Northwest Wine

Phillip Leigh

Northwest-Wine's 25th anniversary

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Phillip Leigh Cabernet Sauvignon is made by Phillip Fromherz, business manager at Mark Ryan Winery.

Phil grew up in Oregon wine country, outside the town of Dundee, located at the epicenter of Pinot noir production. As a boy, he watched as fields were ripped out and the traditional row crops were replanted to grape vines. He remembers his neighbors the Stoller family converting their turkey farm to vineyards. Today Stoller is a prominent winery and vineyard just south of Dundee.

Phil was too young to fully experience the wines of Oregon, and it wasn't until he moved to Seattle to work at an engineering firm that he discovered wine. In 2001 he met Mark McNeilly, owner and winemaker at Mark Ryan Winery, while helping friends out at Page Cellars, a winery down the row in the Woodinville Office Park. The Woodinville facility is an unlikely place for wineries, but there are over a dozen today.

One Saturday, he walked down the hill and met Mark, and as he puts it he "never left."

With his background in farming and mechanical engineering, he had the skills to help out winemaker friends like Chris Sparkman (Sparkman Cellars), Chris Gorman (Gorman Wines), Darby English (Darby Winery) and Jerry Reiner (Guardian Cellars, who also started his wine career at Mark Ryan) with tanks, pumps, lines, and other building projects.

"Working with them on their lots gave me a huge opportunity to see all the differences in fermentation, winemaking practices, barrel selection, etc." He gained a great deal of experience working with so many different wineries.

Phil's own winery started with work in the cellar at Mark Ryan. He was assistant winemaker for one harvest, then moved into the office to organize the rapidly growing winery.

"It was a huge challenge, but I missed the day to day of winemaking. Mark offered to let me make one wine at Mark Ryan, about 200 cases a year, in addition to by job as business manager."

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