Revived after a delicious lunch, I continued my tour with a stop at Mark Ryan. Don't be fooled by the quaint vintage scooter in the front of the shop - this place is gunning to be badass.
Case in point: the Numbskull BDX, Walla Walla, 2012. Like the skulls on the label, the wine was bone-dry (come on, you can't say you didn't see that coming), with some grippy tannins. It was lighter in body than expected, especially given the blend, but I think this will develop more nuances as it ages.
The Lost Soul wasn't available for tasting but was substituted with the Wild Eyed, Red Mountain, 2012. The 100% Syrah had a plethora of ripe berries up front but was balanced with the spice one comes to expect from a Syrah.
The Long Haul, Red Mountain, 2012, was appropriately named, as it definitely needed some aging in order to reach its fullest potential. Delicious notes of leather, tobacco and spice were already coming through on this Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend but these only hinted at the potential heights this wine could reach.
Last in the lineup was the Dead Horse, Red Mountain, 2012. Comprised predominately of Cabernet Sauvignon, there was a surprising restraint to the fruit with leather and smoke rounding out the glass.
Like G. Cuneo, another winery that takes its cues from Old World regions is Rotie Cellars, which, if not apparent from the name, models itself on Rhone blends. Here, I found some shining wines that exemplify the quality wines Washington State is capable of producing.
For whites, I was drawn to the Southern White, 2013, a Viogner/Roussanne/Marsanne blend that pranced in my mouth with honeysuckle, peach, lime and zippy acidity.
Their Southern Blend, 2012, was also a standout for me. A traditional GSM blend (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre, if you want to spell it out), the raspberry and currant fruit blended easily with the savory gaminess in this wine. It had the slight edge over their Northern Blend, 2012, a Syrah-dominant red that hinted at black fruit along with minerality, cocoa, spice and again, a certain meaty quality. There was a freshness to the Southern Blend that made it more accessible.
The Swordfight, 2012, was another gem in the lineup. 50% Mourvedre/50% Syrah, my nose immediately picked up sweet baking spices, cumin and black cherry. Sipping through, there were noticeable tannins and a bright cherry on the long finish. I could see this really shining with some food.
My favorite of the group though, was an unusual one: the Dre, 2012. Made from 100% Mourvedre, which isn't often seen, there was a spicy n' sweet tension of white pepper and cumin, along with a Luden's cough drop cherry note to it. Sounds weird but the complexity kept revealing itself with each sip. It needed aging time, no question, but overall I found it weirdly compelling. As a side note, I so love the rebel bad-boy element on display in some of these Washington State wine names and labels.
Moving on, I arrived at Maison Bleue, another winery that is making a name for itself with Rhone blends.
My favorite was the Liberte, Syrah, 2011. Blackberry, overripe raspberry, spice, licorice and smoked meats made this a standout Syrah.
The final winery of the trip was Spring Valley. While I enjoyed their extensive lineup, what stood out the most for me were the bottle labels. Featuring vintage photos of family members, they were a a unique tribute to the history of the winery.
In general, Walla Walla is producing some great wines, marrying their unique terroir with traditional blends, offbeat single varietals, and a cornicopia of Old World Grapes. I'm eager to see how this region develops as I see it becoming a major force in the wine industry.
Keep tasting, friends...