As we continue our dive into Washington Wine Month we bring you one of the great talents in Washington wine who is also one of the nicest people you will meet. Billo Naravane is the brilliant mastermind behind all Rasa Vineyards bottlings. Alongside his brother, Pinto Naravane, Billo crafts very precise and singular expressions of Washington State terroir. His new lineup of wines is truly one of the best in the state — from crisp Rieslings to inky Syrahs.
With a background in science, Billo Naravane initially was inspired by wine while living Austin, Texas. During that time Billo was exposed to some of the finest wines in the world and he fully caught the wine bug. Finally, he and his brother, Pinto, made the bold decision to start Rasa Vineyards in 2007. My first exposure to these great wines was many years back when I was served a 2007 Rasa Vineyards ‘QED’ Syrah blind. I was absolutely mesmerized by the seamless quality of the wine. With a bachelor’s degree from MIT and a master’s degree from Stanford, Billo then studied viticulture an enology at UC Davis. He is now one of the few masters of wine (MW) in the world. The wines he crafts show tremendous texture, richness, poise and terroir — and are only getting better by each vintage.
I was totally blown away with the new Rasa Vineyards lineup. Up there with the best Riesling made in Washington is the 2017 Rasa vineyards ‘The Composer’ Riesling (WWB, 93) which has insanely good poise and range. This is one for any serious lover of Washington Riesling. Even better is the 2016 Rasa Vineyards ‘For the Love of the Game’ Cabernet Sauvignon (WWB, 96) which is up there with the top Cabernet Sauvignon made in the state. Learn more about this fantastic Walla Walla winery at rasavineyards.com Here are the beautiful new wines by Rasa Vineyards.
2017 Rasa Vineyards ‘The Composer’ Riesling- This Alsatian style Riesling was sourced from the Dionysus and Bacchus Vineyards as Billo Naravane has crafted ‘The Composer’ from three different clones of Riesling. The mouthfeel to this wine is incredible as this bone dry Riesling shows tremendous acidity that rips through the palate. Tangerine peel with melon tones and wet stone flavors all meld together on the palate. This is sensational wine that is truly one of a kind Riesling that can be enjoyed over the next decade. Drink 2019-2029- 93
2017 Rasa Vineyards ‘Dream Deferred’ Chardonnay- The 2017 Rasa Vineyards ‘Dream Deferred’ Chardonnay is up there with the best of its kind in the state. Sourced from the Frenchman Hills vineyard, the wine saw 25% new French oak prior to bottling. The beautiful nose reveals bright creme brûlée with banana, melon tones and wet rock that all build in the glass. The texture to this wine is downright gorgeous. Ripe peach and bananas foster with shades of nutmeg and clove infused golden delicious apple flavors all collect momentum on the palate. While a delight to savor in its youth, this outstanding effort will continue to shine for another decade or more, building lovely tertiary tones as it ages. Drink 2019-2029- 93
2017 Rasa Vineyards ‘Occam’s Razor’ Red Wine- The 2017 ‘Occam’s Razor’ is a compelling blend of a wide range of varietals including Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional and Petit Verdot that were all aged in 12% new French oak prior to bottling, The herbal tones are really nice with black tea and exotic spices that mingle with the dark fruit character on the nose. The wine packs a punch showing a good combination of red and dark fruits that mingle with chocolate and herbal tones. While not hugely complex, this is very satisfying and delicious, particularly at this price point. Drink 2019-2025- 91
2017 Rasa Vineyards ‘Axiom of Choice’ Cabernet Franc- The 2017 ‘Axiom of Choice’ Cabernet Franc is another sensational release by superstar winemaker Billo Naravane. This Cabernet Franc sourced from both the Weinbau and Firethorn Vineyards. The nose is very pretty with violets that connect with shades of black tea, ripe blueberry and blackberry cobbler all mingling nicely on this intense bouquet. The freshness and mouthfeel here is fantastic as the wine shows off its silky texture. Black tea and lavender mingle with the lovely blue and black fruit tones on the palate. Seductive, yet light on its feet, this beautiful wine will cellar well for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2032- 93
2017 Rasa Vineyards ‘Axiom of Choice The Strong Law’ Red Wine- The 2017 Rasa Vineyards ‘The Strong Law’ is an outstanding blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (DuBrull, Kiona, Dionysus and XL VIneyards) and Merlot (Firethorn, DuBrul and Bacchus Vneyards). The wine begins with aromas of Asian spices, blackberry pie, and shades of licorice that all mingle nicely on the nose. The freshness of the wine is really fantastic as the sterling tension entices. Bright red fruits mingle with shades of Earl Grey tea, sagebrush and black currant flavors. Highly gratifying in its youth, and texturally elegant, this outstanding red blend will evolve well for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2032- 93
2017 Rasa Vineyards ‘Primus Inter Pares Monette’s Vineyard’ Grenache- Sourced from the Monette’s Vineyard in the Walla Walla Rocks AVA, this is sadly the last year that Billo Naravane will make this wine due to issues with current vineyard management. The ‘Primus Inter Pares’ opens with a highly intoxicating bouquet, exhibiting beautiful range from red rose petals to Mandarin orange rind and smoky tones that mingle with red cherry puree that all mingle marvelously in the glass The palate is silky smooth, delivering a wonderful seamless quality as the wine effortlessly glides across the mid-palate. The purity of fruit is marvelous as red cherry, red raspberry, guava puree and shades of wet stone with smoked blood orange flavors. The verve and brightness of the wine really shines. Enjoy this stunning Grenache over the next decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 95
2015 Rasa Vineyards ‘QED’ Syrah (Fall 2019 release)- Largely Syrah (74%) with smaller portions Mourvedre, Grenache and a hint of Viognier, the 2015 Rasa Vineyards ‘QED’ Syrah opens with intense aromas of black tea and exotic spices which connect with blackberry and black currant jelly with sagebrush aromas that all collide in the glass. The texture is gorgeous as the racy acidity really impresses considering the heat of the vintage. Black tea, Asian spices, mocha and tar flavors all impress. Rich and layered, the ‘QED’ is truly fantastic in its youth. Enjoy the fantastic bottling over the next decade. Drink 2019-2029- 94
2015 Rasa Vineyards ‘Principia’ Syrah- The 2015 ‘Principia’ Syrah is a stunning effort that was sourced from four vineyards (Bacchus, Upland, Firethorn and SJR Vineyards) and then was aged in 30% new oak prior to bottling. Blackberry jam with white pepper, white pepper, dried herbs, chocolate pie and nice stony character all mingle brightly on the nose. The working pieces from each vineyard really shine on the palate, as the wine shows stunning range and wonderful earthy and stony tones from the SJR Vineyard. This is a true heavyhitter of a wine that will cellar marvelously for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2032- 95
2014 Rasa Vineyards ‘Veritas Sequiter SJR VIneyard’ Syrah (Fall 2019 release)- The 2015 ‘Veritas Sequiter’ Syrah is a true heavyhitter of a wine made by superstar winemaker Billo Naravane, MW, which was sourced from the esteemed ‘SJR Vineyard’ and underwent 100% whole cluster fermentation. The wine was stored in 90% new French oak prior to bottling. On the nose there is wonderful range from exotic spices to Satsuma orange peel to shades of blueberry pie and horse manure with green olive tapenade. The seductive nose constantly takes you back to the glass for more hedonism. The plush texture truly entices as black cherry compote, leather, espresso bean, blueberry pie and shades of milk chocolate and a savory edge which all meld marvelously together on the mouth. The texture dazzles, as the rich, almost unctuous mouthfeel adds to the drinking. enjoyment. While fantastic in its youth, this will cellar well for a decade or more. Drink 2019-2029- 96
2015 Rasa Vineyards ‘Creative Impulse’ Red Wine- The ‘Creative Impulse’ is a spectacular blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon with the remainder Merlot all sourced from the DuBrul Vineyard. The nose is highly complex and very pretty with red rose petals that mingle with the black tea, licorice and blackberry compote with nice herbal tones that sing aromatically. The palate show wonderful balance and poise delivering rich dark fruit and sagebrush flavors that mingle with mocha undertones. While delightful now, this elegant wine will have a very long time in the cellar. This is a seriously good effort considering the challenges faced for red wines during this vintage. Drink 2019-2035- 94
2015 Rasa Vineyards ‘A Perfect Union’ Red Wine- The 2015 Rasa Vineyards ‘A Perfect Union’ Red Wine was sourced rom the DuBrul, XL, Kiona, Dionysus, Weinbau and Firethorn Vineyards. The wine opens with sagebrush and black tea with licorice and blackberry aromas that all meld together in the glass. The balance here is incredible with wonderful black tea, milk chocolate, blackberry compote and herbal undertones. This has wonderful balance and weight that impresses. With racy acidity and medium tannins, this will have an exceedingly long life in the cellar. Drink 2019-2035- 94
2016 Rasa Vineyards ‘Plus One’ Cabernet Sauvignon (Fall 2016 release)- Sourced from the old block of Kiona Vineyard planted in 1974. The non-fruit aromas seem to really sing with tar infused chocolate and dried sagebrush tones that collide with boysenberry puree and shades of candied dark licorice that all impress in the glass. The palate deftly walks the tightrope between weight and elegance. Turkish coffee, tar, anise, dark chocolate shavings and shades of underbrush flavors all enter into the fray. A delight to savor in its youth, the rich tannin structure of the wine as well as the bright acidity suggests that this will be exceedingly long lived. Drink 2020-2040- 95
2016 Rasa Vineyards ‘For the Love of the Game’ Cabernet Sauvignon- Released in May 2019, the ‘For the Love of the Game’ composed of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon which was sourced from the Wallula Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. The nose is really exciting with ripe dark fruits that mingle with eucaptyus, Asian spices, tar and espresso bean and shades of cassis that all shine brightly on the nose. The silky texture makes this glide across the mid-palate. I am really impressed with the purity of fruit as well as the seamless quality to this wine that really impresses. Copious dark fruits mingle with chocolate, creosote, and sagebrush tones on the palate. The earthy character adds to the drinking enjoyment. This is fantastic young but will only get better with some bottle age. Drink 2020-2040- 96