Washington Wine Month Stop #13: Long Shadows Vintners
Founded by legendary Washington winemaker, Allen Shoup, Long Shadows Vintners brings together winemakers from diverse terroirs all over the world to produce some of the best wines Washington has to offer.
Our 13th stop on our Washington Winery tour, is one amazing winery to encounter and discover.
About the Winery:
After twenty years at the helm of the Stimson Lane wine group (Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest and other wineries),
retired to pursue a personal dream. For years he had envisioned a joint venture with highly acclaimed winemakers from different regions of the world. His goal was to bring their expertise to Washington to create some of the most special wines ever crafted from the region’s top vineyards; wines that would stand shoulder to shoulder with the world’s best.
Encouraged by his associates, including long time friend and mentor, Robert G. Mondavi, Allen invited several of the world’s most talented and celebrated vintners to the sunny slopes of the Columbia Valley. Peering over steep cliffs into the valley where the Snake and Yakima Rivers flow into the mighty Columbia, each vintner embraced Allen’s dream and agreed to lend their talents to create this tribute to the worldwide celebration of wine.
With their enthusiastic support and advice, Allen drew up plans to establish individual wineries that would reflect the reputation of each winemaker. He named the venture Long Shadows Vintners in tribute to this select group of individuals who have shaped the industry with their benchmark wines and wineries.
His vision is now unfolding. Long Shadows winemaker-partners are designing world-class wines comparable in stature to those they crafted in their native wine regions. They are touring the land, running the soil through their fingers, and surveying with practiced eye the leafy trellises that spill down the hillsides of the Columbia Valley.
About the Vineyards:
AVA: Horse Heaven Hills
Manager: Andy DenHoed
Established in 1997, The Benches (formerly Wallula Vineyards) is owned and controlled by a group of Long Shadows investors, including founder Allen Shoup, to insure long term sourcing of top quality grapes for the Long Shadows wines. The Benches are located 20 minutes southeast of Pasco on the Washington side of the Columbia River. As the name implies, this vineyard has twenty-seven geologically formed benches created twenty-thousand years ago by the Great Missoula Floods (the greatest known documented natural catastrophe in world history). These benches start at an elevation of 1400 feet and step down 1000 feet to the shore of the Columbia River.
The many benches at different elevations provide for unique micro climates and allow us to match the perfect grape variety to the perfect climate. The vineyard consists of 750 acres which are divided into more than 60 blocks producing 15 different grape varieties. At the top are the cooler white varieties like Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Midway are the warmer climate grapes like Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. At the lowest and hottest levels are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache and Malbec. Other more exotic varieties like Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Mourvedre, Dolcetto, Carignane, Barbera and Marsanne are planted in small quantities on various slopes of the vineyard.
All of the vineyards use sustainable farming practices with 150 acres farmed biodynamically.
Sagemoor is the name used to include four partnerships that are managed by one management group for the 70 partners that make up the individual companies. Sagemoor Farms (1968), Bacchus (1972), Dionysus (1973) and Weinbau (1981) are the names of the individual companies.
Sagemoor Farm is located on a southwest facing slope 10 miles Northwest of Pasco, WA adjacent to the Columbia River. In 1972, Sagemoor planted 85 acres of grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay Beaujolais, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, White Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and an experimental block. Additionally, Bacchus Vineyard planted 195 acres of wine grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, White Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. To this day some of these original plantings are producing high quality, highly sought after grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and White Riesling date back to these original plantings. The sloping land facing the western sky provides a warm site with excellent air drainage. Many of the original plantings have never frozen back to the ground despite several killing winter freezes that Washington has come to expect.
Precision farming techniques such as vigor mapping, soil profiling, micro nutrient analysis and green harvest thinning are applied to manage yields, balance canopy with crop load, optimize sun exposure and ensure consistent quality fruit.
Conner Lee Vineyards, inc.
AVA: Columbia Valley
Owners: Bill & Marilyn Conner, Rhoady & Jean Marie Lee, Jack & Marion Sullivan
Manager: Thorsen Bookwalter and Associates, Inc.
Onsite Manager: David Ayala
Beginning in the mid 1980s, Bill Conner’s and Rhoady Lee’s goal was clear: establish their vineyard as one of the best in Washington State. The spirit and vision of the founders never wavered, and despite multiple winter injuries and spring frosts, with their undying efforts they persevered and are now widely accepted to be among the top ten Washington State vineyards of all time.
Located in Othello, WA in the Columbia Valley, the first of Conner Lee’s 152 acres were planted in 1987. It’s rectangular shaped vineyards have a gentle, sloping elevation of between 1164′ and 1085′ that are surrounded by center pivot irrigated row-crop farms. With it’s lighter, sandy soil and somewhat cooler climate, it is an ideal location to produce Merlot grapes used in Long Shadows’ Pedestal Merlot.
Dick Boushey has been a great ambassador for Washington State Syrah. Not only was he one of the first to plant Syrah (and Sangiovese) in the Yakima Valley in the early 1990’s, but his grapes are responsible for several of the most highly acclaimed wines in the state.
Located on the outskirts of Grandview, this cooler climate site contributes Syrah (planted in 1997) for Sequel and Sangiovese (planted in 1993) for Saggi.
The elevation at the top of Boushey vineyard is 1,400 feet with soil consisting of silt loam, windblown loess and deposits from the Missoula floods on top of fractured basalt. Mild temperatures and layered soils add a great phenolic ripeness due to longer hang times. The wines made from these grapes are well balanced (lower alcohol, better acidity) and offer a very pure expression fruit.
Stone Tree Vineyard
AVA: Wahluke Slope
Owner/Manager: Tedd Wildman
Tedd has been one of the most influential viticulturists in Washington State since the early 90’s. It is with his expertise that he carefully selected the site on the Wahluke Slope which he developed in 2000. It was called Stone Tree Vineyard, due to the petrified wood found there. Among the 250 acres planted, Tedd has nurtured as many as 26 different varieties and clones. As a result of his attention to detail, Stone Tree grapes are now highly sought after for their concentration of flavors and tannin maturity.
The Wahluke Slope is located north of Pasco on the south slope of the Saddle Mountains. Stone Tree Vineyard is characterized by a relief of 320 feet, the top of the vineyard being at 1250 feet above sea level. Fractured basalt is overlaid by sandy silt loam soils, and the site receives only 6” of rain a year. The naturally low vigor of the site, due in part to the shallow soils, allows Tedd to grow varieties like Petit Verdot (Chester-Kidder), Cabernet Sauvignon clone 2 and clone 8 (Pirouette) and some incredible Syrah (Sequel). Also planted at Stone Tree are Grenache, Zinfandel, Primitivo, Tempranillo, Viognier, Malbec, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Cinsault, Merlot, and Barbera.
Tom Waliser and Premier Partners established this vineyard near West Richland in 1998 on a hill next to the Red Mountain AVA. They planted Sangiovese (some of it contracted for Saggi), Cabernet Sauvignon (Feather and Chester-Kidder), Syrah (Sequel and Chester-Kidder) and Merlot (Pedestal). Premier Partners is an agricultural company which acquired Pepper Bridge Vineyard in 1997 from Norm McKibben, and owns several vinifera vineyards and orchards in California and throughout the country.
Candy Mountain is south facing and sits at a higher elevation than Red Mountain. The soil is composed primarily of sand, gravel and granitic deposits, and is rich in calcium, potassium and phosphorus. Due to high heat units and a very dry growing season, Candy Mountain Vineyard consistently produces top quality fruit that provide the wines with wonderful richness and depth in their aromas and color.
AVA: Red Mountain
Owner/Manager: Larry Pearson
This vineyard is located on Red Mountain at the north end of Sunset Road with a beautiful view of the Yakima Valley.
“Quality wines start in the vineyard”, is Larry’s mindset. Tapteil Vineyard focuses on viticultural practices and techniques affecting grape quality—including canopy management (training, pruning and thinning) as well as water and pest management. Established in 1985, this 25-acre vineyard specializes in producing exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes.
Michel Rolland selected this site for the concentration of color and supple tannins in the Cabernet Sauvignon and for the rich dark Merlot (Pedestal) that comes from this site. The annual yields are only 2 tons per acre therefore resulting in optimal fruit maturation and added richness in the mouthfeel.
2011 Poet’s Leap Riesling
Inspired by the greatest wines of Germany and crafted by one of Germany’s most highly acclaimed Riesling producers, Armin Diel, proprietor of the renowned Schlossgut Diel.
Hand-harvested grapes were gently sorted and whole cluster pressed to avoid imparting bitterness while enhancing clean, crisp character in the finished wine.
Armin Diel is one of Germany’s most acclaimed Riesling producers. His family has owned the celebrated estate of Schlossgut Diel, in Burg Layen, in the Nahe River Valley since 1802. Schlossgut Diel is internationally renowned for its white wines, predominately Rieslings, across a wide range of styles.
Allen Shoup named this wine in honor of his grandfather, Charles Chester, and his grandmother, Maggie Kidder. He had a purpose in mind; a vision really, and that is to make a wine that says, “this is how good Washington wine can be.” Allen selected Gilles Nicault, former winemaker for Woodward Canyon, to bring the vision to fruition.
Wines with wonderful balance and intensity are the hallmark of the 2008 harvest, and their 2008 Chester-Kidder exemplifies the style of this vintage. The growing season started slowly with summer temperatures warming gradually. As a result, veraison was a bit later than usual, but their growers worked diligently throughout the summer to keep the vines in good balance so that by the time the Columbia Valley’s typical warm fall days and cool nights arrived in September the grapes were in a position to ripen beautifully.
Gilles Nicault left the University of Avignon with a four year degree in Viticulture and Enology. He honed his craft in the fabled hillside vineyards and wineries of Cote Du Rhone, Provence and Champagne. Then, already a vintner of rising fame, Gilles traveled to America.
His tour took him to the Staton Hills Winery of Yakima Valley in 1994, to Woodward Canyon in 1996, and included a stint at the Hogue Winery. He soon became part of the prestigious community of Washington enologists and winemakers.
It was only natural that Gilles would want to join Allen Shoup’s state-of-the-art Long Shadows team. It is there where he will complete his search for the secrets of the world’s most exceptional wines as he works alongside some of the world’s greatest winemakers.
John Duval, formerly of Australia’s iconic Penfolds Grange, chose the Columbia Valley as his “Sequel” for the continuation of his life’s work with Syrah.
John joined Penfolds winery in 1974 after completing his studies in agriculture and winemaking. He was appointed Penfolds’ chief winemaker in 1986. During his 16-year tenure, John helped establish Penfolds as one of the world’s most celebrated wineries.
After 28 years, John stepped down from the company in 2002 to establish John Duval Wines, recently debuting with the 2003 vintage of Plexus. In addition to making his own wine, John traveled to the Columbia Valley in 2003 at the invitation of Long Shadows Vintners’ founder Allen Shoup to make his first U.S. wine, Sequel, a name chosen in recognition of his life’s work with Syrah.
Philippe Melka and Agustin Huneeus, Sr. teamed to combine the traditions of old world winemaking, the advancements of new world technology, and small lots from Washington State’s finest vineyards to craft this enticing red blend.
After two earlier appearances in Napa Valley, Philippe Melka returned in 1994. He swiftly rose to prominence and is now widely recognized as one of the leading craftsmen of his trade. Melka’s talents are the consequence of an ideal juxtaposition – the geologist’s feel for terroir, the traveler’s familiarity with far-flung wineries and estates, and a vintner’s passion to produce the very best.
Some of the most exciting wines crafted by Melka are from his own labels, Metisse & CJ. These meritage blends pay homage to Melka’s French influence (new oak aging, extended skin contact and gentle handling techniques) as portraitures of classic structure, balance and elegance.
Agustin Huneeus, Sr. embarked upon his legendary career as a winemaker over four decades ago. He founded premier wineries both in California and Chile, and guided others to worldwide acclaim. He is perhaps best known for his artistry and innovative techniques resulting in critically acclaimed wines crafted in the Bordeaux tradition.
Along with his winery at Long Shadows Vintners, Agustin retains ownership in Veramonte and Quintessa. He resides at Quintessa Estates with his wife, Valeria, who holds a Ph.D., and is a scientist and viticulturist in her own right.
Napa Valley vintner, Randy Dunn, brings his artistry and expertise to Washington State to produce small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Columbia Valley’s finest vineyards. His reputation for producing world-class Cabernet spans more than four decades. After making wines at Caymus from 1975-1985, Randy established Dunn Vineyards on Howell Mountain where he continues to craft distinctive wines of high acclaim.
Randy Dunn established his reputation at Caymus Winery from 1975 to 1985, where his Cabernet Sauvignons became the benchmark for the industry. In addition, his artistry shaped other premium wineries that now enjoy an acclaimed place in the sun (Pahlmeyer, Livingston, La Jota and others). Since 1979, Dunn has produced roughly 5,000 cases a year of his Dunn Vineyards Cabernets.
Randy is known not only for his famous wines, but for his philosophy on how to make wine. He does it his way – leaving the floor of the Napa Valley “to corn and melon farmers,” he tends his vines in the red stony soil of Howell Mountain.
2008 Pedestal Merlot
Considered by many to be one of the most influential winemakers in the world, Pomerol vintner and international consultant, Michel Rolland partners with Washington State wine visionary Allen Shoup to produce this limited release wine.
Michel Rolland is considered by many to be one of the most influential winemakers in the field. A graduate of the esteemed Bordeaux Faculty of Oenology, he continues to build upon this practical source of knowledge through observations in his own laboratory in Pomerol, France. He consults for over 100 vintners and vineyards on every continent, producing wines with an alluring style recognized as the “Rolland Method”.
Vineyard management techniques championed by Rolland include effeullage (thinning of leaves), and eclaircissage (pruning of clusters), both used to encourage the advent of perfectly ripened grapes. Aging on the lees in new oak barrels and in-barrel malolactic fermentation are also Rolland’s trademarks.
However, those who view the “Rolland Method” as a craftsman’s book of recipes have missed the mark. Rolland is not a technician – he is, first and foremost, an observer. He studies the surround, that is, the blend of personality traits that distinguishes the vintner, the vineyard, and the grower. In uncanny fashion, Rolland understands the unique culture of the wine – and therefore the nuances that separate an unexciting wine from something quite extraordinary. It is this ability to understand the wine that makes him such an amazing oenologist.
Among Tuscany’s oldest and most prestigious wine families, Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari teamed with Allen Shoup to produce a wine that showcases Washington state’s terroir with plenty of Italian character. Saggi (meaning “wisdom”) is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.
The 2009 vintage was a memorable growing season that produced exceptional wines with deep color, richness and concentration. Spring was a bit cooler and wetter than usual, but the arrival of dry weather in June led to a good fruit set. Temperatures warmed considerably in July and stayed warm into September. These consistent, warm temperatures and lower than average yields caused the grapes to ripen quickly and evenly, sparking one of the earliest and fastest harvests on record.
Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari are among Italy’s oldest and most prestigious Tuscan wine families with a winemaking history dating back to the late 1700s.
Today, Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari Tenute, conceived by this father-son team as a collection of small, beautifully located vineyards producing primarily Tuscan “grand crus,” is recognized for its distinctive, small-production wines from the family’s numerous estates. The vineyards are managed using modern viticulture techniques including dense planting and careful clonal selection and research. Both Ambrogio and Giovanni, a University of California at Davis enology graduate, are directly involved in winemaking and are dedicated to high quality wines that reflect the vineyard’s terroir.