California Sales Only
|Country & Region||California, Santa Barbara|
After a decade of work with Santa Rita Hills’ most renowned chardonnay and pinot noir sites, Ryan Deovlet has chiseled into the elevated character of his wines.
—Wine & Spirits Magazine, Top 100 Wineries of the World 2019
In 2004 Ryan Deovlet traveled to Australia to work in vineyards under the auspices of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. He went to find life after baseball, hoping that agriculture might fit the bill. He had been an infielder in the semi-pros, but an arm injury closed the door to the majors, a fact that knocked him off his dime for a bit. He finished college with a degree in sociology, but academia never appealed to him like the game had. So he decided to take a journey to see where it might lead.
He took four books with him:
On the Road
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Along with the books, his inspiration was the memory of going to Hawaii as a young man to stay with the family black sheep, an older cousin who had given him a Bob Marley t-shirt and who had three passions: fishing, growing pot, and growing coffee in the Kona district of the Big Island. One morning they went out fishing, and upon returning the cousin served him a cup of coffee made from his plantation beans. Ryan never forgot the taste, and he was fired up forevermore by the idea that it could only have come from Kona and nowhere else. Agriculture, he realized, could be so much more than cornfields and overalls.
In Australia, he did vineyard work in the Hunter and Yarra Valleys, waited tables in Melbourne, and worked the harvest on the Mornington Peninsula just south of the city. He read the story of Josh Jensen’s struggle to start up the Calera Winery in The Heartbreak Grape and went on to New Zealand to work on pruning crews.
From 2005 to 2007 he worked with the highly respected winemaker Stephen Dooley, making wine along the Central Coast. He became assistant winemaker at the Red Car Winery, where he met consultant David Ramey and where he was further exposed to vineyard and soil experts. He went to a Pinot Noir conference and took to heart what Richard Sanford said on a panel discussion about the inspiration of Pinot Noir. He worked a harvest in Argentina at Vina Cobos with Paul Hobbs.
In the spring of 2008, he returned from Argentina. He was back in the game, determined to make his own wine. He knocked on Richard Sanford’s door to ask how he might possibly buy some fruit. That took some brass, given that Sanford was the legendary pioneer of the Santa Rita Hills. But Ryan came armed with the very words that he had heard Sanford speak, framed in calligraphy as a gift for the crusty Vietnam Veteran: Pinot Noir is about commitment, it’s about persistence, it’s about the journey. There’s a magic in it, there’s a magic in Pinot Noir!
Sanford had been the first to see the potential for vines in the Santa Rita Hills, a unique coast range that runs east-west rather than paralleling the coast and so is directly open to the Pacific’s cooling influences. He planted Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in 1971. He went on to establish the La Encantada Vineyard in 2000 just to the west of his original vineyard. He agreed to sell young Deovlet enough grapes from La Encantada to make around 100 cases of wine.
Since then, Ryan has fine-tuned things as he has gained experience, garnering a reputation as a star exemplifying the best of the new breed of California winemakers (although he’s quick to point out that he likes the kiss of the sun on his fruit, and he’s not orthodox in his methods). He’s dialed back on new oak and extractions, he’s become comfortable being among the first to start the harvest, and he has come to prize a collaborative relationship with Grace Kegel, his assistant in the cellar. She’s done harvests in New Zealand, South Africa, and of course on the central coast, and she joined Ryan in 2013. Most importantly, he has come to concentrate on the vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills to learn their ways. Specifically, they are the La Encantada and Sanford & Benedict Vineyards on the south side of the valley, and the Zotovich Family Vineyard on the north side.
His name is pronounced Dev-let. His grandfather, Dewey Diran Deovletian, escaped Armenia in 1914 just before the Armenian genocide. In the early 1940s, struggling in his metal fabricating business and trying to look less foreign with the outbreak of war, he dropped the ian ending.
|Santa Barbara Chardonnay||Chardonnay||Ryan’s primary sources in the Santa Rita Hills are Zotovich Family and Sanford & Benedict Vineyards, and S&B represents roughly two-thirds of the blend of this wine while the remainder comes from the Zotovich Vineyard. Ferments, both spontaneous and inoculated, are initiated in steel and French oak barrels, and the wine is aged on its lees for some 15 months in Damy cooperage from France (both 228-liter and 400-liter barrels), 20% new. Part of the malo is blocked. Average production ~250 cases|
|Santa Barbara Pinot Noir||Pinot Noir||Sources are the La Encantada Vineyard, Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, and Zotovich Family Vineyard. The wine ferments spontaneously and sees around 15 months from a mix of French oak barrels, 25% new. Normally, this is bottled without fining or filtration. Average production ~350 cases.|
|La Encantada Vineyard Pinot Blanc||Pinot Blanc||A vineyard first planted by Richard Sanford in 2000 on land he deemed enchanting, hence the name. The site is on the south side of the appellation, immediately west of the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, some seven miles from the ocean. Soils are loamy clay and elevations range from 200 to 750-feet. Average production ~150 cases.
Ryan works with one block of Pinot Blanc growing at a lower, more shaded elevation. With the 2018 vintage, he began to age part of this wine in 500-liter sandstone clay jars (amphora), as well as steel barrels and one-year oak barrels. ML is blocked and after eight months of aging the wine is racked into steel assemblage tanks for another two months and then bottled.
The appeal of the sandstone clay is its rate of porosity, affecting micro-oxidation during aging. Comparisons:
Stainless steel: 0%
Sandstone clay: 2%
Oak barrels: 6%
Terra cotta clay: 9%
|La Encantada Pinot Noir||Pinot Noir||The windiest site of the three that Ryan works with in the appellation, making for thicker skins. The sources here are four blocks, four clones (Pommard, 115, 667, 777). Normally this is all de-stemmed and ferments are spontaneous. Aging is in Cadus and Chassin barrels for 16-18 months, 30-40% new. No fining or filtration. Production: ~150-175 cases.|
|Zotovich Family Vineyards Pinot Noir||Pinot Noir||North side of the Santa Rita Hills, some eight miles from the ocean, first planted in 1999. Generally 350-ft elevation with much more sandy soils than those on the south side. This is also the first site Ryan harvests. He works with one block of Chardonnay (clone 76) and two of Pinot Noir (clones 114 and 115), and the Pinot Noir sees ~30% whole cluster during fermentation for structure. Cooperage is different too: the barrels are made by Billon from Jura oak. Ferments for the Pinot are spontaneous, aging regiment is around 15 months in 228-liter barrels, 25% new. No fining or filtration. Production ranges from 125-150 cases.|
|Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Chardonnay||Chardonnay||The iconic Santa Rita Hills’ vineyard on the south side of the appellation, just east of La Encantada. Elevations range from 200 to 350-feet, soils are calcium-rich clay with shale and chert, and the vineyard is some nine miles from the ocean. Production ranges from 125-150 cases.
Ryan works with two blocks of Chardonnay: one planted 2006 with Wente clone (which tends to millerandage, or producing bunches with “hens & chicks,” thus ensuring good acidity); the other an original block planted in 1971 (possibly with plant stock descended from Paul Masson’s original vineyard, but no one knows anymore) on its own roots. Remarkably, there’s still no phylloxera. The base of the single-vineyard bottling is the old block, sometimes with a bit of juice from the younger block. This is aged on its lees for some 15 months in a mix of Damy 228L barrels, 400-liter demi-muids, and 1,000-liter foudre, 20% new.
|Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Pinot Noir||Pinot Noir||Ryan works with two blocks of Pinot Noir, one planted in 2011 and the other an original block from 1971 (Martini clone). Aging is in Chassin barrels for 18 months, 33% new. No fining or filtration. Average production ranges from 150-175 cases.|