Expands from online sales to Glover St. space
The RYZO Wines Tasting Room, the latest addition to North Glover Street’s business corridor in Twisp, provides European flavors combined with regional wines in an intimate, modern atmosphere with local hospitality.
Owned by the husband-wife team of Chad and Cari Honsinger, the RYZO Wines storefront is the result of a vision forged in the early pandemic and brought to fruition over the past two years. At a time when many businesses were crumbling, the Honsingers were building something.
The Honsingers are no strangers to bucking up in the face of adversity. Both graduated from college in 2008-2009, in the height of the recession, when jobs for recent college graduates were hard to find. Chad, who had earned a Master of Arts in English, used the opportunity to dive deeper into fermentation processes. He moved to Walla Walla, enrolled in a wine program, and emerged two years later with an Associate of Science degree in Viticulture and Enology.
Cari, who also earned a degree in English, moved to Walla Walla and became a volunteer for AmeriCorps, teaching in a Spanish-speaking elementary school. When the Honsingers met, they learned they shared a love of regional agriculture, the farm-to-table movement, and good food, good wine, and good company.
Walla Walla provided all that to the Honsingers, who married in 2013. Chad was making wine with Castillo de Feliciana Vineyard & Winery, Figgins Estate, Revelry Vintners, and others. Cari taught and worked as a personal trainer and nutritionist. They had two daughters, now 6 and 8; they bought and remodeled a house; they had a community. “Walla Walla is really wonderful,” Cari says. “We had so many opportunities there. We put down roots.”
But as it did for many people, the COVID pandemic gave the Honsingers breathing room to assess what they wanted to do in their next phase of life. “We had been wanting to start our own thing for a while,” Cari says. “Wine felt like a big risk. Wine is a long game — not just making the product years in advance, but also because most wineries take 10 years to be cash-flow positive.”
Still, both Chad, who completed high school in the Methow Valley, and Cari, who grew up in Colville and has family ties to the Methow Valley, wanted to figure out how to get back to the area.
“We’d had this dream for a long time, of moving to the Methow Valley,” Cari says. “In the pandemic, more grapes were available because so many places were cutting back. We’d wanted to do this wine business and suddenly there were grapes in abundance. We decide to just go for it.”
In 2021, the couple sold their house in Walla Walla, took a small loan from the Methow Investment Network (MIN), and made the leap, moving to the Methow Valley and signing a lease on an unfinished retail space between the Thrifty Fox and Methow Arts on North Glover Street.
Preparing the space for the RYZO Wines Tasting Room involved a major remodel, which Chad completed while also working full-time as a carpenter. He completed interior finishes, added a wall, installed a kitchen, and built a bar and furniture for the tasting room.
Finally, in mid-June, when the Honsingers received their building inspection, health department inspection, and liquor license all in the same week, the RYZO Wines Tasting Room opened.
The Honsingers say they are excited to “add to the Glover Street area, to complement Glover Street Market’s existing Saturday afternoon wine tasting, and to integrate into the arts and culture focus of Twisp.”
Neither of the Honsingers grew up in families where much wine was consumed, but both took an interest in the process in their college years. Chad experimented with fermenting, which led a friend to say, “Hey, you should think about making wine.”
Cari grew up working in organic orchards along the northern Columbia River and became interested in wine-making from a hospitality standpoint. “Wouldn’t it be cool to build more of a life around agriculture and hospitality?” she thought.
The couple splits their duties at RYZO Wines along those lines. Chad — who also works full-time at Vin Du Lac Winery in Chelan — is the soil and grapes guy; Cari — who recently scaled back her other jobs to focus solely on RYZO Wines — runs the food and business side of the operation. She credits local mentor chefs with helping her develop the tasting room’s menu of tartines (French-style sandwiches), snacks, treats, and non-alcoholic beverages. Of course, they also sell their wines: by the glass, by the flight, and by the bottle.
Room to grow
RYZO Wines is small by winery standards, the Honsingers say. Currently, they operate out of leased space in a Walla Walla winery, but next year they are moving to a production facility in Chelan. Like most small wineries, the Honsingers don’t (yet) grow their own grapes, but they “put a lot of intent into grape sourcing,” Chad says, naming the Willamette, Chelan, and Walla Walla as areas of focus.
Chad is particularly interested in varietals that could grow in the soils around the foot of the Methow Valley. “There is a potential for great wines made from grapes grown around here,” he says. “The soils are more granite-based, whereas much of the rest of Washington is more basalt-based.” A former mountain guide, Chad admits to being a bit of a rocks and dirt geek, as he finds himself constantly assessing hillsides for vineyard suitability as he travels through the state.
The RYZO name is a nod to Earth-nerdiness. The Honsingers named their winery RYZO for rhizosphere, “the plant-soil interface, or the root system of the soil strata, where all kinds of interesting and important microbiological processes take place,” Cari says.
“We don’t do a ton of add-ins,” Chad says of his wine-making. “It’s a little more restrained.” He mentions old-world European-style wine making as influential and calls several of their wines “fun,” especially the “pét-nat” wines—the “pétillant naturel” wines, which are naturally sparkling. RYZO makes a Pinot Noir Pét-Nat and a Riesling Pét-Nat.
RYZO’s red wines include a chillable Grenache and a Syrah, while a Grenache Rosé rounds out the offerings. With bright labels created by Michelle Gadeken, a Seattle-based designer, the bottles evoke both topography and the cosmos, with allusions to Washington’s varied geography.
RYZO Wines began selling online 18 months ago and still offers a wine club, in addition to the tasting room. It’s a nice balance, Cari says. “Selling online has been great, but we also wanted that in-person element and we wanted to integrate more into the community. The tasting room has a really nice atmosphere — it’s very family-friendly, but you can also come in and have an intimate conversation with someone.”
“We love to talk about the wines and help people learn more about them,” Cari says, “but we also know how to read the room. You can come in and learn about the wines, or just come in and drink them. Either way, we’re looking forward to hosting you.”
The RYZO Wines Tasting Room is open Thursdays and Fridays from 3-8 p.m. and Saturdays from noon-8 p.m. For more information visit: www.ryzowines.com.