Living Columns & Blogs

Washington’s Ryan Patrick enjoys new growth

Jeremy Santo is the head winemaker for Ryan Patrick, a winery that started in 1999 and has a tasting room in Leavenworth.
Jeremy Santo is the head winemaker for Ryan Patrick, a winery that started in 1999 and has a tasting room in Leavenworth. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

A small family winery that was struck by tragedy more than a decade ago now is one of Washington’s fastest-growing operations.

Ryan Patrick was launched in 1999 by Wenatchee’s Terry and Vivian Flanagan, named after their sons, Ryan and Patrick. For the first half-decade, everything was going well, with the wines gaining the attention of critics and consumers alike.

But in 2004, Patrick Flanagan, 24, died in a car accident. He had worked in the Walla Walla wine industry and was being groomed to become Ryan Patrick’s winemaker.

His brother, Ryan, was focused on the agricultural side, working in vineyards. Through the next few years, the family soldiered on and Ryan Patrick continued, primarily selling its wines through its popular tasting room in the the Cascade Mountains town of Leavenworth.

In early 2012, brothers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt purchased the winery from the Flanagans. The Milbrandts grew up in the Columbia Basin and began planting wine grapes in the 1990s, followed by the launch of their winery, Milbrandt Vineyards, which now has a tasting room in the Yakima Valley town of Prosser.

The Milbrandts also own Wahluke Wine Co. in Mattawa, a facility where it processes wine grapes from the hundreds of acres of vineyards it owns in Washington wine country. The winemaking team is led by Joshua Maloney and Jeremy Santo, who both worked for Chateau Ste. Michelle before taking over Milbrandt.

Today, Santo is in charge of winemaking for Ryan Patrick, and the winery is enjoying tremendous growth, thanks to distribution in 23 states. Case production has reached a respectable 15,000 cases, and Santo anticipates it could double after this year’s harvest.

Just because the Flanagan family no longer owns the winery doesn’t mean it isn’t involved. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Vivian Flanagan is the tasting room manager in Leavenworth, and Ryan Flanagan manages the Milbrandts’ esteemed Evergreen Vineyard near the Columbia Basin town of Quincy. And each year, the family members gather with the winemaking team to taste through all upcoming releases.

At this spring’s Cascadia Wine Competition, Ryan Patrick entered seven wines, winning five gold medals and two silvers — a remarkable achievement.

Here are the five gold medal winners with a wide range of prices and styles. Ask for the wines at your favorite wine merchant or contact Ryan Patrick directly.

Ryan Patrick 2014 Naked Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $12: Unoaked and unadorned, this steel-fermented Chardonnay unveils crisp aromas and flavors of pear, lemon and lime backed with underlying bright acidity. Pair with a delicate wine-poached Dover sole and cilantro garnish.

Ryan Patrick 2015 Rosé, Columbia Valley, $12: Using mostly Syrah, this delightful summer sipper displays aromas of pomegranate and ruby grapefruit, then offers flavors of strawberry, rhubarb and more grapefruit.

Ryan Patrick 2013 Rock Island Red, Columbia Valley, $20: This red blend includes mostly Merlot and Syrah that shows off cured meat with blackberry and spice aromas. On the palate, flavors of blackberry and plum give way to a delicious finish.

Ryan Patrick 2013 Reserve Syrah, Red Mountain, $40: Here is a wine of heft, breadth and depth that opens with black fruit and coffee aromas, then dips even darker and deeper into boysenberries, blackberries, blueberries and black plum fruit flavors. It’s no wine for the faint of heart, closing with earthy minerality and grippy tannins.

Ryan Patrick 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Rattlesnake Hills, $50: Elephant Mountain Vineyard provided the grapes for this reserve Cab. It offers spice, blackberries and black currants on the nose, then augments them with brambleberries and a hint of black tea, creating a sophisticated wine worthy of a thick New York steak seared and served medium rare.

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.

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