Last month I began a four-part column about our wine trip to Walla Walla, Washington. This month I detail three wineries we visited: Doubleback, Delmas/SJR and Rasa.
Buffalo Bills fans likely remember Drew Bledsoe, our team quarterback from 2002-2004. Retired, he’s now back in his hometown of Walla Walla making wine at Doubleback Winery. When Bledsoe was quarterback, we had a chance meeting in East Aurora. My wife and I were hosting out-of-town guests for dinner at Patina (now Rick’s on Main). We were seated at our favorite table near the fireplace when Drew walked in with his wife and guests. I noticed he was carrying two bottles of wine. Our guests were big Bledsoe fans and wanted to get up and ask for a photo with Drew. Instead, I asked our server if he would bring extra wine glasses, and I poured a few glasses of the Pinot Noir we’d brought and asked him to deliver to Bledsoe’s table. Bledsoe came over to thank us, and my friends got their photo. We ended up having a nice conversation.
Fast forward to last fall. While planning our trip to Walla Walla, I emailed Bledsoe and asked if he remembered our meeting at Patina. He did – and even remembered what varietal of wine we were drinking that night. He invited us to come visit his winery.
We tasted and enjoyed a number of wines there. The Bledsoe Family wine is a very nice table wine that comes a unique one liter bottle with a snap closure with rubber gasket. Also worthy was the Stolen Horse Syrah. Their signature wine, however, is the Doubleback Cabernet. We tasted the 2013 – a baby that will age well – and it featured beautiful dark fruit and great structure. While it sells for $89, it compares favorably to California Cabernets priced three times higher.
Later that day we visited Delmas, a winery with no tasting room — and no address marker, according to owner Stephen J Robertson, giving us what seemed like vague directions (a country road, a row of lavender) to get there. Sounded like an adventure.
As we turned in the driveway (halfway down the row of lavender), Robertson was waiting for us. We left the car in the road and began our education about the “Rocks” district, in which his vineyard resides (and where some of my favorite Washington wines come from). Robertson explained how the source of the water, the height of the vines and the rocks impact the grape production.
With no formal tasting room and not a building in sight, I wondered if we’d have a chance to taste any. My hopes were met as we turned the corner onto another row of lavender – and down the path, saw an open space with a small table, five chairs and a wine bottle. Combined with perfect weather and the scent of lavender, this was quite an experience.
As we tasted the most recent Delmas Syrah, all I could think was: “How can I get some for my cellar?” We all loved the wine, which featured amazing dark fruit that explodes in your mouth. Everything you could want in a Washington Syrah was right there in Delmas.
We also learned that Delmas is the middle name of his wife, Mary, and that passing along the name is a family tradition that has continued for generations. Mary’s daughter, Brooke Delmas Robertson, has continued the tradition, as well – she currently works in Napa and someday may be back in Walla Walla.
The next day we visited Rasa Vineyard, owned by brothers Pinto and Billo Naravane. With backgrounds in computer science, they seemed unlikely winemakers – but after tasting an impressive lineup, I’d never think that again. All the wines were excellent; here are my favorites (and the ones I ended up buying).
2012 QED Convergence, $50
Predominately Syrah, this blend had plenty of dark berries and some coffee and chocolate as well. An excellent wine. Our daughter is in a Convergence class that no one has ever gotten an A in. We’re saving one bottle for her if she gets an A….or a B+.
2014 Tilting at Windmills, $75
This blend combines Grenache, Cabernet and Syrah, with delicious fruit and plenty of berries and spice. I would decant this to let it open up fully.
2012 Fianchetto, $95
A blend of Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc, this is a big boy wine and I look forward to enjoying the few bottles I bought. It featured dark fruit and cigar box and a long, memorable finish.
2012 Principia Reserve Syrah, $85
Lots of good things happening here: dark berries, cherries, and smokey with Belgian chocolate and spice.
An awesome blend of Cab and Merlot, with dark fruit and hints of chocolate and coffee.
2012 In Order
to Form a More
Perfect Union, $95
Another blend blockbuster, this may be my favorite Rasa wine. The fruit is so powerful — cherries and berries prevail. I could drink this all day.
2010 and 2012
Creative Impulse, $95
A blend of Cabernet and Merlot, both of these were excellent.
As we were leaving Rasa, we asked Billo where we could get a bite to eat before our next winery. There wasn’t much around, said Billo, recommending a place. He gave us a bottle to enjoy with lunch, and loaned us four nice wine glasses. We soon arrived at Bomb Taco, an old trailer on a vacant lot on the main highway. With $1 tacos, lunch for four came to $12 — with no corkage fee. The tacos were delicious, and so was the wine.