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In this inaugural shipment of the Curator Club, we have chosen to feature two exceptionally dedicated, energetic producers with tons of promise on the horizon: Delmas and Devium.
The wines of Delmas first came to my attention 8 years ago. Steve and Mary Robertson founded SJR Vineyard in 2007 on 10 acres “in the rocks” and, subsequently, created their flagship Syrah. Steve was at the forefront of the movement to create an AVA within Walla Walla solely defined by the characteristics of its terroir, and the first of its kind to cross state boundaries. The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA was granted final TTB approval in 2015. The SJR Vineyard sits firmly on the western boundary of the AVA and Steve remains a vocal advocate for the region throughout the wine industry. Brooke Robertson, Mary and Steve’s daughter, heads up viticultural operations and plans to take the helm as head winemaker in the next five years. In the meantime, “Dad and I tag-team the winemaking protocol” according to Brooke. Billo Naravane of Rasa Vineyards has been the consulting winemaker throughout the project and remains close. On the horizon for Delmas? An estate Viognier and Grenache. We can’t wait.
Devium Wines is the passion project of the exceptionally talented Keith Johnson. A graduate of the Enology Program at the WWCC in 2011 (a year before Brooke Robertson), Keith has quickly proven himself to be one of the rising stars of the Walla Walla wine industry, though he’s so modest you would hardly know it. Spending time with Keith in the cellar talking about winemaking might just be one of my favorite things to do while out on a winery visit in Walla Walla. When not acting as Production Winemaker for Sleight of Hand Cellars, he devotes his time to producing his focused and inspired low-intervention wines. In fact, the reason Devium exists at all is due to the pure chance of the senses. While on a visit to French Creek Vineyard for Sleight of Hand’s old vine Chardonnay back in 2011, Keith was immediately impressed by the vineyard and vineyard manager, Damon Lalonde. Keith picked the French Creek Mourvédre’s first fruit in 2015 after an epiphany smelling the Syrah from the same site and the impetus to start the Devium project was created. Keith told me, “It’s ultimately about the vineyard, not about me.”
Delmas Producer Profile
Family owned and operated, Delmas is the realization of the Steve & Mary Robertson's dream, 35+ years strong, to honor a distinctive place, a distinctive taste. Born of unique geology found within The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, as well as the climatic eccentricities of the Walla Walla Valley, Delmas is dedicated to producing exceptional wines of enduring value. Elegance is preferred to power and exoticism at Delmas; restraint, nuance, and those impossible-to-define, (pleasurable), qualities that elevate all great wines. Brooke Robertson accentuates the importance of the SJR Vineyard to her family’s vision: “The most important part of what we do is the family factor and our estate vineyard.”
Devium Producer Profile
Keith Johnson doesn’t like points given to wines and avoids it whenever possible. He’s confident in his wines’ pedigree and he should be – they’re deeply thoughtful and personal. Founded in 2015, Devium is his wild brain-child, devoted to creating something unique in the Walla Walla Valley, a commitment to minimalist winemaking, early picking and special vineyards. He doesn’t do blending trials for these wines either, believing that his wines should speak to “a moment in time and a specific terroir” that blending might obscure. It is about tradition and history, spontaneous fermentations and foot stomping. Keith Johnson is a purist and expresses his devotion to his craft with the utmost care in the production of these beautiful wines.
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