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Ryan Patrick Rock Island Chardonnay 2015
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 capable of producing 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 even extends into northern Oregon!
Because of its size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which are both further split into smaller, noteworthy appellations. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences extreme winters and long, hot, dry summers. 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 entire 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. These range in style from citrus and green apple dominant in cooler sites, to riper, fleshier wines with stone fruit flavors coming from the warmer vineyards.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy 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. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.