Those who travel through the heart of Washington wine country might notice a new winery within sight of Interstate 82 in Prosser.
Longtime Washington winemaker Robert Smasne has moved into the former Olsen Estate winery in the Vintners Village. Smasne teamed up with grape grower Sean Tudor to open the County Line tasting room. Smasne, who has been making wine since the ’90s, grew up on County Line Road in nearby Grandview and made his wines there for the past several years.
With the new facility, Smasne’s operations will move to Prosser. He also has a tasting room in Woodinville.
Smasne is a prolific winemaker, crafting more than 20 different wines, primarily in small lots. In fact, he might be the only winemaker in Washington — maybe anywhere — producing two vineyard-designated Carménères.
Here are several Smasne wines we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the winery directly.
Smasne Cellars 2011 Phinny Hill Vineyard Carménère, Horse Heaven Hills, $38: There’s immediate engagement with this rare Bordeaux variety’s leafy notes with aromatics hinting at dried oregano and cigar leaf amid dried cherry, black pepper and underlying mocha and minerality. Its bright red fruit profile offers classic notes of black cherry and boysenberry with clean acidity and tannins tucked nicely in the background. (13.9% alc.)
Smasne Cellars 2012 Seven Hills Vineyard Carménère, Walla Walla Valley, $44: Aromas of sweet and dusty herbs, red raspberry, blueberry, orange cream soda, chocolate chip cookie dough and fresh cedar give way to a resplendent palate, which is redolent of dark blue fruit, milk chocolate tannins and raspberry acidity. (13.9% alc.)
Smasne Cellars 2012 Three Vineyard Reserve Petit Verdot, Columbia Valley, $38: Mild aromas of black cherry, dried blueberry and vanilla give way to flavors of cherry, dried herbs and roasted coffee. Full tannins make for a big finish. (13.9% alc.)
Smasne Cellars 2012 Upland Vineyard Tempranillo, Snipes Mountain, $36: This grape that’s native to the Iberian Peninsula performs well on this hot and rocky mountain, revealing aromas of plum, wild strawberry and rhubarb pie with barrel toast, earthiness and charcuterie. The juice is quite approachable with dark blueberry and currants amid well-managed sandy tannins and rewarding acidity. (13.9% alc.)
Smasne Cellars 2012 Verhey Vineyard Malbec, Yakima Valley, $28: This represents one of Smasne’s larger bottlings, and it opens with aromas of dusty blueberry, black cherry, light toast and cracked black peppercorns. The palate funnels in racy flavors of blackberry jam and pomegranate. Enjoyable fine-grained tannins, caramel and more pepper make for pleasing length. (13.9% alc.)
Smasne Cellars 2012 County Line Red, Columbia Valley, $25: This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Carménère and Cabernet Franc offers a fanciful nose of blueberry candy, black cherry and cola, and includes barrel notes of vanilla and charcoal. Its structure is suave with plump flavors of Bing cherry and boysenberry, making for a juicy finish that includes blackberry, oak spice and flecks of minerality. (13% alc.)
Smasne Cellars 2012 Scooteney Flats Clone #6 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, $60: Aromas of fresh cedar, dark cherry, raspberry and chocolate include caramel and cherry pipe tobacco. It’s backed by a ripe and plush combination of cassis and raspberry that makes for a structure of elegance rather than power, capped by Montmorency cherry acidity. (14.2% alc.)
Smasne Cellars 2012 Upland Vineyard Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, Snipes Mountain, $50: Year after year, this Cab ranks among the best in Washington, and this vintage doesn’t disappoint. It starts with a classic nose of Bing cherry, black currant and blackberry with dark chocolate and chalkboard dust. The drink is dark and luscious, bringing flavors of cherries, plum and roasted coffee. Tamed tannins and delicious acidity allow for notes of sage, black olive and black walnut to fan out across the finish. (13.9% alc.)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.