By Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue
After a long and successful career running Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Allen Shoup retired as chief executive of Washington’s largest wine producer.
But the visionary leader was far from finished. In 2003, he launched Long Shadows Vintners, a Walla Walla winery that acts as the umbrella organization for several small producers — all co-owned by some of the world’s top winemakers.
Shoup enlisted such luminaries as Randy Dunn (Napa Valley), John Duval (Australia), Armin Diel (Germany) and Michel Rolland (France) as part of the project, and he brought in Frenchman Gilles Nicault as his resident winemaker. Today, Long Shadows is a collection of seven boutique wineries, and Nicault works with each of the winemakers, who make their wines using Washington grapes.
Shoup also put together a group that purchased Wallula Vineyards, now known as The Benches. It’s a dramatic vineyard overlooking the Columbia River in the eastern Horse Heaven Hills. While it provides much of the fruit for Long Shadows, Nicault relies on grapes from many vineyards throughout the vast Columbia Valley.
Here are a few of the newest releases from Long Shadows, which has tasting rooms near Walla Walla and in Woodinville. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact Long Shadows directly. Many of the wines are highly collectible and can be a little difficult to track down.
Pirouette 2011 Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $55: This Bordeaux-style collaboration from Philippe Melka and Agustin Huneeus Sr. of Quintessa fame is arguably the best to date, featuring a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Aromas of brown sugar and cocoa powder lead to blackberry, dark plum and dark strawberry to go along with smoky toast. It’s long and silky with dark cherry, boysenberry and chocolate, backed by blueberry acidity. (14.9 percent alcohol)
Feather 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $60: Napa Valley star Randy Dunn, who helped Caymus become famous, combines a bit of hedonism with aging potential in this Cab. The nose of blackstrap molasses, brown sugar, cigar box, crushed herbs and moist earth give way to flavors of blackberry and cassis, followed by fine-grained plum skin tannins and a bold rush of pie cherry acidity. (14.2 percent alcohol)
Sequel 2011 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $50: John Duval, long the magician behind Australia’s most famous wine, Penfolds Grange, produces perhaps his finest release to date for Long Shadows. Hints of sizzling ham, blackberry, plum, black cherry and blueberry in the nose also show his balanced of oak with a note of a cup of Americano sprinkled with cinnamon. The entry is rich and thick with a great profile of black cherry, blackberry and black currant flavors. Moderate, yet refined chocolaty tannins and blueberry acidity allow for a finish of graphite and black olive. (14.8 percent alcohol)
Pedestal 2011 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $60: French rockstar winemaker Michel Rolland’s perennial project for the Long Shadows Vintners program remains focused on Merlot (87 percent) with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The dark nose of fresh-ground coffee leads to dusty blackberry, plum, black currant, pink peppercorns and minerality. The classic grip of Washington Merlot shows itself early before the midpalate turns creamy with black cherry, blackberry and cassis, while the finish brings a stream of dark chocolate. (14.8 percent alcohol)
Julia’s Dazzle 2013 Pinot Grigio Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, $16: A remarkable nose of strawberry shortcake, kiwi fruit, peach taffy gives way to flavors of nectarine, white strawberry and honeydew melon, while the texture rolls in the mouth as the acidity stays just ahead of the residual sugar (0.85 percent). In less than five years, Julia’s Dazzle — a tribute to Shoup’s granddaughter — has become one of the most widely produced rosés in the Northwest. Look for this bowling-pin bottle in restaurants or ask your local wine merchant. (13.7 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Listen to their weekly podcast via iTunes or at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.