Interview with Winemaker Derek DesVoigne

Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with Winemaker Derek DesVoigne of Cuillin Hills Winery about the wine biz, what he is currently drinking and all things in between. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts Derek!

What is the first wine that made you want to be a winemaker? ~ Syrah, can’t remember the maker, but Washington Syrah for sure. More than likely it was an ’87 Red Willow, David Lake. I used to drink first growth Bordeaux with my friend Angus on a regular basis. It was a blast in the historical sense, but Washington Syrah closed the deal.

Where was the Washington Wine industry 20 years ago? ~ Ask Alex Golitzin, Rick Small, Wade Wolf, Kay Simon, Gale Pruyere, Jerry Bookwalter, Paul Porteus, and a host of others. 20 years ago I was drinking beer and not really thinking about wine.

Where do you see Cuillin Hills in 20 years? ~ Good question. As a small winery I see more focused wines ahead, if I can convince the public! Honing in on what I see as things Washington does well.

What grape variety do you feel Washington really excels at? ~ Depends on the AVA. Syrah has my heart, always will.

If you could grow any variety in any specific area in the state, what would that be and where? ~ Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier. Probably some other Rhone’s.

What is the most important attribute to a great bottle of wine? ~ Who you drink it with for sure. Lots of other stuff, but that’s a really long conversation for another time.

What is one of your prized bottles at home? ~ Several, but probably some wacky Chateauneuf-du-Pape. That’s all subjective, really, but I used to have some of the Washington historic stuff, drank them with a bunch of friends and had a blast. We talked about what it might have been like when they were made. Funny thing is, I could call those guys today and talk about what it really was like, and sometimes I do!

When you are not drinking Cuillin Hills…who are you drinking? ~ Well, probably Georgetown Brewing or Maritime Pacific. Though I do find myself in front of some pretty amazing wines regularly, I’ll hold on to them for now as my own, keeps them special. I will say I’ll buy and drink ANY Washington Syrah for research purposes.

When you open a wine list, what are you hoping to find? ~ Depends on the meal. I’ve seen and tasted some interesting stuff. Most importantly, what I don’t see is domination by out of state and country. I’ll pay through the nose for wines I can get for free, to drink wines that I know are solid and aren’t flawed. You’d be surprised how not easy that is.

If you were not a winemaker, what do you think you would be doing for work? ~ I have no idea at this point. I’m full of opinions and ideas that someone else could make a fortune from, maybe a wine, travel channel jackass.

What are one or two things people might be surprised to learn about being a winemaker? ~ Work, A-Z, Work. Wait a minute, it’s romance baby ;-)

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