Sunday, September 29, 2013

Long Shadows: Winemakers of the World Unite Around Washington State Wine

Allen Shoup knows a thing or two about Washington State wine. The man behind the dramatic rise of Chateau Ste. Michelle and its affiliated wineries, Shoup has been perhaps the greatest evangelist for the wines of Washington’s Columbia Valley.

In 2002, Shoup assembled a super group of winemakers from all around the world to create a diverse portfolio of Washington State wines. He called the project Long Shadows Wineries. Using fruit from all over the Columbia Valley, Long Shadows produces a “Poet’s Leap” Riesling with Nahe winemaker Armin Diel, a “Feather” Cabernet with Napa Cab god Randy Dunn, a Super Tuscan style blend with Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari, just to name a few.

The wines in this report were received as samples. The bottles were mixed in with other Pacific Northwest wines, and I tasted and scored them blind.

Arman Diel in The Benches vineyard above the Columbia River. (From Long Shadows)
2012 Long Shadows Wineries Riesling “Poet’s Leap” - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $20
Honeysuckle and cherry blossom aromas explode from the glass, followed by green melon and papaya. Yet there’s a salted lime aspect to the nose as well, and the wine got more and more expressive as it warmed up. On the palate, juicy green melon, white peach and banana flavors are balanced by tart acid and focused mineral notes. This tastes only slightly off-dry, but it’s very well-balanced. Rich, but maintains classic Riesling verve. What a finish: like briny ocean rocks and key limes mixed together. Seems like it could easily improve and develop for two or three years. Made by Armin Diel of Nahe Riesling fame. (90 points)

2008 Long Shadows Wineries “Chester-Kidder” - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $50
Dense aromas, but with air they started coming out to play, showing cherry sauce, wild blueberry, violets and sweet coconut. Silky but incredibly rich, as waves of blueberry, cassis and cocoa powder cover the palate. The secondary flavors of earth, dust, cedar and granite need 5+ years to fully develop. A stunning red blend that’s built for the long haul. 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Syrah, 5% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc. Made by the French-born Gilles Nicault. (92 points)

2009 Long Shadows Wineries “Chester-Kidder” - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $50
Dark purple color. Upon popping the cork, the aromas were really tight, but they opened up to show chocolate-covered cherries, sweet plums and cocoa powder. On the palate, this wine boasts a glycerin-like mouthfeel. It’s really dense, with flavors of blackberries and blueberries, fig paste and caramel. Notes of loam and graphite add complexity. With time, this settled down and showed some acid coming through, but let’s be clear: this wine is dense and hedonistic, and it’s incredibly primal right now. The cellar could do wonders for this blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Syrah, 17% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. (89 points)

Tuscany meets Columbia Valley.
2009 Long Shadows Wineries “Pirouette”  - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $50
Aromas of plum sauce, charcoal and prunes. The palate is very jammy, with medium tannins and a raisin and prune-like approach. Notes of red licorice and mocha carry the finish. Quite nice, but not as deep as the Chester Kidder. A blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec. Made by Bordeaux native Phillipe Melka. (87 points)

2009 Long Shadows Wineries “Saggi”  - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $45
A purple-ruby color. The currant and red plum fruit smells warm, but not baked, with earthy, cedar and floral notes. Fresh acid and fine tannins. Tangy red currant fruit leads the way, and I get the sensation of biting into a fresh summer plum. Some roasted coffee, cedar and toast, but not overwhelming, and there are also some tobacco and mushroom undertones. Bold, balanced, this will improve in the cellar. A blend of 62% Sangiovese, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Syrah.
A team effort from Tuscan winemakers Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari. (91 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

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