From his early days as a self-taught winemaker and wine sales professional to today, Mark’s curiosity has been the driver. For Mark, wine is extremely personal.
Mark Ryan McNeilly founded Mark Ryan Winery in 1999 with the simple and lofty goal of making the best wine in Washington State. Largely self-taught, Mark honed the craft of winemaking through rigorous study and the welcomed advice of some of the area's most experienced producers.
“I’m a curious person. I wanted to know how wine was made.”
The goal has always been to make delicious wines representative of our style and varietal character, striving for the highest quality every vintage.
Mark is a vigilant crusader for his wines and for winemaking in Washington State.
I studied wine for years before I produced my first vintage. I was working as a wine distributor during the day and a server/bartender at night when I fell in love with the culture of wine. I started reading about wine making and hanging out with winemakers. This was back in the 90s when Washington State was still a young state – I was winery #465 when I registered. Washington now has well over 1,100 wineries.
The initial leap to buy a truckload of Washington’s finest fruit, paid off with my first vintage release of Dead Horse, named for the vineyard from which it came and Long Haul, aptly named for the road I started walking.
I’m a curious person. I wanted to know how wine was made.”
1. Has any recent wine experience blown your mind?
Back in 2003 or 2004, I rented a wine locker intending to fill it, and then I forgot about it. I was recently reminded I had the locker, so I went there and found seven 6-packs of Long Haul - the first wine I made. I took ONE bottle out and just put the rest back in the box. I brought that bottle home and opened it and I was truly blown away. I hadn’t had that bottle in at least eight years. By then, that bottle was 17 or 18 years old. It had not bricked, it didn’t lose its fruit or get flabby. The wine was dark to the edge, had tons of fruit, aggressive tannins. It aged exactly how I’d hoped it would age.
2. What is so great about Mark Ryan Winery?
I managed to get one of the best vineyards in Washington State. I managed to not screw it up. I had good barrels. I had a fairly complete winemaking plan based on research I did and questions I asked. I figured it out. I knew how important it was that I could hopefully sell it. This wasn’t a passion project – from day one I made a decision to make it work.
3. Why Viognier?
Why NOT viognier? The grape itself can handle all the heat. It’s what I like to drink. It has a nice floral richness, but has some great acidity and minerality, too. Unfortunately, it’s not very widely planted in Washington and we sell out very quickly.
4. Any recent press you’re excited about?
Our wine THE DISSIDENT was recently ranked #46 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 – a renowned list that includes celebrated wines from all over the world. We were just one of two Washington wines included.
5. What’s your favorite?
I love cabernet sauvignon, and Washington State does it so well.