Barrel Tasting 2008's in Walla Walla


December 4th through 6th was the Walla Walla Valley Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend and most wineries offered samplings from the barrel. I tasted many 2008's and was amazed by much of what I found. It is going to be a fabulous vintage. Most of the wines will be bottled in winter or spring and be released late summer or fall. Some wines will be for club members only. Some are being offered as futures - buy them! Here are some highlights.


2008 Rasa Vineyards QED Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Price TBD)

This 85% Syrah, with the remainder consisting of Grenache, Mourvedre and a dash of Viognier, exhibits a deep, inky purple color. The nose emits powerful, smoky aromas of wild berries, tobacco and brambles. There are massive dark fruit flavors from beginning to end, underlain with licorice, roast coffee and loamy minerals. The back palate spreads out and culminates in an opulent, ripe, chewy finish, marked by ripe tannins. This will age beautifully. 19/20 points.


2008 Rasa Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, DuBrul Vineyard (Price TBD)

This is a phenomenally dense 100% Cabernet. The aromas are filled with cherry, blackberry, cigar box, oriental incense and rose petals. It is surprisingly rich and ripe on the palate, with a lush background of dark fruits, yet dry and well structured. Earth, minerals, licorice, coffee grounds and toffee emerge on the back palate and glide into a long ripe tannin finish. It is seemingly forward, yet will age well. It shows great potential. Kudos to Billo Naravane. 19+/20 points - could go to 19.5.


2008 Bergevin Lane Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Franciscia's Vineyard (Futures - $39)

I tasted this from a one year-old barrel - the blend will be a combination of new and older oak. This displayed intense aromatics of wild berries, blueberries, violets and incense. The flavors were thickened by frequent pumping over during fermentation. It had layers of mouth-coating dark fruits, underlain with licorice, mocha, chocolate and minerals, and supported by ripe tannins on the long finish. 19/20 points.


2008 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Unnamed Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Futures - $40)

Reynvaan is certain to be the next cult winery (Christophe Baron of Cayuse is a consultant there). This Syrah exhibits terrific aromatics of black currants, lavender, rose petals and oriental incense. The flavors are thick, almost massive, yet with a supple, chewy texture that shows tones of cocoa, licorice and spice and a touch of leather, followed by sweet-dry tannins. Co-fermented with 10% Viognier. 19/20 points.


2008 Reynvaan Family Vineyards In the Rocks Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Futures - $45)

Co-fermented with 6.5% Viognier and 1.5% Marsanne this is another big Syrah. The nose is somewhat closed, yet reveals aromas of black cherry, blackberry, anise, lavender and minerals. The big, thick, earthy flavors are underlain with coffee grounds, licorice, squeezed blueberry juice, and supported by ripe tannins. 19/20 points.


2008 Reynvaan Family Vineyards The Contender Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Futures - $55)

This barrel sample displayed a lovely black currant and black cherry nose with lavender and violet scents and whiffs of pepper. On the palate, it tasted thick, meaty and chewy, stuffed with licorice, minerals, cocoa, espresso coffee and imbued with a sexy texture that glided over the palate on to a lingering, ripe tannin finish. Co-fermented with 5% Marsanne. An amazing wine, this is a contender for a 20/20 points score. 19.5+/20 points.


2008 Robison Ranch Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Spofford Station Vineyard (Price TBD)

This winery was bonded in 2008 and is one to watch for as the wines are released in May or June. Tasted at the Robison Ranch Open House in November, it showed fine aromatics of raspberry, blackberry, blueberries, lavender and rose petals. On the palate, it was well-endowed with ripe, chewy red and blue flavors that held on nicely from beginning to end, marked by licorice, minerals, cocoa, squeezed pomegranate juice, and a touch of white pepper. 18.5+/20 points.


2008 Va Piano Estate Red, Walla Walla Valley (Wine Club)

This blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 14% each of Merlot and Petit Verdot displays a floral raspberry, cherry and cassis nose with rose petal scents. Silky and elegant on the palate, it shows a fine equipoise of fruit and extract along with tones of anise, baker's chocolate, toasty fine-grained oak and smooth tannins. 19/20 points.


2008 Va Piano Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Block 4 (Wine Club)

Dark purplish colored, this wine offers an intense lavender and violet-scented cassis and wild berry nose. The palate reveals loads of layered dark berry fruit with dense underpinnings of roasted fruits, licorice, chocolate and scorched earth. Bright acidity, ripe tannins and a chewy texture, give the wine strength. 19/20 points.


2008 Kontos Cellars Malbec, Walla Walla Valley (Wine Club)

Again, as with the '07 Malbec, you will need to join the Kontos wine club to get this wine. This vintage displays a deep crimson color, an intense nose of blueberries, currants and violets. The true blue flavors are deep and finely fruited accompanied by licorice, cocoa and mineral tones and followed by a twist of berry juice and a dash of pepper on the ripe tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.


2008 Tranche Cellars Barbera, Columbia Valley, Northridge Vineyard (Price TBD)

This is a fine, bright rendition of Washington Barbera. It exhibits a dark ruby color, an intense violet-scented cherry and berry nose. The flavors are thick and well-extracted, underlain with licorice and a twist of blueberry juice on the ripe tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.


2008 Tranche Cellars, Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Pride TBD)

Tranche is one of the Corliss winery's various projects. This Syrah offers a lovely violet and lavender scented cassis, blueberry and blackberry nose. The gorgeous dark fruit flavors are intermixed with licorice, chocolate, mocha, earth and a twist of extracted pomegranate and blueberry juices on the chewy tannin finish. 19/20 points.


2009 SuLei Cellars Roussanne, Walla Walla Valley, Cockburn Hills Vineyard (Price TBD)

Nearly all the wines I tasted from the barrel over the weekend were reds, but at SuLei I sampled this noteworthy white. It displayed a brilliant gold color, a young, enticing lilac, peach and melon nose. The flavors were pleasant and lively, with a bit more acidity than the '08 I reviewed last September. Just settling down, it showed a zingy ripe passion fruit and citrus finish. 18.5/20 points. Also watch for the 2009 Rose and 2008 Roller Girl Red to be released next spring.