Dave Stephenson arrived in Walla Walla in 1999. By day he learned the craft of winemaking working for Waterbook Winery and their custom crush clients, and by night learned the science of winemaking as he studied his way through the UC Davis enology and viticulture curriculum textbooks at home.
In 2001, he leased his current facility near the Walla Walla airport, choosing to go it alone without funding from banks or private investors, which has allowed him the freedom to make the wines he wants to make rather than popular vintages that will sell quickly. "I don't want to make 'bell curve' wines," Dave says. "The ones where you blend varieties together for predictable flavor profiles that have been proven to please most wine drinkers. I like to accentuate what's edgy about particular lots. So I'd be the first to admit that my wines aren't for everyone."
His first release was just 140 cases of his 2001 Syrah. His next vintage was 250 cases of Syrah and a 90-case bottling of Merlot.
Dave is also at home in the vineyard, and currently sources some of his fruit from vineyards he planted himself. Next to his winery are several rows of different varietals. This is his "scrapbook" of different grapes from vineyards he's visited across Washington. He takes cuttings and propogates them as a way to remember the grapes he really likes.
In 2003 he began doing lab analysis for several wineries, which grew into a consulting career as he realized there was a growing number of new winemakers that could use his knowledge and experience to jump-start their wineries. He began working nights and weekends on his second occupation, taking wineries from finding a winery location to licensing and bonding to obtaining fruit contracts with proven vineyards. Otis Kenyon Winery is his largest client. "In two years I can take anyone from zero to winery," Dave says, adding ruefully, "which is just a bit longer than it's taken me."
|Winemaker: Dave Stephenson|