An Interview with Peter Devison, Winemaker at Efeste

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Peter Devison pictured with Theresa Slechta, Vinum Imports

Peter Devison is the current winemaker at the acclaimed WA winery Efeste, following the big personality (& winemaking prowess) tenure of Brennan Leighton. The two are friends and Brennan actually hand-picked Peter to take over at Efeste when he left a year ago. Peter said that when the two first met, they had a little ego scuffling, but soon they realized that they shared something important in common: philosophy. Both winemakers believe less is more, age in the bottle not in oak, let the vineyard and the vintage shine through.

So, how did this young man end up at the helm of this highly decorated WA winery? From my visit with him, it sounds like a combination of two things: he got the wine bug bad, and he worked his tail off. Originally from Nova Scotia, Peter moved to Vancouver just out of high school and started as a bus boy in a local restaurant. By 22, he was acting sommelier at some restaurants, serving at others. In 2001 he moved to Christchurch in New Zealand to learn how to make wine, earning his Bachelors of Applied Science in Viticulture & Enology at Lincoln University. He travelled around the country, hitting every harvest he could and made 6 vintages in the 4 years he was there, including Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet, Merlot, Cab Franc and more.

In 2004, he had the option of working in Portugal or WA State, and selected the latter with a position in Chelan at Vin du Lac. Soon, though, he moved on to the more up-and-coming area of Walla Walla where he could be at the epicenter of WA State’s wine movement, and that’s where things really started happening. He took a winemaking position at Waterbrook, which was then shortly purchased by Precept, and he spent the 2007-2008 vintages in Walla Walla then the 2009-2011 vintages in Prosser making wine for Precept for a range of labels including Apex Cellars, Browne Family, Alder Ridge & more. He loved the people & learned a lot, but when Brennan came calling with the opportunity to move away from the more corporate structure of Precept into the land of high-end WA wines no-holds-barred, he jumped.

The 2012 vintage on at Efeste is his, and the opportunity he is presented with is mind-blowing for him: he has the flexibility to do something great. About 40% of Efeste’s production is their red blend Final Final, which is priced to be a glass pour at local restaurants, creating a following for their brand and ultimately their high end wines, Ceidleigh Syrah, Jolie Bouche, Big Papa and more. 20-25% of the overall production is white wines: Feral Sauvignon Blanc, Evergreen Riesling, Lola Chardonnay. Having made a lot of white wine in New Zealand, Peter said he loves making white wine. It’s more precise and straightforward, and he has a satisfying relationship with the wines from early on. With red wines, he says it’s more emotional; you can make or break your day depending on a wine’s progress. But clearly in visiting with him about winemaking, red is the more challenging wine to make and the more satisfying for him in the end.

Label_WA_Efeste_Big Papa_2009_no frame

His thoughts on the Efeste wines we tasted at our Anniversary Tasting in August?

● Evergreen Riesling 2011: Focused. Elegantly balanced. Build to age. Old World style (Austria).

● Feral Sauvignon Blanc 2012: It’s got verve. It’s edgy. All about crushed stone, oyster shells, lime leaf, apricot skins.

● Final Final Cab/Syrah 2010: All YUM factor. Best of both worlds. Fleshy, velvety Syrah with structured, focused Cab. The Cab is the frame around the velvety Syrah. It’s complete, whole.

● Ceidliegh (“Kay-lee”) Syrah 2010: Cornas inspired. Grilled herbs, licorice, dark fruit. Red Mountain tannins. It’s a sexy wine.

● Big Papa Cab 2010: BIG, chewy, full, rich, intense, full. It’s a monster. Everything you want in a WA Cab.

All of these wines are available at Portalis. If we don’t have them in stock, we’d be happy to order them for you.

Cheers,
Julie

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