A sip o’ the good stuff…with a dash of vintage motorcycle

It’s an Indian. A sweet bike worn-in just so. The aged, but beautifully maintained machine gives a quiet nod to adventures past, and yet to come.

The same can be said of the new release of Mark Ryan wines. The Indian is parked at the ready in the winery’s Woodinville, WA tasting room, where the 2008 vintages are being poured. Ten bucks gets you a generous taste of Mark Ryan favorites including Wild Eyed Syrah, and The Dissident, Long Haul, Water Witch and Dead Horse blends.

It’s worth it though, to spring for the $20 tasting, and bliss out to the 2004 Crazy Mary Mourvedre. Just try and sip this magical elixir without closing your eyes and sighing. Not sure it can be done.

The distinctive tasting room reflects the character of the wine and the winemaker – a space for relaxed exploration and taking your time to tease out nuance. Framed concert art and spare, country house furniture invite lingering. The staff is knowledgeable and attentive (the charming redhead with the pixie hair will make you feel like an old friend) but they let the wines sell themselves. No pushing here. Pick up a bottle and read at your leisure.

Chalkboards, reflecting the schoolhouse across the way, display pricing, availability and a few notes. It’s a comfortable experience that’s as immersive as you want it to be.

The Pepperbridge tasting room next door was a disappointing contrast. The generic space is garnished with lights and ribbons tossed on bare branches that are stuck in pots. The young staff seemed more interested in chatting among themselves than with patrons.

The tasting fee includes three Amavi wines and three Pepperbridge offerings. Pass on the Amavi and the three Pepperbridge pours are still ten dollars. We had to ask to see the bottle, and notes on what we were drinking. A staff member passed a laminated sheet across the counter and returned to her co-workers.

The Merlot was luscious and deep. Our eyebrows shot up in a “wow”. Lovely, intense and demanding a good cut of beef, “right now!” The Cabernets – they were pouring a 2007 and 2008 were interesting to contrast but my palate couldn’t, or maybe didn’t want to, shake the powerful Merlot.

It’s a shame that Pepperbridge can’t reproduce the atmosphere of their Walla Walla tasting room in Woodinville. Mulling the Merlot, we returned to Mark Ryan and scooped up a Long Haul. With a last, longing look at the Indian.

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