From scrubbing tanks to dusting bottles, if it’s a job in the wine industry, Peter and Kelsey Devison have probably done it. After years of making and selling wine for other folks, they recently decided to launch a label of their own, Devison Vintners. The 2018 Boushey Vineyard Rosé was one of our favorite rosés of last year, a serious rosé made by a serious winemaker that also managed to be fun and delicious. Peter assures us that the 2019 is even better!
Peter Devison studied Enology in New Zealand before running the wine programs for EFESTE and Cadaretta, two very well-known Washington wineries. This experience allowed him to established relationships with some of the best vineyards in the state, including the aforementioned Boushey Vineyard in Yakima, as well as Stoney Vine and Southwind Vineyards, located here in Walla Walla. Peter’s winemaking has a light touch. He utilizes native yeast fermentation for all of his wines, and his reds are typically neither fined nor filtered. This hands-off winemaking may seem as easy as making a list of things that haven’t been done, however, to quote Aubert de Villaine, one of the greatest living winemakers, “Nothing is more difficult than simplicity.”
We sit down as a family every night for dinner, which means our 3 year old generally determines the topic of conversation. That being said, he always asks, how are the grapes in your glass? That is about as far as we go at dinner or we just get interrupted.
Your 2018 Boushey Vineyard Rose was very popular in the shop. How do you approach rose production? What makes Boushey vineyard a great site for rose?
We approach this wine like a white wine, looking for freshness and acidity when we pick the fruit and it goes directly to the press with minimal skin contact native fermented for texture and complexity. The ancient soils, elevation and the Boushey’s expertise make this an exceptional site.
You make two different Walla Walla Syrahs, one from Stoney Vine Vineyard in the Rocks and one from Southwind Vineyard in the hills to the west of Milton Freewater just a few miles away. Compare and contrast the vineyards and the wines. Do you vinify the two wines differently? How do the picking dates compare?
The big differences between the two vineyards are the soil type and elevation (and thus pick dates). Stoney Vine Vineyard, in The Rocks, is at much lower elevation and planted in newer soils that consist of large river stones (like something you would see in Southern Rhone), whereas Southwind is planted almost 600 feet higher and with a steep southern exposure on much older soils consisting of fractured basalt. This imparts drastic differences stylistically, as the wine from The Rocks is extremely supple and funky with a fuller, albeit more delicate, mouthfeel contrasted with the wine from Southwind which displays more purple fruit, flowers and minerality. Stoney Vine has a lighter color as well, more in the red spectrum. Southwind is deeper, more purple/primary inn color.
The pick dates vary drastically, with Southwind coming in 3-4 weeks after Stoney Vine.
The Southwind spends less time on skin (18-21 days) and with less whole cluster inclusion (33%) compared to Stoney Vine which has 50% whole cluster and 42 days on skins.
Many winemakers who work with fruit from the Rocks have commented that the wines have a higher than average ph. Have you found this to be the case? If so, does this change your approach in the cellar?
Yes that has been the case, it doesn’t change much in my approach other than minimizing oxygen. We don’t move the wine much.
What is your cellar protocol like? I know that you specialize in native yeast ferments. How long are your fermentations? Do you use a pied de cuve? Have you had any issues?
We are 100% native. Fermentations last anywhere from 15-21 days unless extended. We do not use pied de cuve, everything is spontaneous. There is always a risk with doing spontaneous fermentation, over the years I have learned how to eliminate the potential for issues.
What do you wish the consumer knew about native ferments? What do you wish other winemakers knew?
It is a beautiful natural process that can bring more depth, richness and complexity.
Whole cluster fermentation in red wine seems to be having a moment. Do you work with whole clusters? If so, how does this affect the fermentations and the finished wines? If not, why not?
With our Rhone’s we do practice whole cluster inclusion at various rates. We like the structure it brings to the finished wine in addition to the aromatic complexity.
What’s a variety that you haven’t worked with yet that you would like to?
Gamay, of course!
What is your desert island wine?
We’d have to fight for this one if we were both on the island.
Kelsey – Nicolas Joly Coulée de Serrant
Peter – Any Barolo from Brunate Vineyard in a good vintage
How has your business been affected by the virus?
We were scheduled to officially launch in March with Taste WA and various wine dinners. We were also actively searching for a tasting room, which is on hold. We were able to shift and launch virtually, but much smaller than planned.
Are you offering delivery? Pickup? Have you changed your shipping policies?
Absolutely! We can deliver locally in Walla Walla and surrounding areas. We are also offering free shipping on orders of 6 bottles or more.
No one really seems sure how long the pandemic will last, with estimates ranging from weeks to months. How long can your business survive the current climate?
The honest answer is we just don’t know. Our strategy was to build DTC while selling directly through many of our channels in the Seattle market. It will take some time to know what that will end up looking like.
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