Full Bodied Series: 1 on 1 with Ian Devereux, Smith Devereux Wines

I’m excited to start my “Full Bodied Series” where I chat with industry experts, winemakers, and winery owners to discuss their passion regarding wine, how they got started, and their thoughts on how inclusion comes into play in the wine industry.

If you read the “About me” section of my website you know that my interest in wine is new but my passion for inclusion has a long history. Because of the parallels and connections I see between the two, I have been reaching out to wineries and individuals with similar philosophies. Before I could start doing any research on a place to approach, a connection of mine online tagged Ian’s IG in a comment. I reviewed his page and came across a post that struck me: 

“I believe that often we assume things of wine (and people) based on origin, appearance, reputation, and pre-conceived notions. The truth shrouded in misunderstands, misperception, misconception, ego, and the myth of common sense. I strive to be patient, present aware and open. Life is an adventure; I want to spend it experiencing, not guessing…”

WHAT? WAIT. Who is this guy?! I had to reach out immediately. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous and didn’t know what to expect. I want to take this seriously and not just as an excuse to drink wine and take photos. So in true nerd fashion I sent a detailed email of my mission, experience with wine, and an outline of questions I wanted to ask if and when he had the time. Fortunately, he responded right away.  I was even more appreciative when I read, “I would love to sit down and chat. Your prepared questions are great and I love your IG, but I would rather just talk to you and develop a friendship.” Again, WHAT? LOL.  I really need to meet him! 

I met Ian Devereux at his vineyard in Napa about a week later (the tasting room is temporarily closed because of COVID) to learn more about him, his winery, and dig deeper into his thoughts around diversity.  This was my first “interview” so your boy was a little tight. Ian walks out of one of the structures, smiles, and says “Noël?”. Immediately a few thoughts rushed into my head: 1) Don’t F@*k this up, 2) I’m having mixed feelings about eating before coming here, and 3) This makes two people now that I have met in California with better hair than me, hmph (The other is Gavin Newsom).  We started off by bumping elbows and Ian thanked me for coming. He suggested heading over to the vineyard to see the “vines.” Ian began by describing his formal entry into the wine industry as a writer for 7×7 Magazine and Wine Enthusiast, and his current position as Wine Director for SF Magazine.  Fast forward a few years, through his music and wine industry connections he met co-founders John Truchard and Steve Smith. Together they formed Smith Devereux Wines.

After finishing our glasses of “Vacationer” we moved our conversation over to a seated shaded area so we could continue talking and try more wines, including selections from their Artist Series.

Are you looking to expand? Do you want to become one of the “large” wine brands?

It depends on your definition of “expand.” I never want to get so large that I’m not able to be hands-on. I host the vineyard tastings, pour wine in the tasting room, and harvest the grapes in the vineyard. I can’t envision a scenario that takes me away from that. 

Do you find that difficult with your Artist Series Wines? It’s not hard to imagine with the right celebrity, wine, and promotion your demand and exposure increasing significantly.

Similar to how I approach wine and music, I am particular about the “celebrities” I partner with.  There are some partnerships in the industry where a celebrity loves a particular wine, asks the winery to partner by putting their name on the label, and they’re off to next thing. I respect and understand that model, but because of my passion and dedication to helping others the Artist Series partnerships are aligned with charitable causes. Thus, I look for my partners to be hands-on with the development and messaging regarding their wine and their selected charities, which are personal to them. I will not change my philosophy for profit.

How do you promote diversity and inclusion in your business?

My experiences living in Oakland and San Francisco, and with music have given me an interesting perspective. My “Open Kimono” philosophy which simply stated is “transparency and openness” is how I live my life and run my business. When I hear from my wine club members and visitors about the social injustices going on their communities or how they are treated at other establishments in the valley it bothers me. The Smith Devereux brand will always be inclusive and open to all. 

Takeaways:

As I stated in my IG post, “Humbleness, it looks good on a person!” Ian’s inviting and authentic nature brings out the flavor in his wine more than a pairing ever could. I ended our day by exchanging numbers and both agreeing that we were “fast friends” with a genuine connection. For the record if you are a person from a diverse background and/or intimidated by the world of wine, I promise the Smith Devereux Winery will welcome you. 

I remember when I got off the plane for the first time in California, I remember my first day at the job that brought me out here, I remember the first winery I joined, and I will now remember always my first interview and my memorable experience with Ian Devereux.

Wines to try: Everything! Especially the 2017 No. 3 California Red Blend, 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and SB White Blend

Price point: Affordable. $1 ground shipping with your order of 6 bottles or more

Website: https://www.smithdevereux.com

Location: 1460 1st Street, Napa, CA 

Phone: 707 265-7577

Thank you for checking out my first post in the Full Bodied Blog Series. It is much appreciated! If you are interested in sharing your passion for wine and how it brings people together please reach out to me via email (wineoxperience@gmail.com) or IG: wine_o_xperience

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