As we drift closer to the end of another great Washington Wine Month we bring you an interview with a sensational winemaker out of the Yakima Valley. Jacki Evans crafts some gorgeous wines for Owen Roe, one of Washington’s excellent producers of Cabernet and Syrah. Jacki has been traveling recently to Portugal recently, bringing those in the wine community a serious case of FOMO. She has deserved the vacation. Jacki helped start a really good wine project to be on the lookout for, Sin Banderas, as her new release red wine was really good. She has a background in biology and has a wealth of winemaking experience throughout the world. I think you will really enjoy hearing her story in wine. Here is my interview with Jacki Evans, winemaker at Owen Roe and Sin Banderas.
WWB: How did you first become interested in winemaking?
JE: I was studying Biology at the University of Texas with no clue of what I was going to do with my degree. My best friend and I stumbled upon a home winemaking kit, and it became a running joke for us to say, "I don't want to go to class; I just want to make wine..." One day I looked into winemaking, and I realized I could probably get my foot in the door with some lab experience. My first harvest was in Willamette Valley, where I also learned about harvest-hopping, and there was no turning back! A love for winemaking really developed as I spent time in New Zealand, Austria, Australia, and Napa before coming up to Washington State.
WWB: What are the advantages of sourcing from great Yakima Valley vineyards vs. other Washington State AVAs? How does that impact wines made in both hot (2014 & 2015) and cold (2010 & 2011) vintages?
JE: Simply being close to the vineyards is a huge advantage, as it gives us freedom to check on the vines more often. This is especially crucial during the harvest season when picking decisions are based on taste and maturity analyses. Extreme years need even more vineyard attention as harvest approaches. Heat spikes, cloud cover, and rain can have a huge influence on ripening - our hot vintages were picked 6-8 weeks earlier than the cold vintages! Our 2010 & 2011 wines were produced in Oregon, while 2014 was our first vintage in our new Washington winery. Lucky us - we moved up to Washington just in time for the early harvests!
WWB: Your Owen Roe red releases from the 2014 vintage were gorgeous across the board. Can you talk about your 2014 Owen Roe ‘Yakima Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon (WWB, 92), a killer value which shows tremendous weight and poise in this warm vintage?
JE: That’s so great to hear! This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from our favorite Yakima Valley vineyards - DuBrul, Elerding, Outlook, and Red Willow. In 2014, our Cabernet Sauvignon was picked in the latter half of September - a full 2-4 weeks earlier than 'normal' to ensure natural balance in the final blend. This particular wine aged in 31 French oak barrels for 20 months; 53% of these barrels were in new oak from 6 different coopers. Very small ferments, a variety of yeasts, and a diverse array of French oak barrels provide us with awesome blending components. While it is a lot of work to keep everything separate until bottling, it's worth it!
WWB: How did you decide to start Sin Banderas? Can you talk about your great new release, the 2015 Sin Banderas Red Wine (WWB, 90)?
JE: The 4 of us - Francois, Brandon, Nacho, and myself - were working together at Owen Roe Winery in 2015. We realized that we could make our own wine at the facility, and that was an opportunity too good to pass up! David O'Reilly is very generous, and he started Owen Roe under similar circumstances. When brainstorming about our brand, we realized that we already embrace our different backgrounds, both in lifelong experience and our roles at Owen Roe. Each one of us brings different skills to the project, so it couldn't have worked out any better!
Our 2015 Sin Banderas Red Wine is comprised of 80% Syrah from Outlook Vineyard and 20% Mourvedre from Olsen Vineyard. 5 barrels were produced, and the wine matured in French oak for close to 2 years. We bought 1 new barrel in 2015, so the blend has 20% new oak.
WWB: What are some of your favorite wine producers and regions of the world?
JE: Around Washington, I really love the wines from JB Neufeld, and Syncline in the Columbia Gorge has been a favorite of mine for a long time. Gramercy and Rasa in Walla Walla are delicious too. I also have a soft spot for Willamette Pinot; some favorites being Elk Cove, Adelshiem, and Bergstrom. I just got back from a trip to the Douro Valley which was stunning! I also love Napa, Barossa, Margaret River...