(Extremely) Long Shadows

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 02-26-2013

Get it? (Credit: Julian Mayor.)

Allen Shoup may have been the first wine industry insider to realize that premium wine could be grown and made in Washington State.

Shoup began his career in Modesto, California, where he worked at Gallo as a marketing director. In 1980, he moved to Washington to take a job with Chateau Ste. Michelle, which at the time was just an upstart. He would watch the company grow tremendously — today, Chateau Ste. Michelle brings in nearly $200 million in revenue annually.

At Chateau Ste. Michelle, Shoup realized he had a knack for producing great wines — not by making the wine, but by bringing in great winemakers from across the world. While there, Shoup was instrumental in the collaborations with Piero Antinori — which resulted in the uber-smooth Col Solare — and the iconic Dr. Ernst Loosen, which resulted in the Eroica Riesling.

Soon enough, Shoup began dreaming of creating a line that produced nothing but iconic wines by iconic winemakers. So in 2002, he established Long Shadows: 7 wineries for 8 winemakers to make “best of type” wines from the Columbia Valley.

Credit: Julian Mayor.

Make no mistake: These are new world wines that boast all the ripeness Washington has to offer. And the wines don’t disappoint. Those that I’ve sampled all show age-worthiness, purity of fruit, tremendous balance, and distinctly Washington terroir. The reds range from $45-$55 and pack a lot of wine into each dollar, particularly when compared to their Napa counterparts.

The sole white wine in Shoup’s lineup is Poet’s Leap, made by Armin Diel of Schlossgut Diel in Germany’s Nahe region. Along with keeping the high standards of the estate that has been in his family’s hands for 112 years, Armin is an award-winning wine writer and president of the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweinguter’s Nahe chapter. His wines perhaps are under-appreciated because they’re so rarely mentioned in his own writings. The 2011 Poet’s Leap shows off a lot of what one can expect from a ripe German spätlese.  A mere hint of residual sugar tames the tingling acidity of lime pulp, lemon juice and quince. A slate and flint minerality wash away a large percentage of said fruit, leaving a clean and lasting finish. A straight steal for $20.

Credit: Julian Mayor.

A little research through Seattle sommelier Luke Wohlers found me salivating for Carmina Burana. Basically, the Poet’s Leap but aged in large fudre. Unfortunately this wine hasn’t been made since 2008. Very little seems to be on the market as well.

I have to employ my “get out of Napa” philosophy when looking for a great Cabernet in the lower price points of a wine list. Consequently, I have turned a lot of people onto the 2007 Feather.

Credit: Julian Mayor.

This wine embodies everything one wants in a steakhouse red. The fruits are dark and elegantly ripe, with a moderate amount of jammy concentration. The wine finishes with a strong, chewy grip which is unmistakably Washington. Feather is made by Randy Dunn, yes, THAT Randy Dunn. Known for his namesake Dunn Vineyards and a more restrained style of Napa Valley Cabernet, he took his Howell Mountain expertise to Long Shadows and made his seventh Feather in 2009.

My real epiphany for the Long Shadows line came in the 2003 Chester-Kidder. Named for Shoup’s grandparents, this wine showed off the longevity of these wines. A six-grape blend dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, it could be their best. It is, after all, made by the winemaker with the most Washington experience, Gilles Nicault, formerly of Woodward Canyon.

Adorned with the art of Tacoma, Washington native Dale Chihuly, and other winemaker names such as Rolland, Melka and Duval, this winery looks to cast long shadows for a long time.

Read more about the all-star lineup here. Huge thanks to Julian Mayor, the consummate traveler and sommelier, for the pictures featured in this article. He recently visited the winery while touring Washington wine country.

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