It might be said that Robert Smasne was born to be a Yakima Valley winemaker.
He was raised north of the town of Grandview, where his folks grew juice grapes. Next door was another vineyard, and young Robert snuck through the fence to a neighboring vineyard. He noticed these grapes tasted different than the sweet juice grapes his parents grew. That piqued his curiosity and ultimately led him to pursue a career in winemaking. Today, he works with an astonishing 25 grape varieties.
That vineyard next to his folks’ place was none other than Boushey, among the best in Washington. And he now buys award-winning grapes from Dick Boushey.
After graduating from Washington State University in Pullman, he worked in wineries in the Yakima Valley, Woodinville and Walla Walla. And he launched his own brand in Grandview.
Two years ago, he teamed up with another valley winery owner — the Tudor family — to purchase the shuttered Olsen Estates winery in Prosser. It now serves as the County Line tasting room in the Vintners Village, which is where the winemaking takes place. Wine lovers can enjoy lunch there, too.
The Tudors now own historic Otis Vineyard, home to Cabernet Sauvignon vines that date to the 1950s, making them among the state’s oldest.
In addition to Tudor, Smasne also crafts the wines for Northwest Cellars in Kirkland.
At the recent Tri-Cities Wine Festival, Smasne amassed nine gold medals, further cementing his reputation as one of the state’s most talented winemakers.
We recently tasted through Smasne’s newest releases, available at the tasting rooms in Prosser and Woodinville. They also are worth asking for at your favorite wine merchant.
Smasne Cellars 2015 Rosella rosé, Yakima Valley, $20: This pink blend of Pinot Noir and Sangiovese reveals flavors of fresh strawberries, watermelon and red currants, backed by vibrant acidity.
Smasne Cellars 2016 Boushey Vineyard Marsanne, Yakima Valley, $22: This rare Rhône Valley white grape comes from a premier Yakima Valley vineyard. It shows off flavors of ripe apple, pear, melon and spice, backed by firm acidity, a rich mouth feel and a long finish.
Farm Boy 2013 Bunk House Red, Columbia Valley, $17: This blend of Bordeaux and Rhône varieties provides crowd-pleasing flavors of milk chocolate, raspberries and ripe Bing cherries, all backed by velvety tannins. It’s soft and supple and easily beckons another glass.
Smasne Cellars 2013 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Block #4 Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills, $44: If Robert Smasne has a signature wine, this might be it. Opening with spicy notes of cured meats and smoky vanilla, it is quickly followed by bold flavors of dark fruits such as plum, cherry and blackberry. A deeply flavored red that is classically made.
Smasne Cellars 2013 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $45: A classic Washington style of Cab Franc with notes of fresh herbs, hints of green pepper, it is followed by smoky plum and vanilla, backed by bold, chewy tannins that give way to a long finish.
Smasne Cellars 2013 Red Heaven Vineyard Zinfandel, Red Mountain, $54: This rare Zin comes from a stellar vineyard on Red Mountain, and it’s a classic, leading with bold flavors of Bing cherries, juicy raspberry and dark chocolate shavings. Firm tannins supply a long finish.
Smasne Cellars 2012 Three Vineyard Reserve Petit Verdot, Columbia Valley, $38: Yakima Valley winemaker Robert Smasne blends grapes from three vineyards. The result is a big, dense red that reveals aromas of vanilla fudge, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies and hints of mint and blackberry pie, all backed by strong structure that relies on bold acidity.
Smasne Cellars 2013 Boushey Vineyard Mourvèdre, Yakima Valley, $56: This red Rhône grape immediately shows its rustic side with notes of purple plum and wild cherry, framed by bold tannins that help prop up the ample fruit. A rare treat.
By Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman
November 22, 2017
Picture: ANDY PERDUE — Great Northwest Wine, Robert Smasne stands in vineyard