On a recent visit to Rasa Vineyards, I had the opportunity to taste alongside superstar winemaker Billo Naravane. Billo discussed the arduous process of completing masters of wine exam (he has almost completed his masters of wine) and the subtleties necessary to blind taste Gruner Veltliner. Billo is on another level than most winemakers and the proof is in the glass. I was first drawn to Rasa a few years back where I blind tasted his 2007 QED Syrah 94 points. The wine was an absolute stunner of a wine that had balance, precision and ripe fruit flavors, alongside vibrant minerality.
Rasa Vineyards was founded by two wine collectors and oenophiles, Pinto and Billo Naravane. They both left their jobs in the computer industry and decided to move to Walla Walla and make wine. Their first vintage was 2007 and they have been a huge success ever since. Billo is not only a talented winemaker but has a bachelor’s degree from MIT and a master’s degree from Stanford. His wine education is the one of the best out there as well, completing the masters program from UC Davis. Billo is one of the few Washington winemakers that can make absolutely stunning Rhone and Bordeaux style wines. He is one of the brightest talents in Washington wine.
Among the recent highlights of my recent tasting was the exceptional 2013 Rasa ‘Primus Inter Pares Monette’s Vineyard’ Grenache (WWB, 95). This pretty and gorgeously textured Grenache is a heavyhitter of a wine that showcases the warmth of the vintage, which creating an intense mineral streak. Another gorgeous new release was the 2013 QED Cabernet Franc (WWB, 94) which was sourced from the famed Weinbau vineyard and showed an exceedingly wide array of aromatics and fruit profiles alongside a silky, Billo Navarene signature, silky texture. The Cabernet Franc is the best expression of the varietal from Washington that I have sampled in the past year and rivals the best from Napa, including the outrageously good 2012 La Jota Cabernet Franc (WWB, 94). But the crème de la crème of the impressive lineup was the 2012 Fiancetto Cabernet (WWB, 96). This wine was so dense, chewy and burly, you almost need a fork to drink it. For those who love the full-throttled and intense style of Washington Cabernet (think Doubleback, Leonetti and Quilceda Creek), this one is right up your alley.
If you have never had the chance to try these special wines, a visit to Rasa is a must. Rasa is located outside of Walla Walla on the eastern side, roughly 15 minutes from downtown. Learn more about Rasa at rasavineyards.com. Some of the wines can be found at specialty wine shops around the Northwest. Most Rasa wines are limited production and go fast, so looking for them online is a good way to start.
2013 Rasa ‘Primus Inter Pares Monettes Vineyard’ Grenache- Fermented in second use puncheons, the wine begins with aromas of rose petals, anise, red cherry and red raspberry and wet rock with suggestions of lavender and provencale herbs. This leads to ripe flavors of gravel, red raspberry, red cherry and nice viscosity with a long finish. This is impossible to resist and is up there with the best Grenache in the state. Polished and absolutely delicious. Drink 2016-2028- 95
2012 Rasa ‘Doctrina Purpitua Bacchus Vineyard’ Syrah- This means 'forever learning' in Latin. This is 85 case production that is sourced from their oldest block of Syrah. The wine begins with aromas of blackberry preserves, creosote, and milk chocolate. This leads to flavors of blackberry jam, anise, cassis and black olive. Drinking beautifully right now but having tremendous structure and intensity. Very viscous wine in the Washington style of Syrah. Drink 2016-2026- 94
2013 Rasa 'Living in the Limelight' Petit Verdot- This is sourced from the Dionysus vineyard. The wine begins with aromas of black olive, blackberry and sagebrush. This leads to flavors of blackberry, mocha, green olive and an intense herbal character. Currently tannic and need some time in the bottle right now, so try to resist for another year. Drink 2017-2030- 93
2013 Rasa ‘QED’ Cabernet Franc- This silky Cabernet Franc is sourced from the Weinbau vineyard. The wine begins with aromas of red bell pepper, dill, sage and red cherry. This leads to flavors of red bell pepper, red cherry, dried sage and red raspberry preserves. Lovely texture and viscosity to this gorgeous bottling. The structure is there. Hard to connect intensity with Cab Franc but this bottling is an intense experience, which represents of the best expressions of the varietals in the state. Kudos to head winemaker Billo Navarene on this impressive effort. Drink 2016-2026-94
2012 Rasa ‘Fianchetto’ Red Wine- This is an XL Vineyard Bordeaux blend of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine begins stub aromas of mocha, black cherry and anise. This leads to flavors of blackberry jam, coffee grounds, creme de cassis, anise and done in the hugely modern style. The texture of this wine is ethereal. This is intense Cabernet, showing moderate to heavy tannins at this point that settle after three hours of decanting. The purity of fruit is exceptional here. Drink 2018-2031- 96
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