Rockin’ WA Wines from Rockin’ Woodinville Winemakers

Let’s put the spotlight on two of the hottest wineries in Woodinville:  Sparkman Cellars & Mark Ryan Winery.

Chris Sparkman, self-defined dad, winemaker & head janitor (you might have also seen him at the Waterfront Seafood Grill where he is currently the General Manager), jokingly says that he is managed by his daughters Stella Mae 6, & Ruby Leigh 4 & but it’s his wife, Kelly Sparkman, who makes this a family affair, running the business & assisting him with the winemaking.

Founded in 2004, Sparkman Cellars is a family owned & operated winery, located in Woodinville, and has built a reputation for big, bold, full-bodied wines with elegance & structure that show off the hot-weather grapes coming out of WA.  What is the connection between these two winemakers?  Interestingly enough, Mark Ryan McNeilly (pictured below), owner & winemaker at Mark Ryan Winery, did the first vintage for Chris Sparkman.

Mark Ryan Winery was founded in 1999 by Mark Ryan McNeilly. The first vintages of the Long Haul & Dead Horse blend were produced in garages of Mark’s parents & friends. In 2002 Mark Ryan moved into a warehouse in Kent where wine aged in barrels next to Mark’s kitchen, bed & his 1986 Saab. In 2003 Mark Ryan winery moved to Woodinville where it remains today.  Like Sparkman, Mark Ryan wines are know for being bold, fruity wines, but with finesse & balance that makes them noteworthy.

Neither Chris Sparkman nor Mark Ryan got formally trained as winemakers. Self-studies, trial & error & good advice from other well-respected Washington producers helped them to learn from scratch. They are now two of the most respected wineries in Washington State.

Join two of the most exciting Sunday tastings of the year: Mark Ryan Winery with Nick James (Sales Manager, Assistant Winemaker & right hand man) on Sunday, December 12 & Sparkman Cellars with Chris Sparkman on December 19.

Here are some tasting notes from some of our favourites:

Sparkman Cellars 2008 Lumiere Chardonnay $27.99  | mixed case $22.39
100% Chardonnay from Stillwater Creek vineyard. Aromas of lemon, pears & crème brulèe followed by flavors of citrus & peach fruit, with notes of hazelnut & nutmeg.

Sparkman Cellars 2007 Stella Mae REG $47.99 | INSIDER $35.99 | Mixed Case $38.39
Named after their oldest daughter, this red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Petit Verdot. Fine, concentrated aromas of cassis, black cherries & dark chocolate leading to flavors of ripe blackberries, black cherries & Asian spices. The chewy tannins frame a massive, yet elegant structure. Fantastic finish.

Sparkman 2007 Kingpin Cabernet Sauvignon REG $59.99 | INSIDER $53.99 | Mixed Case $47.99
Sparkman claims Klipsun Vineyard on Red Mountain is the Led Zeppelin of Washington Vineyards. “Pure rock & roll”. Gnarly old vines & a challenging climate (biting winds) give this wine lots of depth & complexity. This is big, dark & mean. Full-bodied with lot’s of dark fruit, black plums, cassis, with some earthy & spicy notes. Superlong finish which goes on forever!

Mark Ryan 2009 Viognier $29.99 | Mixed Case $23.99
100% Viognier from Columbia Valley. Offers deep floral aromatics with some tropical fruit. Medium-bodied, well-balanced with fresh acidity & flavors of tropical & stone fruit, buttered bread, flowers & minerals. Beautiful finish.

Mark Ryan 2008 the Dissident $36.99 | Mixed Case $29.59
This red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah & Merlot from the Columbia Valley. Inviting aromas of blueberries, blackberries & strawberries with some minty notes. Medium- to full-bodied, elegant & complex, with flavors of dark fruit, chocolate, mocha, wrapped in oak flavors of vanilla & toast.

Mark Ryan 2008 Dead Horse $49.99 | Mixed Case $39.99
New vintage of Mark Ryan’s flagship wine. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot & Malbec. Aromas of violets, blackberries, raspberries, with some tobacco notes. Refined, elegant texture, bold & impressive. Rich, dark fruit, with tobacco, mint, clove & cracked black pepper. Fine, elegant tannins & beautiful integrated oak on the long finish.

See you soon & cheers!

Jens Strecker
Owner Portalis Wine Shop & Bar


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