Fellow Whitman graduate, Jared Burns, has followed his dream with Revelry. A few weeks back I had the chance to speak to Jared about his winery and excellent wines that showcase the Columbia Valley. He first began making wine more than 10 years ago, with the first vintage in 2005. Jared makes a host of wines at Revelry. His new 2015 Rosé release (WWB, 89) was absolutely crisp and fantastic for a hot summer day. For those who are Cabernet lovers, try his 2012 D11 Cabernet Sauvignon (WWB, 92) which showcases the richness and balance of the great vintage. Look for more of his wines at revelryvintners.com. Here is my interview with Jared Burns, owner and winemaker of Revelry Vintners in Walla Walla.
WWB: How did you decide to start Revelry?
JB: I came about wine in a unique way. When I was about nine years old my Dad started a company called Supreme Corq, which was the world’s first synthetic wine cork manufacturer. He had a passion for wine, and growing up he would let my sister and I taste and try wines, so I had a familiarity and connection to wine at a young age. It wasn’t until I was in college here in Walla Walla where I myself truly discovered wine. I was out at dinner with my folks and we had a 1997, I think it was, Woodward [Canyon] Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon. It was delicious. We asked Bob, the owner of Backstage Bistro which is sadly no longer around, what he thought would hang with that wine. He was gone for some time and came back with a 6 pack of 1998 Canoe Ridge Reserve Merlot which just looked impressive. He said he had called Rick Small and asked him to recommend a wine, and that this was his pick. That Merlot really influenced me. I was in love with that wine. It struck me that both of these wines along with others, were all grown right here in Washington where I was raised. For all of the amazing wines - first and second growths, you name it - that I tried growing up, it was Washington wines I was most drawn to. I left Walla Walla after graduating in 2003 and found myself getting more and more curious about the wine industry and making wine. In 2005 I started Revelry with the concept to create varietal wines representative of the quality of wines here in Walla Walla, but to sell them for less than $20. I was 24 at the time and wanted to my peers to have access to wines like I did. Its been an evolution since that time. We now make 15 different wines ranging from $12 to $60 a bottle.
WWB: What are some of the challenges with the booming Washington wine industry?
JB: I don’t look at the world through obstacles. I think that has been true since day one. When we want to do something we make it happen, however that might be. There is more competition right now both in the Washington wine market and internationally. Since day one we have had a distribution focused business model. We sell a lot of our wine through distribution and we have found some nice success with that in this economy. We have always had a segment that is under 20 dollars and that struck a core through the recession and beyond. Distributing wines is extremely competitive. Washington itself is a growing category but we are just beginning to tell our story. I think that is one of the great challenges for Washington wine, but it is changing quickly. Not all our 900 wineries are able to travel abroad and tell the story. Ultimately the more wineries working together to tow the line and share the story of Washington wine the faster we will all grow. Every year we try to further cement our place in the global wine industry and tell not only our story better but the Washington story as well and we try to do our part with that. If it wasn’t a challenge, we wouldn’t want to do it.
WWB: I had the chance to try your 2012 D11 Cabernet and was very impressed with the bottling. Can you talk about that wine and what makes it special?
JB: I think the vineyard makes it really special. With all of our wines we try to let the fruit shine. I think there is a lot of intensity and structure in that fruit, and it tends to have less tannic structure than Red Mountain. As we might do with a Syrah and Rhone varietals we work to mitigate oak tannin in our winemaking, letting the natural grape tannin carry the load. The D11 has beautiful fruit, and a very round and full profile. A lot of that happens in the vineyard. That is complimented by what we do there. We are not trying to amplify the scale structure of the wine.
WWB: What are some of the challenges of sourcing from other vineyards and what are some of the advantages?
JB: I think the advantage is, being an 11 year old winery, we have vineyard sites that are three times our age. They have great viticulturists on their staff. They care for the vineyards on a daily basis. From this model we have access to great diversity in our vineyard sites. This is where the Aerials Series was born. We are pinpointing specific clones of grape varieties, planted in a particular soil type, in an area with a unique exposure and microclimate. That series evolved naturally from our sourcing model, and over time we came to appreciate the distinct qualities of each wine and site in the series. On the other hand, the challenges are you totally can’t control your costs. In some cases if you contribute to making a vineyard more known, effectively raising your own costs. That just comes with the nature of the industry.
WWB: Can you talk about how you obtained your space here at the Walla Walla Airport?
JB: When I started the winery there was no suitable industrial space available for winemaking. The history of this area is really cool. The airport was funded 7 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor for construction as a training base for heavy bomber crews. The Memphis Belle in fact originated in Walla Walla. It was the first plane to complete 25 missions in the war which at the time was a feat. I started the winery on a shoestring and this space was what was available. I think this is true for most wineries out here. We now have four buildings out here, all of which had a purpose on the old base, and we’ve retrofitted them for winemaking. We love the history here and it has been a great home. We are however in the early stages of design on a new winery and property. Be on the lookout for that in 2017.
WWB: I was also very impressed with your new 2015 Revelry Vintners Rosé (WWB, 89), one of my recommended wines for spring, which showed a wonderful array of fruit and had nice balance considering the heat of the vintage. Can you talk about this fantastic new release wine?
JB: Thank you. I love that wine. If I could replicate a Rosé I would make this one over and over again. We have been making Rosé from Cabernet Franc and Grenache for five years now, only in scant amounts. This year we made about 400 cases and it is already just about sold out and its only the beginning of April. Its 83% Cabernet Franc and 17% Grenache. The Franc tends to set the vibrance and hue of the wine, while the Grenache gives the wine amazing texture and aromatics. Its the perfect wine for just about everything. We spend a lot of time outdoors here in the spring and summer and drink a lot of this wine.