Morgan Lee and Donavon Claflin who are, of course, the two vintners. Lee works as winemaker at Covington Cellars in Woodinville, which is located next door to the Two Vintners facility; Claflin serves as his assistant winemaker.

Two Vintners focuses on small production wines that over-deliver for the price. Each of the wines below is pegged under $30 but comes from attractive sites, such as Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, and Stone Tree.

While the lineup is impressive across the board, the 2009 Stone Tree Vineyard Zinfandel is the standout if for no other reason than the relative scarcity of this grape in the state. Stone Tree has in a very short time established itself as a top site, with several winemakers particularly excited about zinfandel and Tempranillo. Look for an increasing number of vineyard designated bottles in the coming years. And keep an eye on Two Vintners.

Two Vintners Merlot Pepper Bridge Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2008 $29
(Good) An aromatic wine with mint, earth, and red fruit. The palate is ripe and juicy with chalky tannins and a zing of acidity. Oak is very much in check on this restrained, appealing wine. 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. 14.3% alcohol. Approximately 130 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Recommended

Two Vintners Syrah Columbia Valley 2009 $20
(Good) An aromatically appealing wine with a surprising amount of complexity for the price point with red fruit, spice, brown licorice, and savory notes. The palate is on the lighter side with chalky tannins. 100% Syrah. Pepper Bridge and Kiona vineyards. 14.7% alcohol. Approximately 200 cases produced.

Two Vintners Syrah Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2009 $29
(Excellent) Dark in color. A perfumed wine with abundant high toned aromas of floral notes, game, chocolate, and mineral notes. The palate is light bodied, silky and lively with a lingering, mineral laden finish. Some my find it a bit too light bodied; others will swoon. 100% Seven Hills. 14.3% alcohol. 73 cases produced.

Two Vintners Lola Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $25
(Excellent) Brightly aromatic with berry, penetrating black cherry, and light herbal notes. The palate is fruit-filled, clean, and fresh. A very enjoyable, well priced wine. 50% Cabernet, 50% Syrah. Klipsun, Kestrel, Stonetree, and Mirage vineyards. 14.5% alcohol. 180 cases produced.

Two Vintners Zinfandel StoneTree Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $25
(Excellent) An aromatically compelling wine with brambly fruit, dark chocolate, and whiskey barrel. The palate is rich and silky. Has a lot of booze in it but holds it well – this is Zinfandel after all. 75% Zinfandel, 18% Primitivo, and 7% Petite Sirah. 15.6% alcohol. 310 cases produced.

Desert Wind Winery

Desert Wind Winery is located in Prosser just off interstate 82 (the winery is visible from the highway).

Desert Wind focuses on two estate sites, Desert Wind and Sacagawea vineyards, both of which are located on the Wahluke slope. Desert Wind Vineyard is a staggering 540-acres, planted primarily to Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. In contrast, Sacagawea is a significantly smaller site of approximately 50 acres.

Intriguingly, each of the wines below is a vineyard designate from one of these two sites. While many of the wines are small production, the winery’s large vineyard also allows them to make certain wines at scale, such as the just under 5,000 case Cabernet Sauvignon.

Desert Wind Winery Bare Naked Viognier Desert Wind Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2010 $15
(Decent) Almost completely clear in color. A moderately aromatic wine with creamiscle and floral notes. The palate is tart and acidic with an unctuous feel. 100% Viognier. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 14.5% alcohol. 251 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Desert Wind Winery Riesling Sacagawea Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $12
(Decent) An aromatic wine with orange peel, citrus, and floral notes. The palate is off-dry, full of peach and citrus flavors. 100% Riesling. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 12.0% alcohol. 1.13g/100ml RS. 473 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Desert Wind Semillon Desert Wind Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $15
(Decent) Pale lemon yellow. Aromatics dominated by oak spice, vanilla, and straw. The palate is broad and full of oak spices and citrus flavors. The wood steals the show here. Barrel fermented and aged 6 months sur lie in neutral oak. 98.8% Semillon, 1.2% Chardonnay. 13.9% alcohol. 170 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Desert Wind Tempranillo Desert Wind Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $20
(Good) Aromas of sweet, slightly raisined, red fruit along with grape soda, leather and spice. The palate is fruit filled and broad with chalky tannins and a lingering finish. An enjoyable offering of this emerging varietal at a very reasonable tariff. 96% Tempranillo, 2% Merlot, 1% Barbera, and 1% Syrah. Aged 17 months in American oak. 14.5% alcohol. 427 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Desert Wind Winery Malbec Desert Wine Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $20
(Decent) Medium purple. Aromas are very restrained with light blueberries, boysenberries, and spice. The palate has soft, plush tannins with a tart finish. 97% Malbec, 2% Merlot, and 1% Barbera. Aged 20 months in American oak. 14.5% alcohol. 160 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Desert Wind Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Desert Wind Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $20
(Good) Medium ruby. Distinctly Cabernet Sauvignon with herbal notes, cherry, and vanilla. The palate is dry and chalky, full of plush cherry flavors. 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, and 3% Barbera. Aged 12 months in American oak. 14.5% alcohol. 4,932 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


The white wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape inspire Forgeron Cellars’ Ambiance White Wine. The wine is primarily a blend of (the seldom seen) Grenache Blanc and Marsanne with a healthy splash of Orange Muscat to add to the complexity and lift the aromatics.

Forgeron Cellars Ambiance White Wine Columbia Valley 2010 $25
(Good) A lightly aromatic wine with toasty spices, orange spritz, and peach. The palate is simultaneously rounded and edgy with citric acidity that cuts all the way through the wine. 47% Grenache Blanc, 47% Marsanne, 17% Orange Muscat. 14.1% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

I wrote about Idilico last year after an impressive debut with an Albarino and Grenache. The winery was started by Javier Alfonso of Pomum Cellars with the goal of focusing on Spanish varieties.

Tempranillo has been gaining traction in Washington in recent years. This bottle shows why but at a fraction of the cost of many out there. Don’t look for it to last long.

Idilico Tempranillo Washington State 2009 $20
(Good/Excellent) A vibrantly aromatic wine with cherries, cigar box, and spice. The palate is deliciously fresh and fruit filled with pure cherry flavors and minimal oak influence. A rare find at this price point for this emerging varietal. Upland, Airport Ranch, and Elerding vineyards. Aged in neutral oak. 14.0% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Rating System
Please note, my rating system was revised at the beginning of 2012 as follows. Read additional details here.
(Not recommended/Flawed)