Adamant Cellars has been making some of the finest wines in Walla Walla since opening in the airport area North of downtown in 2006. Our favorites are the Nalin red blend and the Cab, but try them all – there’s not a bad wine in the bunch! Adamant winemaker Devin Stinger was kind enough to sit down with us for an in-depth interview in February 2017. This is Part Two of the interview. Part One can be found here.
WWWL: The first wine you made once you started Adamant was a Rose, right?
DEVIN: Yes, it was a Rose just so we could get something on the shelf and we did 25-30 cases. And that same year (2006) we also made Syrahs, Cabs and red blends, released them in 2007 and 2008.
WWWL: Did you have a wine mentor like a lot of winemakers seem to have?
DEVIN: About the closest thing I had to one was a boss at one of the tech companies I worked at who had a Pinot Noir business. Unfortunately though, all he drank was Pinot Noir and he didn’t understand why anybody would drink anything but Pinor Noir!
But he had a passion for wine and we would talk for hours about wine and winemaking and that’s what really got my juices flowing as far as making wine. But I never worked under a winemaker or had any internships. It’s just been 100% myself and my wife.
WWWL: Awesome. So how did you decide to name the winery Adamant? The definition of adamant is “refusing to be persuaded or to change one’s mind.”
DEVIN: [Laughs]. It has several other definitions as well. An adamant stone is a dark diamond and it means a very hard substance; it also means focused and it has all kinds of good wine connotations. It even has mythical connotations --- if you own an adamant stone then you have the keys to wisdom and knowledge. So the definition of adamant has sort of evolved over time into focused, forward, and steadfast, which is how we approach the wine. We’re looking down the path and we’re not looking back.
WWWL: So what’s the harvest process like for you?
DEVIN: It’s about a month or a month and a half of trying to figure out when we’re going to pick and tasting at the vineyards and talking to the vineyard managers. It all starts mid-summer. I’ll start talking to the vineyard managers about what the crop is looking like and how they’re pruning it and how they’re watering it and what kind of damage that’s come through. And then I’ll start tasting grapes probably about a month in advance just to get a baseline for how they’re tasting. If we have a good harvest the weather will cool down by mid-September and then we can kind of stagger things and keep our winery at capacity the whole time that we’re processing without getting over-capacity.
WWWL: What’s the typical timetable for you from the time you decide that you’re going to make a particular wine from a particular vineyard to the day that wine is made available for sale to the public?
DEVIN: For us, it’s a two-year cycle. That’s fermentation into wine in the barrel, racking the barrel and then aging it for nearly twenty-four months. It’s continuous topping, keeping the barrel full, keeping the SO2 levels up, monitoring the acid levels. And then there’s the process about a month before bottling to determine if the wine is ready. We’ll taste it 3-4 times throughout the two-year process and my wife Debra and I will both make notes on it. About a month before bottling we’ll taste it one final time and make the decision that’s what we want to use for the bottle and then we spend about a week to a week and a half determining blends – and we actually blend right before we bottle. We do it a little bit differently than other winemakers as we have a bit more labor-intensive process for aging and blending. It seems that a lot of winemakers actually decide what their blends are going to be ahead of time. We don’t know what the blends are going to be until about a month prior to bottling and we don’t have the labels printed up until we’ve decided what will be in the blend.
WWWL: Back when you first started I’m assuming it made things easier because you were able to get into Walla Walla’s incubator program (the program, started in 2006 and funded by the State of Washington and the Port of Walla Walla, offers a handful of startup wineries subsidized, below market leases for their first few years of operation).
DEVIN: We were very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. In February of 2006 I happened to call the Port of Walla Walla to see if they had any buildings for rent. I had been looking for a while and I had not been able to find anything in town to rent that was reasonable enough to put a winery in. And they told me that coincidentally, earlier in the day that I called them they had signed an agreement with the State to build the incubator buildings for the wine industry. They asked if we wanted to apply. Of course we did! We were the first applicants, we were accepted and the rest is history. It was a perfect way to start. A nice building and low rent – about half what you would pay anywhere else to get started – with increases of 10% each year.
WWWL: What’s your favorite wine that you’ve made and why?
DEVIN: Our 2008 Merlot. It’s held up so nicely. Dark fruit flavor, very rich. The 2012 Merlot is very similar to it. Good acid, good tannins, but this big fruit component up front, so it’s a nicely balance wine with a big flavor.
WWWL: What kind of wines do you like to drink when you’re not drinking your wines?
DEVIN: We tend to drink a lot of Walla Walla wine. The other night we had a 2009 Tamarac Cabernet Franc and it was delicious. We also really enjoy champagne, mostly French champagne and we’ve been drinking a lot of Rieslings lately. We have some subscriptions to a few French and Italian wine clubs.
WWWL: Last one. What’s the most expensive bottle in your cellar?
DEVIN: Hmmm. I’m visually looking at my cellar in my head…. I don’t think it’s more than $60-70 and it’s a local Walla Walla wine. Not sure if it’s Corliss, Garrison Creek or Pepper Bridge, but I think it’s one of those.
WE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE YOU VISIT SOON!
Walla Walla Wine Limo is legally licensed and insured. WA State UBI #603600954
Cities we serve: Walla Walla, Milton Freewater (OR), Lowden, Touchet, Waitsburg, Wallula, Dayton, College Place, Pendleton (OR), Pasco, Kennewick, Richland, Burbank, Dixie, Prescott