OUR INTEREST IN WINE BEGAN TO EMERGE WHILE WE WERE BOTH IN COLLEGE AT OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY, AND IT WAS OREGON PINOT THAT CAPTURED OUR ATTENTION. WE FINISHED OUR STUDIES AND THEN WORKED IN THE CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY, ALWAYS PLANNING TO RETURN TO OREGON. A SMALL DETOUR TOOK US TO WASHINGTON STATE AND LED TO THE CREATION OF TWO FANTASTIC WINERIES – ABEJA AND CANOE RIDGE VINEYARD. DEVONA IS OUR THIRD.
We were fortunate to be in Oregon at a time when the vintages -- 1984, 1985 and 1986 -- were those that began to put Oregon Pinot Noir on the map. We were enamored of these wines and John's pre-vet major began to take a change of course. When the opportunity came for John to study viticulture and enology at Fresno State University, we jumped at the chance. After he finished school, the jobs in California were more abundant, and John went to work for Pine Ridge Winery, where he worked with high quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. When a position became available at the renowned Acacia Winery, it seemed a perfect fit to explore that elusive varietal Pinot Noir and along with it, Chardonnay.
Our long history in Washington State began in the early 90’s when, while working at Acacia Winery in the Napa Valley, John was asked to help put together what would eventually become Canoe Ridge Vineyard. This was the Chalone Wine Group’s first endeavor in Washington State. In 1994 we moved to Walla Walla to commit fully to the project. Canoe Ridge Vineyard was at the forefront of Washington State’s early reputation for fine Merlot, and we were part of a very small community of Walla Walla wineries. Canoe Ridge Vineyard was just the seventh in the Valley and the first created with an outside influence.
In the early 2000’s John longed to spend more time in the vineyards and the cellar. By that time, we had become acquainted with Ken and Ginger Harrison, who were quickly establishing themselves as new, respected members of the Walla Walla Valley wine community. After many discussions we joined forces and created Abeja, a winery that soon became a leader in Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
After ten years with Canoe Ridge Vineyard and 13 years with Abeja, we decided to leap into new terrain and create Devona. The one varietal that we are fascinated by, but haven’t gotten to work with extensively, is Pinot Noir.
Because of our history in Washington State with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay and our fondness for these varietals, we continue to produce them, sourcing the fruit from our favorite sites: Bacchus, Dionysus, and Celilo. These are vineyards that we have worked with for many, many years.
We are exceedingly proud of our contributions to establishing first Canoe Ridge Vineyard and then Abeja. With each project, our production has gotten smaller and even more specialized and with Devona, it has once again. We produce less than 1,000 cases and we are the full-time crew! This allows for one and often both of us to be involved in each part of the process. And for Molly, that means getting her hands dirty in the cellar learning new things and participating in new ways. We have worked together now since 1994 and this brings a new aspect to our teamwork. We love what we do and working together is a pleasure. Sometimes it's a bit humorous too.