When Efestē winemaker Peter Devison graduated with a degree in viticulture and oenology from Lincoln University in New Zealand, he planned to make global-style wines — Alsatian-style Riesling, Bordeaux-style Cabernet, and so on. But working with Washington fruit changed his mind, and for more than the last decade, Devison has dedicated himself to showcasing the Columbia Valley AVA’s superstar wine potential — what he calls “Washington’s primary exuberant fruit.”
He first came to work for Efestē in 2012 because he was looking for an opportunity to be more hands-on after several years building Waterbrook Winery’s large-scale production in Walla Walla. Efestē (a “phon-acronym” pronounced F. S. T. after the last initial of each owner) was founded in 2005 by the Ferrellis, the Smiths, and the Taylors. When Devison came on board, he brought with him a low-intervention winemaking philosophy.
He utilizes native yeast fermentation, meaning he doesn’t add commercial yeast but relies on naturally occurring yeast on the grapes from vineyard. Devison coaxes texture and integrates tannins by aging the wines on the lees (settled yeast from fermentation) and limiting racking — a process by which the wine is moved from one barrel to another. The red wines are unfiltered, and acid is not added to any of the wines. All of these decisions stem from his core philosophy that Efestē wines should be primarily vineyard-driven and emphasize rich, primary fruit.
“You can’t cut corners. If you operate a winery as a bean counter, you deplete all greatness,” he said. Devison believes that Efestē is ahead of the curve in Washington in terms of producing truly low-alcohol white wines with only about 12.5 percent alcohol — almost everyone else in the state makes white wines above 13 percent, and some are even above 14 percent. The result is the 2014 Sauvage ($25), a crisp, invigorating Sauvignon Blanc that wakes up the palate. The high acidity means that the wine has the potential to age for a number of years.
Devison sources white wine grapes from the Ancient Lakes AVA near the Gorge at George. His Evergreen Vineyard Riesling has been a menu standard for years. On Red Mountain, the winery now has several estate vineyards that were planted in 2010 and are managed by one of Washington’s most legendary growers, Dick Boushey. Devison is a firm believer in Boushey’s growing skills.
Efestē’s red wines are sourced from Red Mountain and Grand View. The 2013 Ceidleigh Syrah ($39) is drinking fabulously right now.
Devison says that he makes wine for “the people’s glass” as opposed to creating wines for the critic’s palate. Efestē is now fully vertically integrated from estate vineyards to self-distribution, allowing as much control as possible. Even from the beginning, the goal was to introduce wines that elevate everything else, raising the visibility and acclaim of Washington state wines, and to overdeliver at every price point. Devison lets the fruit speak for itself and provides just enough coaxing when necessary to create lovely finessed wines that showcase Washington’s immense wine-producing potential.