Change is in the air at Woodinville’s EFESTĒ with former winemaker Brennon Leighton heading to Charles Smith Wines earlier this year (more on this in a future post) and Peter Devison, who was previously making wine at Precept Wine, taking over winemaking responsibilities starting with the 2012 vintage.

If you aren’t familiar with Devison yet, you will be. Devison grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia before moving to Vancouver to attend the University of British Columbia. It was in Vancouver that he first became interested in wine while working in restaurants. Wanting to be more knowledgeable about what he was serving, Devison started out – like many wine novices – reading Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course. Soon, he was devouring all of the books he could find. Devison went on to take WSET and ISG courses and work at a local retail shop.

Inspired by his experiences, after graduating from UBC with a degree in kinesiology, he decided to attend Lincoln University in New Zealand where he studied enology and viticulture, ultimately graduating with a second bachelor’s degree. After working several harvests in New Zealand and Australia, life seemed to be pulling Devison far away from the Pacific Northwest. He even accepted a winemaking position in Portugal. Then, he learned that his sister was getting married and decided to head back to the Northwest for her wedding. He’s never left since.

Devison began his work in the Washington wine industry in 2004, working a season at Vin du Lac in Lake Chelan as assistant winemaker. He subsequently moved over to nearby Tsillan Cellars, making the 2005 through 2007 vintage wines. It was in Chelan that Devison first met Brennon Leighton. Leighton, who was then at Chateau Ste. Michelle, was visiting with Ste. Michelle’s Kevin Corliss and Bob Bertheau to investigate the young growing area’s Riesling.

Devison recalls, “At first Brennon and I were just two winemakers kind of butting heads a little bit because that’s what you do, especially back in the day,” he says of his younger days. After the initial feeling out Devison says, “I latched on to Brennon right away. I wanted to learn. You’ve got to be opened minded in this business. There’s always an opportunity to learn.” In Leighton, Devison found a kindred spirit, saying, “He had the passion, the vision, and a winemaking style that I appreciate.”

From Chelan, Devison went on to work as an assistant at Waterbrook. After the winery’s purchase by Precept Wines, Devison went on to become responsible for all of the aromatic whites at Precept as well as the company’s Apex, Alder Ridge, and Willow Crest brands. When Leighton decided to take a position at Charles Smith Wines earlier this year, he contacted Devison about working at EFESTĒ. It was, as they say, an offer that he couldn’t refuse.

“I pretty much jumped on it,” Devison says, though he notes how much he enjoyed his time at Precept. Like his predecessor, Devison exudes passion and excitement about winemaking in general and Washington winemaking in particular. “I love this industry,” he says. “It’s young. It’s growing.” He says of working at EFESTĒ, “I’m really excited to be here.”

Devison says he doesn’t expect to make big changes at what has been, in a short time, a very successful winery. “Obviously when a winemaker takes over a program, they want to personalize it,” he says. “But I don’t think the wines will change. I really do appreciate the style (at EFESTĒ). I love the wines. Brennon and I share a very similar philosophy that is, let’s do less and let’s get more out of the vineyard and the vintage.” In particular he notes that he will continue to use native yeast fermentations saying, “I think it lets the vineyard and the vintage shine.”

The latest releases from EFESTĒ – all crafted by Leighton – show some new wrinkles, including the addition of a Boushey Vineyard designated Sauvignon Blanc and a French Creek Vineyard Chardonnay. These wines and the 2010 vintage red releases show the winery in top form and are among the more exciting wines I have sampled this year. There is a freshness and intensity to the red wines in particular that is nothing short of breathtaking.

What will Devison do for an encore? Only time will tell. But having tasted through some of his Precept wines recently as well as barrel samples from the 2012 vintage, one thing is clear. EFESTĒ couldn’t be in more capable hands.

Picture courtesy of EFESTĒ. Read previous posts on EFESTĒ here

EFESTĒ Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2011 $20
(Excellent) An aromatically appealing wine with toast, lime, and mineral notes. The palate has abundant minerality and taught acidity with a fleshy feel and drawn out citrus flavors. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Aged 8 months on lees in French oak (9% new). 12.45% alcohol. 465 cases produced.

EFESTĒ Lola Chardonnay Evergreen Vineyard Columbia Valley 2011 $30
 (Excellent/Exceptional) An aromatically restrained but appealing wine with abundant mineral notes and light spices. The palate is textured and drawn out with incredible richness in the mouthfeel and tart acidity. 100% Chardonnay. Aged 10 months in French oak (18% new). 13.4% alcohol. 409 cases produced.

EFESTĒ Adrienne Chardonnay French Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley 2011 $35
(Good/Excellent) Considerably riper in style than the winery’s Evergreen Vineyard Lola offering, this Yakima Valley Chardonnay is full of ripe fruit flavors and spice with a textured feel. 100% Chardonnay. Aged 10 months in French oak (25% new). 13.62% alcohol. 88 cases produced.

EFESTĒ Jolie Bouche Syrah Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2010 $39
(Excellent/Exceptional) An aromatic wine chock full of fresh raspberries and blackberries along with light herbal tones and black and green olive. The palate has an incredible sense of vibrancy and freshness, full of tart fruit flavors that draw out across the palate leading to a lingering finish. 100% Syrah. Boushey Vineyard (Factory Road Block). Aged 15 months in French oak (17% new). 14.92% alcohol. 571 cases produced.

EFESTĒ Eleni Syrah Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2010 $45
 (Excellent/Exceptional) An aromatically brooding wine loaded with mineral notes, blueberry, thistle, cherry, and plum. The palate is breathtaking with incredible texture and density with a prolonged finish. An incredibly pretty wine that is simultaneously fleshy and graceful. 100% Syrah. Aged 15 months in French oak (31% new). 14.95% alcohol. 180 cases produced.

EFESTĒ Ceidleigh Syrah Red Mountain 2010 $39
(Exceptional) Dark and brooding at present with black cherries, dark plums, sea salt, floral notes, and mineral notes. The palate is big and bold, opulent with loads of cherry flavors and chalky tannins. Not a shy wine but delivers the goods. 100% Syrah. Ciel du Cheval (40%), Klipsun (35%), Ranch at the End of the Road (17%), and Angela’s vineyards. Aged 15 months in French oak (22% new). 556 cases produced.

EFESTĒ Emmy Southern Rhone Blend Stone Tree Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2010 $45
 (Exceptional) An aromatic wine full of brambly fruit flavors, pepper, light meaty notes, floral notes, and crushed rock. The palate is weighty and textured showing incredible polish and grace. 75% Mourvèdre, 16% Syrah, and 13% Grenache. Aged 15 months in neutral French oak puncheons. 15.24% alcohol. 136 cases produced.