An artisan pursuit: The wines of Ryan Deovlet

An artisan pursuit: The wines of Ryan Deovlet

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I first met winemaker Ryan Deovlet at a wine tasting in Nipomo in 2013. I quickly learned that he’s an artist who puts his heart and soul into his craft, and you can taste it in the quality of his wines. Like other artists in his field, he’s absolutely committed to the pursuit of singling out great vineyards and producing better wines with each vintage. I’ve found the truth of that in the impressive array of chardonnays and pinot noirs Deovlet (pronounced Dev-let) makes for his eponymous brand.

Although his vineyard designated wines under the Deovlet label are quite limited, they aren’t the only wines he makes. He has been making delicious wines for Refugio Ranch in Santa Ynez Valley since 2008. This year Deovlet added a new client, Biddle Ranch Cellars in Avila Valley. Few winemakers straddle the border between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, yet he goes farther. He also began a sparkling wine project with Paso Robles winemaker McPrice Myers, for which they haven’t created a proprietary name yet.

Despite his nonstop schedule during harvest, Deovlet found time to allow me to join him in assessing one of his vineyards on the threshold of picking. At 7 a.m. during a cool foggy morning in Pismo Beach alongside Price Canyon Road, he began checking the sugar and ripeness levels in his pinot noir still ripening on the vines. His Rhodesian Ridgeback dog Bruce Wayne easily leapt up the steep hillside vineyard followed by Deovlet, with me trudging somewhat behind them. At the top, I found the view spectacular of the beautiful Spanish Springs Vineyard. It’s one of SLO County’s newest developments among the low hills of Pismo Beach.

It was exciting tasting berries from the grape clusters at various stages of ripeness. The ripe berries were already showing some complex flavors that will result in a fine pinot noir.

“The flavors are close,” he said. “There’s a burst of freshness and vibrancy in the clusters we’ve tasted. It’s almost ready to harvest.”

Deovlet made it clear why he’s so motivated to make wine for three brands: He loves working with different vineyards. Just as Deovlet is intensely focused, so are the people he chose for his winemaking team.

“Grace Kegel and our top-quality intern understand my style,” Deovlet explained, “as do our vineyard managers. I like to pick grapes based on ripeness and freshness on all three of my projects. While it sounds like a huge project to take on three brands, none of them are large production. “At the size they are now, it’s very manageable.”

When he created his own brand, Deovlet sought advice from Sta. Rita Hills pioneer Richard Sanford. Deovlet said he was inspired by an educational seminar with Sanford during the annual World of Pinot Noir event.

“I knew I wanted to commit to pinot noir," Deovlet said. "It’s a lifetime pursuit that’s about the journey.”

Not only did Sanford befriend him, he sold him grapes from his exclusive La Encantada Vineyard.

My first tasting with Deovlet of his wines, I ranked them among the finest local wines I had tasted recently. I usually don’t cover wineries without tasting rooms or small producers like Deovlet who’s typically sold out. Yet in this case, I enjoy tipping wine lovers off to a rising star winemaker before it becomes impossible to get to know their excellent wines.

Over the past year, Deovlet has earned critical acclaim from Wines & Spirits magazine. The chardonnays he entered all received 90-plus points in a comparative tasting by their critics of over 800 California chardonnays.

To buy Deovlet’s fine wines, join his mailing list. But he does make more wines for Refugio Ranch and Biddle Ranch wineries can be found in their respective tasting rooms in Los Olivos and Avila Valley.

The latest news Deovlet told me was his plan to create a tasting room at the San Luis Obispo winery in early 2015. It will still be strictly by appointment, and he will offer tastings of his 2013 chardonnays and pinot noirs.

“We’ll show visitors the winemaking side of creating our wines and how it all works in a free flowing spirit, so people can learn more about the wines while they taste them,” he said.

Freelance writer Kathy Marcks Hardesty can be reached at kathy@centralcoastcritic.com. Her Web page is www.centralcoastcritic.com.

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