Last month, I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with Ryme Cellars Winemakers, Ryan and Megan Glaab, at their winery just north of Healdsburg, CA. With the early grape harvest that hot & dry California weather delivered this year, winemakers all over the state have been racing to harvest and press the grapes before the late summer sun made raisins of the fruit. It was amidst such a flurry of grape pressing that Lowell Sheldon, of Peter Lowell’s Restaurant, and I arrived on the scene. All parties were hard at work, checking temperatures, tasting the pressed juice, and standing on the lip of the grape vats pressing the grapes by hand with a long metal instruments. There was much to do, yet none were too busy to welcome us warmly; a generosity of spirit often found amongst people who do what they love for a living.
To tell Ryme Cellars’s story is to share a bit about love. Ryan and Megan met and fell in love while working for Australia’s Torbreck Winery, and while both pursued academic degrees in winemaking, their styling prioritizes passion & intuition over technique every time. The result so far has been outstanding. So outstanding that this year the two left their previous side jobs in order to focus fully on their lovechild Ryme Cellars. In their own words, the wine they make is “encouraged, never controlled.” Ryme uses zero temperature control, adds no cultured yeasts, or enzymes and other adulterants. They do not fine and they do not filter. They are sourcing their grapes from organically or sustainably grown vineyards and their joy is in drawing out the idiosyncrasies of wine instead of creating a consistent formula of “polished supple sameness” that the masses will flock to. What they’re bottling ranges from classic Italian varietals like Aglianco and Vermentino to some of the “noble” varieties like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Whether Ryme is fermenting on the skins or on the stems, each wine expresses a texture, structure, and artistry that stands alone in it’s drinking and also pairs beautifully with food.
One of the most interesting things about this dynamic duo is that the creativity and sustainability that Ryme brings to its winemaking is reflected in their lives as a whole. Ryan and Megan birthed the Ryme Project at the Wind Gap Winery in Sebastopol, CA where Ryan was working as assistant wine maker. When he wasn’t fulfilling his role with Wind Gap, Ryan was free to use the facility to work on Ryme. What unfolded from his departure from Wind Gap was a series of synchronicities that invited collaboration with winemakers Sam Bilbro of Idlewild Wines and Leo Hansen of Leo Steen Wines. The three parties found that they all lived in the same neighborhood, had kids the same age, were making wine with a shared philosophy and in need of a place to do it. They all pitched in equal sums of money to buy equipment and purchase the space — what resulted was a winery of collaboration and support not just in their winemaking but in their family lives. These days, at harvest time, the kids can run wild together while parents work hard at what they love. You could say they’ve created a small village built on the tenants of passionate creativity, family, and hard work.
What Ryan and Megan are most excited about these days is refining all that they’ve started at Ryme Cellars and expanding their experimentation. They have recently begun fermenting in large ceramic amphorae, branching out from their standard of using used French Oak Barriques. Amphorae are clay or terracotta containers that were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for fermenting and storing wine. The two are loving the effect that it has on their long-ferment wines such as their delicious Ribolla Gialla orange wine and the fruit and spice layered Cabernet Franc. Before leaving, we all sat down to taste the literal fruits of their labor. In drinking their wine and witnessing the mutually supportive community system that they’ve co-created, it is undeniable that the partnership between Megan and Ryan is clearly greater than the sum of it’s parts. We can all look forward to reaping (or drinking) the benefits of their love for years to come.