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Unusual Blend Helps Washington Winemaker's Widow

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jul 17, 2007 1:50pm ET

Despite the famous aphorism about too many cooks, eight of Washington's best winemakers put their heads and hogsheads (of wine) together to make a special bottling. And it's darn good, if totally unlike anything each of them might have made on their own.

It's called Devin 2003, and it's a blend of Syrah and Merlot from Walla Walla winemakers Eric Dunham of Dunham, Marie-Eve Gilla of Forgeron, Ron Coleman of Tamarack, Chuck Reininger of Reininger, Myles Anderson of Walla Walla Vintners, Charles Smith of K Vintners, Christophe Baron of Cayuse and Northstar Winery (which has been through several winemakers since the project launched).

They did it to honor the memory of Devin Derby, who was the co-owner and winemaker of Spring Valley Wines. He died in December 2004 as the result of a single-car crash outside Walla Walla, leaving behind his widow, Mary, and their son Simon. Estranged from Devin's family, who sold Spring Valley to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Mary has since partnered in a new négociant winery called DaMa, the marketing aimed squarely at women wine drinkers. That's not nearly enough, and her neighbors banded together to raise some money for Mary and Simon.

I got a taste of the wine, and it's a big, firm-textured red. There's a gamy edge to the bright red cherry and dark plum flavors. A savory, herbal note from the Merlot sneaks in on the finish. It's an unusual blend. Many winemakers like to buttress an angular Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet-Merlot blend with a dollop of Syrah to round it out, but offhand I can't think of any varietal Syrahs that have a touch of Merlot in them. It takes the wine out of the mainstream, which I would suppose is the idea.

The wine sells for $55 and is available at the various wineries' tasting rooms, or by phone from Dunham Cellars are (509) 529-4685. Only 190 cases were made.

Andrew J Walter
Sacramento,CA —  July 19, 2007 12:29am ET
Sounds good! BTW, a small winery in Arizona - Dos Cabezas-- makes a Petite Sirah/Merlot blend call La Montana(http://www.doscabezaswinery.com). We had the 2004 version at a RHone tasting at Enotria in Sacramento. It was redolent of tobacco, leather, smoke and big black fruit and was the hit of the tasting. FYI, we also had the Domaine du P¿¿ Ch¿auneuf-du-Pape Cuv¿da Capo 2000 and a Albans Reva; so it was up against some fierce competition! Seems like more new world vintners should explore these blends....

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