Hello friends. In a very short period of time, Rasa Vineyards has become one of the buzziest wineries in Washington. Each new release seems to be greeted with breathless admiration from consumers and critics alike.
For those of you curious as to what all the fuss is about, today’s offer is one for close attention, because today we have terrific tariffs (release price on these is $32) on the gateway drugs into the Rasa lineup: PB Wines.
PB (which stands for Pinto and Billo: the Naravane brothers behind Rasa) is a destination for juice that, for blending reasons, does not make it into the Rasa lineup. We’re looking not at declassified juice, but instead at fruit originally intended for the higher-end brand. The elevage is similar, too; PB wines get much of the same love and attention as Rasa wines.
What that means is that we end up with exceptionally good juice for the tariff (a terrific holiday splurge option for list members who usually focus on the $20-and-under set), and a fine introduction to the Rasa house style: liberal use of native-yeast fermentation, judicious use of new oak, and unwavering attention to tannin management and mouthfeel. Because PB wines are released a bit younger than the main brand, this is also a crystal ball that allows us to peer into the future 2011 vintage for Rasa. And the future looks bright indeed.
2011 PB Wines Mourvedre-Syrah-Grenache
Small production at just 196 cases, this is a Mourvedre-dominant blend (56%), rounded out with Syrah (29%) and Grenache (15%) and it spent two years in barrel (all French, 15% new). Vineyard sources are almost all Walla Walla Valley: Monette’s and XL (XL is a newish site from the Brown family of Watermill) for the Mourvedre, XL for the Grenache, and Funk Vineyard for the Syrah. The only non-valley fruit is 12% Syrah from Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain. Those of us who have loved Rasa’s Vox Populi Mourvedre over the years will recognize echoes of that wine here (in 2011, Vox Populi will be 100% Monette’s Vineyard, a site that makes up about a third of the blend for this PB wine).
Aromas are spicy, gamey, very Mourvedre with the combination of smoked meat, plum, and grapefruit. But the fun really begins in the mouth with any wine that Billo makes. The palate here is electric, a terrific representation of the pulsating-acid strength of the cool 2011 vintage. Again it’s the Mourvedre in the ascendancy with its vibrant spicy/meaty character, but the Syrah (pepper, bacon) and Grenache (with fleshy fruit to balance all that acid) each have their roles to play, and they play them beautifully. This category of Mourvedre blends is gaining in popularity in Washington, and you can see why when you taste this beauty.
2011 PB Wines Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon
A 70/30 blend of Syrah and Cabernet, this also spent two years in barrel, although the proportion of new wood (30%) was a bit higher. Vineyard sources beggar belief. The Cab is all DuBrul and Sagemoor. The Syrah is a collection of terrific sites from across Washington: Les Collines, Seven Hills, and Funk in Walla Walla, Kiona on Red Mountain, Upland on Snipes Mountain, and Bacchus in the greater Columbia Valley.
The nose was, for me, immediately reminiscent of other Rasa Syrah projects, most notably QED. There is a great Syrah combination of beef stock and truffles, with the Cabernet providing notes of smoky cherries, gravelly minerals, and espresso. It’s a wonderful nose, one that kept me dipping back into the glass repeatedly, offering levels of aromatic complexity that belie the price point. Then in the mouth, it’s all about the texture again. There is a level of polish, of class, that is deeply impressive. Many wines from 2011 have a lot of rough edges. Here Billo has somehow sanded them all down, leaving a silky mouthful of wine that glides across the palate. A finishing lick of espressoey tannins reminds you that there’s Cabernet in the mix, but they’re so fine-grained, so well-managed, that they serve only to invite the next bite of food or the next sip.
First come first served up to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.