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Rasi Wine: A Barrel into a Career

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A mere barrel into her solo winemaking career, Rachel Silkowski, 25, has opted to name her project Rasi Wine Company. Sure, that comes from the first two letters of her names, but she pronounces it "racy" and says, "I chose to name my wine company Rasi because the definition of the term represents the style of wine that I set out to make. The definition, which is included on the back label is: 'full of zest of vigor; having a strongly marked quality; piquant; risqué, suggestive; having the distinctive quality of something in its original or most characteristic form.'"Released last November, that one barrel (25 cases or 300 bottles) is of 2013 Santa Rita Hills pinot noir. It's a somewhat unique and decidedly delicious blend of grapes from two famed Santa Barbara sites for pinot -- Clos Pepe and Cargasacchi -- but then also 10% of the grapes come from Aubaine in San Luis Obispo. "I have been very happy with the release of my first wine after the year of work that I have put into building my own label," Silkowski admits. "But to be honest, I go back and forth between feeling both extremely accomplished and completely panic-stricken. So much time and effort and creativity went into Rasi Wine Company, and with any passionate endeavor, it is going to be extremely personal. It was a lot of work but there were also so many instances where it was just plain fun to be doing what I was doing."

Part of the fun, with such a tiny release, is that every label features a "wine splotch [that] is a unique marking created by Rasi Wine," Silkowski said. "All 300 bottles are cataloged with their corresponding bottle number on my website. Since each individual's experience with a bottle of wine is their own, I like the idea that the owner of that bottle could look back and see their specific label and remember the night they celebrated with that bottle of Rasi Wine, whether for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary or just a Tuesday pizza night."

And, yes, Silkowski has another job in the industry, as assistant winemaker at Loring Wine Company -- one of Santa Barbara's best pinot producers. "Brian [Loring] is a great mentor, which is why I wanted to work for Loring Wine Company in the first place," she explains. "After some experience interning for him, I knew I'd get the chance to work in an environment that would stimulate and grow my abilities. He allows me a lot of freedom to express my own ideas and the benefit of working as part of a four-person team is that we all have a hand in the winemaking."

The California native graduated from Oregon State University, where she majored in Agricultural Business Management as preparation for entering the wine industry. That passion was spurred when she was underage, as she grew up in a family of wine collectors.

"We have close family in both the Pacific Northwest and the Central Coast of California, so our trips began to include a lot of wine tasting," she recalls about growing up. "I was too young to drink at the time and resented all of these visits to the wineries. As a result, though, a lot of outstanding wines ended up on our dinner table every night. The wines were primarily pinot noir from the Willamette Valley and California. The aroma captivated me at first. I loved to stick my nose in the glass and try to put a name to all the distinct smells."

Now those smells of fruit and spice that jump out of her own wine will only get better with some bottle aging. "I plan to grow my own label slowly and carefully so that I always maintain creative control," she says when asked about what's next. "Currently I'm very happy as an employee and assistant because there is still so much more I want to learn. In the future, my hope is to grow Rasi Wine to the point at which it is sustaining an audience that is just as fascinated and excited by the wine as the existing mailing list, and also broaden the portfolio to other regions or varietals."

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