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Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Partner and Vigneron

In my blog post last March, I wrote “Mother Nature can be an ill tempered, whimsical disciplinarian.” I am chuckling as I reflect on how right I was, considering the 2022 wipeout. (Vineyard Celebration of Life).

We expect there will be some problems with the 2023 crop due to the bruising of the buds that took a direct hit from a hailstone. The buds for the 2023 crop were fully formed by the end of June 2022, the storm occurred 6 weeks later. Using a microscope, you can see all of the anatomy for the next crop–tiny stems, leaves, and fruit clusters. The clusters contain the flower parts that will produce the berries after they bloom during the following season.

Not all of the buds received a direct hit. The buds occur randomly around the diameter of the stems. Since the hail was wind driven, the buds on the downwind side were protected by the stems. The storm also caused some phloem damage to the stems. But, in contrast to the buds, the plant can repair phloem tissue, and that is what happened last year after the storm. We won’t know the full extent of the damage until the berries begin to expand in July. The crew is pruning now, and instead of leaving the normal amount of buds which would be 30 per plant, they are leaving 45 per plant. That will allow us to trim out any clusters that don’t look right and still get a full crop.


Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Partner and Vigneron

Several of you have asked about how the vineyard is recovering since it was decimated by the hailstorm in early August. The plants go through physiological changes as the season progresses. During the first stage, carbohydrates stored in the roots are transported to the expanding leaves. Once there is enough new leaf surface, the carbohydrates manufactured by the new leaves are used to grow more leaves and stems, expand the berries, replenish the roots, and feed the buds that will produce the next year’s crop. At veraison the carbohydrate flow shifts to the ripening of the berries.

The storm occurred during the veraison stage. The plants had severely damaged leaves and clusters. It was clear that the clusters had no value for winemaking, but their presence would nonetheless continue to absorb all the carbohydrates the damaged leaves produced. We decided to drop the damaged clusters to the ground in hopes that the plants would turn their focus into repairing the damage and strengthening the plants for next year. We also gave the plants a thorough watering to support new growth.

The strategy worked as planned, the damaged plants grew some new leaves which will help with next year’s crop. The pictures on this page show the plants with a mix of new and old leaves. The new leaves are lighter in color. We are confident the plants will be able to support a normal crop next year.


Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Partner and Vigneron

My 86 year old father likes to say, “farming is a series of compromises.”  It is one of those nuggets of wisdom that takes years to understand. Each vintage begins with the promise of perfection. We are ready. The vineyard has been pruned precisely. We have the knowledge, the machines, a dedicated crew, and positive energy. Inevitably, perfection is lost, replaced by compromise. 

In some years a harsh winter ruins the vintage before the grapes have a chance to grow. 2022 was close. The temperature at Birch Creek vineyard bottomed out at 0°F on new years eve. Dirk and I brought in the new year struggling to get our 3 wind machines started. We finally succeeded shortly after midnight. The wind machines kept the coldest air from setting around the buds, and in this case it was just enough to get us through without much damage. Three  miles north of us the low temperature was -12°F and the more sensitive varieties were lost for the year. 

Spring was unusually cold and wet. NOAA tracks heat unit accumulation at various sites. Thru July 1, 2022 at the Walla Walla airport, the heat unit accumulation for 2022 was the lowest on record, tying 1955. What a contrast to last year, which was one of the hottest on record.  Accumulated rainfall was nearly a record, and a whopping 9.5 inches above the same date for 2021 which was the driest on record. One might make the sardonic observation that the weather over the last two years has been average, if combined. Farming is so much fun!

Ours is an arid climate, so too much rain early in the year is not a problem for us, it just means delaying our irrigation. Lack of heat is another matter. Fortunately, July was warm and we have largely caught up on heat units. One of the advantages of being small is that we can monitor the grapes closely for the peak of quality; the point where flavor development, acid balance, and tannin resolution are optimum. In a cold year the grapes don’t always ripen fully, so that particular advantage is lost. In those years (2011 is the perfect example), we rely on our winemaking skills to differentiate our wines. 

So, you might ask if perfection is unattainable for 2022. Absolutely not! This year’s problems are all solvable, and we are 70% of the way there. Stay tuned!


Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Partner and Vigneron

Birch Creek Vineyard - Blanket of Snow

Birch Creek Vineyard looking eastward with a deep blanket of snow

It is Saturday, April 16. I am looking out the window at a snowy blizzard, wondering if the grape buds can withstand these cold temperatures. The grapes at Birch Creek are at the end of dormancy, on the verge of “bud break.” The vulnerability of the tissues changes rapidly during this time. Two weeks ago the tight buds could have withstood a low temperature of 20° for several hours, two weeks from now 32° for a few minutes will kill the green tissues and leave us without a crop. There is not a lot we can do to protect the grapes in these conditions. We have wind machines that are helpful if there is a temperature inversion, but that is not the case during a snowstorm.

The grapes do not all break their buds at the same time, there are varietal differences and differences due to microclimates within the vineyard. The timing of bud break is mostly due to air temperature. If the daily air temperature average is above 50° physiological processes move forward. The first visible evidence that bud burst will happen soon is plants “weeping” from the pruning cuts as the sap moves up from the roots. The buds swell in response, eventually the first leaf will unfold, or “burst” from the bud. The amount of time necessary to move from weeping to bud burst depends on air temperature.

The varietal differences governing the timing of bud break are important. At this time, a few of the buds on the earlier emerging varieties (Syrah, Grenache) have burst, they will be damaged to some degree since there were nighttime temperatures below freezing earlier in the week. The buds on later emerging varieties (Cab Sauv, Merlot) are still tight and should be fine.


Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Partner and Vigneron

Birch Creek Vineyard - Winter

Birch Creek Vineyard with dusting of snow on the ground and mostly blue skies in the late afternoon.

I sometimes chuckle to myself at the personification of “Mother Nature,” as the benevolent, nurturing life force. Farmers know that “Mother” can also be an ill-tempered, whimsical disciplinarian. I’ve made my living farming and winemaking for nearly 4 decades, and can remember a number of hard spankings administered by “Mother Nature.”

The singular winter time worry for Walla Walla Valley grape farmers is that low temperatures will damage the fruit buds that formed in the prior growing season. If the temperatures get low enough, the buds die and there won’t be a crop that year. In very extreme circumstances, there is even the possibility of having to replace the vineyard.

This winter has been kind to the vineyard thus far, at the time of this writing, there has only been one such night. Dirk spent that very cold January night babysitting our wind generating machines that moderate air temperatures. It worked, a recent evaluation revealed less than 10% of the primary buds are damaged. That small amount of damage is not enough to affect the yield or quality of the 2022 vintage.


Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Partner and Vigneron

The 2021 vintage will produce excellent wines from Walla Walla valley vineyards, but there won’t be much.

The extreme and persistent heat during June was something we have not dealt with in previous vintages. The heat arrived near the end of our bloom period, just as the delicate berries were forming and beginning to expand. Any of the grapes that were not protected by the shade from a leaf simply burned up in the afternoon sun, as if they had been hit by a blow torch. The berries that were left did not expand to their full potential. If the heat had come later in the year, we would have been able to manage our way through it with minimal damage. But the end result was a 35% yield reduction. Each variety fared a little different, dependent upon which growth stage the plants were in when the heat hit. Cabernet Sauvignon, which blooms later than the other varieties, was impacted the most, the Birck Creek Cab Sauv was reduced by half.

Heat and drought often come together, as they did in June 2021. Our grapes were not affected by lack of water, in fact we used our irrigation system to help reduce the damage caused by the heat. Even though they had plenty of soil moisture, the plants couldn’t take up enough water to keep the developing fruit fully hydrated in the afternoon sun.

The good news for our wine drinking friends is the remaining berries were outstanding. These battle tested survivors were small, thick-skinned, and fully ripe with concentrated flavors. We are nearly finished with pressing the wines, which are packed with aromatics, color, and flavor.

Anytime a crop is damaged by an extreme weather condition farmers ask themselves if there is anything that can be done to reduce the impact if the same situation is encountered in the future. In this case the answer is yes. Pruning practices could be adjusted to provide more clusters and more shade for the clusters as the grapes are developing. Early leaf expansion and thus more shade could be encouraged by adding a little fertilizer. Overhead misting systems that provide evaporative cooling during extreme heat could be installed. These preventative steps would add cost and contemplicate quality management. Over the winter we will consider this and weigh the cost of any adjustments against what we judge is the future risk. Farmers jokingly refer to this process as “managing the year that’s gone.” 🙂


Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

by Jay DeWitt, Managing Winemaker and Vigneron

Birch Creek Vineyard House

The start of the DeWitt block in Birch Creek vineyard with the vineyard rental house in the background.

We will remember the summer of 2021 for quite some time; it was a scorcher! I don’t go a day without hearing the question, “How are the grapes handling the heat?” It is a good news/bad news situation.

The bad news is the yield will be reduced. The good news is the wine could be amazing!

Grape plants generally handle heat without much trouble but the grapes were in a vulnerable condition when the heat hit in early June. Bloom had just ended, and many of the young berries that weren’t shaded by a leaf simply burned up in the hot afternoon sun. The remaining berries did not enlarge normally, so the clusters have fewer, smaller berries. I am expecting yields to be reduced by 30%. If the heat had come two weeks later, the berries would have been acclimated and much of the damage would have been avoided. In our family we have a saying for this type of bad luck, “that’s life on the farm. ;)”

We will harvest some of the varieties earlier than normal due to heat and small berries; but not all, in fact some of the varieties will likely be harvested later than normal. This is because grape plants have the ability to halt their metabolic processes and conserve water when the temperatures get too hot, depending on the variety.

The good news is that what happens early in the year doesn’t have much impact on flavor. Let’s hope that is the case in 2021! I believe the most important contribution to the terroir of the Walla Walla Appellation has to do with the sun filled days and moderate temperatures that are normal for the end of summer and beginning of fall, following veraison. Daytime highs in the 80’s and nighttime lows in the 50’s helps us craft the balanced wines we seek. Delicate flavors have time to evolve and the tannins soften without losing all of the acid. This is know as “Hang Time.”


Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

Contact: Pete Thorson, Marketing & Sales Manager (

Dumas Station Wines is excited to announce the addition of Dirk Brink as the winery’s winemaker. Brink joined the team at Dumas Station in April of this year. He brings with him 20 years of wine making and vineyard experience, and has served as the winemaker at two other wineries.

“I am very happy to have found a home with Dumas Station,” Brink said. “Their vineyard-focused approach to winemaking aligns with my own. My winemaking philosophy has always been to let the grapes speak for themselves; and my goal is to allow the natural fruit, terroir, and our winemaking techniques to produce wines that are varietally distinctive, with character and substance.”

“This is a perfect fit,” said Jay DeWitt, managing partner and vigneron for Dumas Station. “Farming and wine making are in Dirk’s DNA. He is a self described “old soul” who loves having his hands in the dirt. He has a passion for the intimate winemaking approach that is the cornerstone of Dumas Station’s success. He understands the pure joy of combining dirt with sunshine and water to optimize vineyard results; his wines show the delicate touch of a committed craftsman.

Brink, a native of South Africa, grew up just outside of Cape Town surrounded by world-renowned vineyards and wineries. At an early age, he was introduced to viticulture by his father, who was passionate about farming. Brink remembers being intrigued by the process of nurturing grapes. This curiosity and interest, coupled with a patience and attention to detail he learned from his mother, led him to study enology and viticulture.

After attending Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch, Brink began his career working at world-renowned wine estates in Stellenbosch and Somerset West. His curiosity about winemaking turned toward how things were done in the United States. Securing an internship with Chateau Ste. Michelle, Brink made his way to the States in 2004. Brink learned the many facets of the wine industry at both Kestrel Vintners and J. Bookwalter, and worked his way up to assistant winemaker. Brink met his future wife, Esther, while they were both working at Kestrel; which is what kept him in the U.S.

In January of 2013 Brink became the winemaker for Coeur d’Alene Cellars. During his tenure, Brink expanded their Bordeaux varietal and blends program. He also began producing Chein Blanc, which became one of their most popular wines. In August 2015 Brink was recruited away to become the lead winemaker at Basel Cellars in Walla Walla, Wash.


Latest News, Vines and Vineyards, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

Authored by: Jay DeWitt, Vigneron/Managing Winemaker

It’s great to connect with friends in person again. Conversation topics formerly considered mundane are now quite interesting when talking with a maskless human. So, let’s talk about the weather!

It’s dry. Year to date, 2021 is one of the driest years on record. The beautiful hills covered by dryland grain crops are already drying up, a month before they should. It is going to be a difficult year for our wheat farming neighbors and friends.

The drought will not have a negative impact on our business. Reduced soil moisture means less vegetative growth so clusters get more direct sunlight. Also, moderate drought stress triggers the physiological changes that lead to superior quality.

Grapes don’t require much water. In a typical year we apply 2 to 4 acre inches of water. An alfalfa field needs 10 times that amount. The soil moisture is monitored in real time, accessible with a cell phone, so there is no wasteful irrigation. The vineyards are irrigated with efficient drip systems that apply 0.5 inches in 12 hours, 3 full days of irrigation is all that is needed for an average season. This year will require twice that amount.


Cabernet Franc, Food and Wine, Latest News, Walla Walla AVA, Walla Walla Winery

Authored by: Neil Johnston, Dumas Station Food & Wine Pairing Expert

Boneless Beef Short Ribs

Slow Cooker Boneless Beef Short Ribs

We are visiting beef again this month, but with a twist. This is a boneless beef short ribs recipe that practically cooks itself, and makes its own luscious rich red-wine sauce – no sauce-making skills required, and no de-fatting of the sauce! And it pairs perfectly with Cabernet Franc. This is classic comfort food, and it is healthy too!

Serve this with (or on top of) your favorite healthy carb: polenta, rice, or noodles.

Cook: 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours, unattended in the oven
Total Time: 4 hours
Yields: 4 servings
Recommended Wine Pairing: 2017 Cabernet Franc

You will need a dutch oven, a flat-edged wooden pot scraper or a large wooden spoon, and a large sieve for this dish.


  • 2 lbs. boneless beef short ribs
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil for searing, more as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups beef stock (ok to use bouillon cube or jarred stock concentrate with water added) – NOTE – if you like sauce, you can increase the amount of red wine and beef stock by an additional 2 cups, keeping the 50:50 ratio, as long as your Dutch oven is large enough. The sauce freezes well and is delicious.
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 large bay leaf


  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, halved and sliced 1/3” thick
  • 2 ribs celery, peeled, and sliced
  • 1-2 cups (or amount of your preference for four people) baby potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 cup (or to your preference) frozen pearl onions
  • 1 cup (or to your preference) whole button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped chives
  • grated zest from 1 small lemon


  1. Preheat oven to 275 F.
  2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season short ribs generously on all sides with salt and pepper. Working in batches, sear short ribs on all sides until deeply and evenly browned, 6 to 8 minutes per batch. Look to build up a medium-dark-brown layer on the bottom of the pan; if it is getting too dark or the oil is disappearing, add more oil as needed to continue the searing process, and lower the heat slightly. Remove the seared ribs to a temporary plate.
  3. Add the first batch of onion, celery, and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and cook until softened but not yet browned, 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Make a bare spot in the center of the pan. Add tomato paste and cook until the color darkens, 2-3 minutes. Toss flour onto the vegetables, and stir the tomato paste, flour, and vegetables together, stirring and cooking about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for 1 more minute.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium. Pour about ½ cup of red wine into the pan (it should sizzle) and use the flat-edged or large wooden spoon to scrape up and dissolve all of the caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan. Continue adding red wine in batches and stir and scrape until the bottom of the pan is clean. Let the wine simmer, in total, about 2 to 3 minutes to burn off some of the alcohol.
  6. Stir in the beef stock and the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf.
  7. Using tongs, return the short ribs to the pot along with any juices that they wept, nestling them into the pot so they are just barely covered. Add more beef stock, or water, if needed to get them barely covered. Reserve the tongs and plate for step 10 below.
  8. Place the lid on the dutch oven and cook, undisturbed, for 3 hours.
  9. Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, prepare the second batch of carrots, celery, baby potatoes, onions, and mushrooms.
  10. After 3 hours, carefully remove the short ribs (they may be tender enough already to fall apart, try not to let them do so) and put them on the plate.
  11. Place the sieve over a bowl large enough to hold 4 cups of liquid. Use a ladle or large spoon to remove all of the carrots, celery, onions, and herbs from the sauce, and place them into the sieve. When the dutch oven is empty, press down on the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible from the veggies. Discard the sieved veggies. (The beauty of this sauce is that short ribs do not contain a great deal of fat; there is no need to de-fat the resulting sauce. Even if, at this point, you were to refrigerate the sauce overnight, you will find no fat congealed on top the next day.)
  12. Return all of the now-smooth sauce to the dutch oven, taste it and adjust the salt and pepper if needed. Add the second batch of carrots, celery, potatoes, onions, and mushrooms to the sauce.
  13. Slice the ribs into 1” to 2” (bite-sized) chunks and add them back to the dutch oven. Gently stir everything together and place the lid back on, and return the dutch oven to your oven.
  14. Continue to cook for 30 minutes (up to an additional 1 hour won’t hurt if you need the time) – at least until the potatoes and carrots are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.
  15. Before serving, give the sauce one more taste, and adjust the salt and pepper if needed. Then, mix together parsley, chives, and lemon zest and scatter over the top. Ladle into large bowls on top of your favorite comfort carb and enjoy.


Chocolate Ganache Éclair Cake (best made the night before)

Eclair Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Eclair Cake with Chocolate Ganache and whipped cream

I’ve made this before multiple times, but as individual “profiteroles” which require baking the puff pastry in separate individual “puffs”, piercing and drying them, and cutting them in half for assembly. This recipe is much easier.

(If you want to go old school, and have made pâte à choux before, feel free to make individual puffs. I typically cut them in half and fill them with a small scoop of my favorite ice cream instead of the cream filling below, before putting the top piece on and pouring over the ganache.)

TIP: if you like a softer, shinier ganache, add 2 TBSP corn syrup to it while making. If you have a double oven, you can make this recipe as the short ribs are braising.

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Additional: 1 hr 45 mins
Total: 2 hrs 40 mins
Servings: 12
Yield: one 9 x 13-inch dish


Pastry Shell:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1⁄2 cup butter
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs


  • 2 cups cold heavy whipping cream (or more if you want extra on the side)
  • 2 tbs confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups cold milk

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or bittersweet chocolate chips). Note: the better the quality of the chocolate, the more delicious the ganache will taste. Splurge on a high-cocoa-percentage artisanal chocolate if you want.
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • [optional] 2 tablespoons clear corn syrup
  • [optional] extra whipped cream on the side


Step 1
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish. Place a mixing bowl in the freezer to chill.

Step 2 – the pastry shell (pâte à choux)
Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and dump in the flour all at once. Cook and stir with a wooden spoon, first smearing the mixture all over the bottom of the pan, and then gathering up into a ball. Repeat this “smear and ball” process for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the mixture colors slightly and pulls away easily from the sides of the pan and leaves a thin film on the bottom of the pan. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl (leaving the thin film behind) and using a paddle whisk, beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat until each egg is fully incorporated and the batter is mostly smooth. Add the last egg and beat until fully incorporated and the dough is smooth and soft. Pulling the beater out of the dough will leave a small “beard” or “point” of dough hanging down from the beater. Spread the dough evenly in the bottom of the baking dish and up the sides, using a spatula.

Step 3
Bake the pastry in the preheated oven until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes (check every 5 minutes after the 20 minute mark). The dough may rise and make a boat shape, but should drop back down as it cools. Cool the dish completely on wire rack.

Step 4 – the filling
When the dough has cooled, remove the chilled mixing bowl from the freezer and pour in 2 cups of cold whipping cream (or more if you want extra). Whip until the cream thickens, about 1 minute; stir in the confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla extract (add more if necessary if you are making extra whipped cream). Continue to whip until the cream forms stiff peaks. Refrigerate the whipped cream while you mix the pudding.

Step 5
Pour the pudding mixes and the milk into a mixing bowl and stir until creamy. Then gently fold in 2 Cups of the whipped cream (reserving any extra for later). Spread the filling in an even layer over the cooled crust and refrigerate.

Step 6 – the ganache
Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Bring 1 cup of cream almost to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat (the cream should have bubbles around the edges where it meets the side of the pan). Pour the hot cream over the chocolate (add the optional corn syrup) and allow it to soften for 1 minute. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Let the mixture cool slightly to thicken, about 10 minutes. Pour the ganache over the cream filling, spreading to cover the entire surface.

Return the pan to the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour, or overnight, before serving. Cut and serve (along with optional additional reserved whipped cream).