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Ryan Patrick Chardonnay 2001
During his business career, Flanagan worked for a European company where he was exposed to European wines. A love for fine wines evolved into a desire to get involve in the industry. As the wine culture in California, and more recently Washington State, gained momentum, he felt the time was right. Flanagan returned to Eastern Washington full-time upon retirement in 1996. He implemented the first phase of his plan by selecting the ideal location for his family's future vineyard. "We wanted the best location we could find to assure the successful growth of top quality grapes. We also needed to minimize the risk of freeze damage while maintaining the capability to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes," explained Flanagan. Ryan Patrick Vineyards houses three distinctly separate estate vineyards, each divided into 20-acre parcels. The Bishop's Vineyard was planted in 1996 and is located on a peninsula on the banks of the Columbia River with vertical basalt cliffs rising several hundred feet immediately to the east. The Homestead Vineyard was planted next in 1998 on a portion of the original Flanagan family homestead. The newest vineyard, Vivian's Vineyard, is located near Trinidad on southern slopes overlooking the Columbia Gorge. Ryan Patrick Vineyards provide grapes for several well-known wineries as well as being the primary source for Ryan Patrick wines. Ryan Patrick Vineyards produce three wines, a White Bordeaux-style blend, Vin D' Été, a Chardonnay and a Red Bordeaux-style blend. The White Bordeaux-style blend, Vin D' Été, is made of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes. Each wine reflects the terroir of individual vineyards and the meticulous attention paid to each individual plant. The Chardonnay is made from 100% estate grown grapes split evenly between Bishop's Vineyard and Homestead Vineyard. The Red Blend is a traditional Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. "From the beginning, our goal was to produce limited quantities of reserve quality wines," explains Flanagan. "Volume was never a priority." Ryan Patrick vintners select only the most promising grapes from which to produce their wines. This sentiment is carried throughout the entire winemaking process. Traditional winemaking principles are paired with only the finest fruit. The result is wines that are balanced, well integrated and fruit forward. They can be enjoyed immediately or cellared for additional depth and complexity. Ryan Patrick wines are the embodiment of a dream woven into years of dedication and hard work. Terry Flanagan initiated this "path" but is directly influenced by the support of his family. Vivian, his wife of over thirty years helps coordinate administrative aspects of the business while Flanagan's two sons- Ryan and Patrick, served as the inspiration for the company's name. Both sons work within the wine industry- one as an apprentice cellar master, the other as a Contract Administrator.
A large and geographically diverse AVA responsible for a wide variety of wine styles, the Columbia Valley AVA is home to 99% of Washington State’s total vineyard area. A small section of the AVA extends into northern Oregon as well. Because of its vast size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which is further split into three more even smaller AVAs. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences cold winters and long, dry growing seasons. Frost is a common risk during winter and spring. The towering Cascade mountain range creates a rain shadow, keeping the valley relatively rain-free throughout the year, necessitating irrigation from the Columbia River. The lack of humidity combined with sandy soils allows for vines to be grown on their own rootstock, as phylloxera is not a serious concern.
Red wines make up the majority of production in the Columbia Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety here, where it produces wines with a pleasant balance of dark fruit and herbs. Wines made from Merlot are typically supple, with sweet red fruit and sometimes a hint of chocolate or mint. Syrah tends to be savory and Old-World-leaning, with a wide range of possible fruit flavors and plenty of spice. The most planted white varieties are Chardonnay and Riesling, the styles of which depend on the warmth of the site. Citrus and green apple are common to both in cooler sites, while warmer vineyards will produce riper, fleshier stone fruit flavors.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it’s grown and how it’s made. In Burgundy, Chardonnay produces some of the finest white wines in the world, typically tending towards minimal intervention in the winery and at its best resulting in remarkable longevity. This grape is popular throughout the world, but perhaps its second most important home is in California, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia, South America, South Africa, and New Zealand are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay’s flavors tend towards grapefruit, green apple, minerals, and white stone fruit, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of fig, melon, and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut, and spice (as well as texture), while malolactic fermentation can impart soft, buttery acidity.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with simple seafood, light chicken dishes, and salads. Richer Chardonnays marry well with cream or oil-based sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. These Old-World style wines have been dubbed the “New California Chardonnays,” and anyone who claims they do not like Chardonnay should give them a try.